Northern Iceland!

anna

Remember me telling you all about the sixty-five plus year old woman whose camper van we stayed in? Her name was Anna and she was such a lovely woman. She and her dog Shnorty (I know I’m mangling that spelling) live in a small town and host visitors every evening. Her front yard was twinkling with tea lights when we arrived and she showed us the amenities before leaving to great her final guests for the night as they arrived.

The van was comfortable and reminded me a lot of ours in New Zealand. The biggest difference being, we were told this one, “doesn’t move.” Just in case we wanted to get crazy in the middle of the night. So I got to experience once more the fun of climbing over Marc to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night and trying not to wipe out on the very slippery lader. There were tons of horses hanging out in the front yard, but the little stallion made sure no one got any love from me.

Didn’t take us long to get our stuff together and hit the road again. It also wasn’t long before we were stopping for another gorgeous waterfall. Got a nice little hike in through a well-worn sheep trail to get a little closer to the falls and traded taking pictures with some of the other folks.

waterfallWe continued to drive on through a landscape that became less and less green and more and more rocky. The mountains resolved into individual volcanos and the grass finally disappeared completely.

volcanos

It Looked Like This

Every so often, we would see little pools of toxic looking water either off in the distance or next to the side of the road. We kept going as we were starving. The potato chip supply began to dwindle. Our destination for the night was a homestay in the second largest town in Iceland, Akureyri. Before we got there though, we had to stop at a hot spring  everybody had been telling us about. Myvatn Nature Baths  are unique because there is a sandy bottom and the water itself is full of beneficial minerals that leaves your skin feeling silky smooth. The water stays at a comfortable 96 to 104 degrees and they warn you to take off any brass or silver before you enter as the water will literally turn them black during a visit. These pools were so amazing for lounging around in and people watching. The cafe was rather nice too and it meant we could lay off the chips for a while.

myvatn2

myvatn

Aftermath. Do we look relaxed, or what?

Marc had to drag me out so we could leave, but getting changed presented its own challenges. Although we had the option of renting towels, we decided to rough it. How do you dry off without one? Easy, after the shower… you use a hairdryer mostly all over and use paper towels for the delicate bits. Worked out pretty good actually and soon we were back in our seats and on the way to Akureyri.

Our hosts Paulina and Samuel showed us our room inside their beautiful home. Everywhere we looked art works were on display and it didn’t take long for us to find out Paulina and her husband (whom we didn’t get a chance to meet) were artists. I took many pictures inside their home.

paintings

I also took many outside their home as Akureyri had cool stuff to see everywhere we looked. Paulina’a husband we were told, teaches art in town and there was an art exhibit going on during our visit.

1917

Cute Little House. Not Our Homestay Though.

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The Door of Akureyrarkirkja. A Prominent Lutheran Church.

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Paper Mache Monster from the art show

Our breakfast was included the next morning and it was neat to experience what an Icelander might normally have for breakfast. Of course, I always bring our own tea, but otherwise, we did as the locals do and enjoyed soft-boiled eggs, cucumbers, red pepper, oranges and banana’s and granola. Marc  even got to try a little of the local yogurt.

breakfast

Satiated, we did a little more poking about before we had to take off again. Just as well since Akureyri had more tourists and simply more of a sheer mass of people everywhere than any other place besides Reykjavik. After seeing the wild and wide expanses of nothing from the safety of our little car, being shuffled along with throngs of people palled quickly. Besides, we had another homestay lined up in Dalabyggo to get to. Off again we went!

end

This is how you know you’re leaving town… if it isn’t already obvious.

 

 

 

 

 

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Pacific Coast Dreams: Seattle, Washington

SeattleWheelCara

Man! This working for a living is tough! You really gotta plot and plan to get the max vacation time possible. Then, be inventive with your destinations and take advantage of every coincidence and opportunity. I’m smiling as I say that. I managed to get ten days off work in a row and we decided to spend ’em traveling the Pacific coast highway. After spending some time getting advice from a friend (thanks Denny!), Marc booked us airfare to and a rental car in Seattle, Washington. We have a friend there who we called ahead of time and he told us about a cool little local happening the day after we got there. Then, three days before we left, I saw a Facebook post from my cousin showing her family had just settled in Seattle. Wild right?

We got an early flight so we’d have a bit more time to explore Seattle. Waiting at the gate was a bit of fun. We were surrounded by a group of elderly Japanese tourists who must have had hearing problems as they were pretty loud as the talked amongst themselves. Then they pulled out their breakfast while we were eating ours. I must admit, their corn on the cob looked pretty tasty. Really wanted to try that.

The flight went quickly and in no time we were at the hotel. Hills. Hills everywhere and homeless people here and there camped  right next to the highways. Never seen that before. After dropping off the luggage, we headed down the hill to the waterfront. We really needed to stretch our legs after the flight and were eager to see the city. The Seattle Great Wheel dominates the shoreline but isn’t the only attraction present. Antique shops, restaurants, an aquarium and multiple open docks line Alaskan Way. With a nice walk behind us, we hit the ferris wheel.  After seeing everything at ground level, how cool to see it all from up high. When it opened in 2012, it was the tallest ferris wheel on the west coast at 175 feet. The lines were minimal for a Friday afternoon and we managed to get a glass enclosed car all to ourselves.

Wheel2

We climbed the hill back to our hotel to get ready for dinner and that’s when the fun really started. My cousin called and asked us to meet them in 10. Unfortunately, I was in the shower at the time and the car was in lock down at a pay parking lot. In the end, Kelly and the crew came down and met us at our hotel and we went out in search of gelato. Yes, we walked down that hill again but ended up at a restaurant for a drink and desert for the kids. I think Kelly and I figured out that the last time we met was when Gerald was one or two years old. Now he’s sixteen and wow! Tall and handsome, just like his dad. It was great to meet everyone and Kelly and I got to catch up on about 15-20 years of gossip about all the kin back home in North Carolina before we had to leave for dinner. Next time we come, we’ll be staying with them. Lol.

Me & Cousin Kelly

Me & Cousin Kelly

Gerald and

Gerald and Erin, practically all grown up!

We ended our first day in Seattle with dinner at an amazing restaurant. Wild Ginger  does awesome asian food and has been voted most popular restaurant in the pacific northwest for eleven years running! I would highly recommend it. They serve everything family style and small portions so you can try a bit more. The wild boar and everything else was so incredible that it made the  Pad Thai that would have been great anywhere else, just seem commonplace. We ended up getting it boxed to go with the idea of giving it to the first homeless person we saw. It’s harder to tell whose homeless though at 10;30 at night and we ended up giving it to our afternoon hotel clerk. We caught him coming down the hill as we were struggling up.

Catch That Fish!

Catch That Fish!

Our second day, we started by going back down the hill to Pikes Place Market. There is a fish shop inside  that specializes in putting on a bit of a show whenever anyone orders a fish and they’re kinda famous for it. Sadly, there were more people hanging out for the show than actually ordering anything, but I did see one fish fly. See those crabs up there? They also sold it in cups with an awesome seafood sauce. It was so good! The market is huge and has vendors for anything you can think of. I guess you can say we grazed our way through and bought some supplies for the parade/festival  later too.

MarketFlowers

The Freemont Solstice Fair has been going down for forty years and thanks to our friend Chris, we got to experience a pretty neat event. I believe what hooked us was the fifteen hundred naked, body painted cyclists that precede the parade every year.  These folks run the gamut of ages and abilities when it comes to body paint. Not everyone gets totally naked, but definitely a more relaxed vibe out there.

Hunt

I think the boots were real

BluePaintedLadies

She had the most beautiful painted on corset.

She had the most beautiful painted on corset

Our friend Chris managed to find us in the throng on people lining the parade route right before the floats began to arrive. We had a few minutes to chat before the bands, dancers and floats started past us. He still looks the same… maybe less stressed as he’d just finished applying for tenure. Didn’t take long for me to realize that this parade is wholly put on by the local population. There are no corporate sponsors and it was interesting to see protest floats among the celebrants.

Paradestart

Sun

Blow

Chris

Protest group w/ Black American flag and oil drums being rolled down the street. I think they were protesting drilling off shore. Oh, and our friend Chris.

We hung out with Chris for a while, watching the parade and catching up before he took us to Gasworks park to meet up  with a friend of his. Gasworks park is amazing! The site was originally for converting coal to gas, but with the importation of natural gas in the 1950’s, the place was rendered obsolete and was shut down. Instead of just tearing everything down though, it was acquired by the city which eventually cleaned it up, painted parts of it and made it safe to be used as a park. The overflow from the park found its way here. There were food trucks, people having BBQ’s and picnic’s, slack line walkers, acrobats, jugglers, and bands performing everywhere you looked.

Acrobats and a Slackline Walker

Acrobats and a Slackline Walker

MGasworks

Marc strikes a pose!

Cgasworks

Coolio!

After an awesome day of festivities, food and mostly naked people, it was time to move on. We had hundreds of miles of pacific coast highway to cover and less and less time to make it all happen. We moved on that evening, headed south, talking about the day and all that we’d seen. In search of a hotel room on the way and new sights to see. As the sun was setting and we rounded a corner on the highway, we had one more moment that took our breath and all conversation away. Mt Rainer, that magnificent snow-capped mountain dominating the distance. We watched it until it got too dark to see and then stopped for the night. Ready for some sleep and a fresh start to the morning.

I wish that for all of you too. A good nights sleep and a fresh start every morning with the opportunity to have a great experience every day with people you love. I think there will be two more parts to our West coast trip so stay tuned peeps! It’s always interesting.

Paragliding in Bali

I know I’ve included some pictures of the paragliding sites in Bali in previous posts, but here are a few more. While the weather didn’t usually cooperate with the pilots, there was on average a least one day a week of good flying weather and one particular week with  four or five days that were awesome.

This is the new fence @ Timbus. Nice and welcoming, eh?

This is the new fence @ Timbus. Nice and welcoming, eh?

So, one of the sites there is called Timbus. About four weeks into the trip a fence was erected by developers to curb pilots getting to the site through their property. To the right of the fence used to be cow pastures. Now, the land has been cleared and no one knows what will be built there next. Golf course? Villas? One things for sure though, paragliders will not be welcome from the looks of things. For now, folks are still taking the known path and then just skirting the fence. It’s dangerous though and we couldn’t help wondering how much longer people will be able to fly here.

Pandawa Beach lies under Timbus. Marc took this from the air.

Pandawa Beach lies under Timbus. Marc took this from the air.

Timbus from the air. Me in the hammock.

Timbus from the air. Me in the hammock.

I said in an earlier post that few women are in the sport compared to the men. Here’s a few women I met there. Julie was from India and Penny was from Singapore. I heard a great story about a German woman pilot I didn’t get to meet. She beach landed (you really want a top landing) and got a little scrapped up. She immediately had five guys looking to help her get her glider together and then one took her back to the launch site after he stopped for some iodine for her cuts. Wouldn’t take any money either. The two guys who bombed out twenty minutes before her? They had to walk to the road to find a reasonable rate on a taxi to take them back. Local prices were too high!

Julie & Penny

Julie & Penny

Marc reached another milestone in Bali. He got his Two hundredth hour in the air there! We celebrated with Bintang’s after the flight.

Wayne & Marc celebrate 200 hours!

Wayne & Marc celebrate 200 hours!

We met an amazing woman named Maggie one day and helped her achieve her dream of a tandem flight by taking her to the launch site. I think ten minutes after we introduced her to Reky they were up and away for a nice long tandem flight. She even hung out with us afterwards for dinner and drinks. Gotta admire a girl who comes to Bali by herself and isn’t afraid to take on challenges.

Ready to Go!

Ready to Go!

Reky:Maggie2

Gunung Payung was the other site for flying. A little further down the road, it was also reached by traversing cow pastures. I like this one better because I could walk to the temple and down to the beach from there.

PGGunungPayong1

Marc in the Green Nivuk Wing

Temple from the air. Marc said he would sometimes see monkeys playing on the roofs.

Temple from the air. Marc said he would sometimes see monkeys playing on the roofs.

PGGunungPayung3

View from the beach.  When he's throwing shade on me.

View from the beach. When he’s throwing shade on me.

Ok, so here’s a really neat coincidence. Our last day there we go out to Timbus to check out the flying. We see a taxi that is braving to rutted cow pasture to get to the site and a couple of guys guiding it. We started talking to the guys as it’s very slow going and find out one of them in from New Zealand. We talk a little about our trip and then go on a head. About ten minutes later Marc brings the guy over to me and says “honey, we know this guy!” “What?” “Do you remember meeting a guy outside Mission Bay one day who was kiting his wing and said he was living in Hong Kong? This is the guy!”  Isn’t that incredible? Kinda like when we picked up the French hitchhikers the second time.

Us with Greg & Dell. Greg is who we had met previously.

Us with Greg & Dell. Greg is who we had met previously.

So that’s about it for flying in Bali. Oh wait! I did get a thrill out of the size of the kites there. One of our last days there I emerged from the bush to see a bunch of locals pulling like mad and a zippy sound in the air. Turns out I’d just witnessed the launch of a huge kite.

Part of the crew.

Part of the crew.

Sounds awesome flying!

Sounds awesome flying!

Massive, isn't it?

Massive, isn’t it?

Alright! So, that was Bali. I’m glad to be back in Auckland though and really looking forward to getting back to the states. Marc’s already flown at Kariotahi beach once and I hope he’s gets a bit more in this last week. Cheers everybody and thanks for liking my blog.

Second Week in Bali

Statue is saw from the side of the road. Possibly used for their Nyepi festival, after which it's burned.

Statue I  saw from the side of the road. Possibly used for their Nyepi festival, after which it’s burned.

Wow! Happy fourth of July everyone! I just realized what day it was while we were out on the bike today. While no one here is  going to celebrate the Fourth like we do in the states, we did go out for beer and BBQ tonight. That’s gotta count for something, right? I can hardly believe another week has gone by. As Marc would say, “it’s flown by.” No pun intended. *Laughs. I have so much to share with you so let me get started.

Rainstorms in the current supposedly dry season have continued to be an obstacle. After being cooped up for most of one day,  we bit the bullet and bought rain ponchos for the bike. We were hoping to invoke Murphy’s Law but so far it hasn’t worked. It was only after I’d used mine for a little bit that we realized it was probably made for a child. Marc had a little fun with me before he fixed it. You should have heard all the people at McDonald’s laugh at me when I put it on backwards the first time. I was laughing too though so it’s all good.

While I would stay really dry this way, I do have a problem with not being able to see.

While I would stay really dry this way, I do have a problem with not being able to see.

The sun finally did show it’s face and we took the opportunity to look around for a nice place to stay as a treat. We accomplished our mission and also came across this awesome private villa/compound owned by an Italian architect. He wasn’t there  the day we stopped by so one of his staff gave us a bit of a private tour. What an amazing place!

Local gas station

Local gas station

PlenilunioPool

Butterfly

Marc’s friend Chris, a  fellow para-glider from New Zealand got here the middle of last week. We first got word thru an email that he had arrived and Marc went down to Kuta to pick him up and help him find a place to stay closer to the launch site. Unfortunately, the locals still like to play a game called “misdirect the bule” and after two hours of fruitless searching he chucked it in. Marc sent him and email with our location and he showed up at our place  two days later. We’ve enjoyed showing him around and getting him sorted and educated on local culture, customs and mindset. He’s a right nice guy and he’s starting to clue in.

Marc and Chris clown around

Marc and Chris clown around

A couple of times now, I’ve been on my own while the guys have taken off for the launch site. I’ve browsed shops, found a closer supermarket and internet cafe, gotten a mani/ pedi and had a tortuously great Balinese massage.

birds1

birds2

All the pretty birds in Bali are in cages

All the pretty birds of Bali are in cages

Mona the massage therapist. She is really good.

Mona the massage therapist. She is really good.

Lest anyone think all I do is live the life of Riley though, let me show y’all one essential task that I perform regularly here in Bali. I do the laundry. Yes, I know that doesn’t sound like all that big a deal to all you folks with washers and dryers but in this country, I AM the washing machine. Sure, there are laundry shops all over the place here but with valid concerns on our part over the potential loss of our stuff and the hassle that would be involved in locating new duds, it’s just not worth the risk.

Step 1: Pour soap powder into plastic bowl and add your water

Step 1: Pour soap powder into plastic bowl and add your water

Step 2: Aggitate by hand. I like to use the baby kitten method and listen to Prince or other fast music while I do this.

Step 2: Agitate by hand. I like to use the baby kitten method and listen to Prince or other fast music while I do this.

Step 3: Rinse under running water and then wring dry

Step 3: Rinse under running water and then wring dry

To finish off our second week we went to the pool at Mahagiri for a swim, cocktails and dinner. They have a lovely little infinity pool and a bar staffed with some nice young men whose English rocks. We had fun drinking cocktails with such exotic names as Blue Motorcycle, After Sex, and Hawaii Five-O. Dinner was lovely as well and Marc said his Australian tenderloin with mashed potatoes, french fries, veggies and peppercorn gravy  was fabulous. Just a little odd to get two kinds of potatoes though.

Kanna & Budi will treat you right!

Kanna & Budi will treat you right!

The author takes a break

The author takes a break

Well… what can I say? It’s hot and I am going to wander back home and finish washing Marc’s shorts while I wait for him to get back from the launch site. He’s going to take me for another scooter driving lesson later and I’ll tell you all about that next time. Meanwhile, I’ll show you one picture from a coming attraction. Looks nice, eh?

comingattraction

Merry Christmas!

Trifle

Not a trifling matter.

Happy Holidays and Happy Boxing Day everybody! It’s been a pretty crazy couple of days here. For Christmas we drove out to Waiuku to spend the afternoon with our friends Mike and Sue and their family. Although we missed lunch, we did get there in time for desert and crackers; which are always fun. Sue actually made her crackers as she said she was totally over the cheap stuff that comes inside them. This is why we are wearing those lovely hats you see above.

Hosts

Our hosts. LtR: Mike, Critton, Sue

We stayed until 5 when we raced back home to another party our flatmate had invited us to. This was more of a family affair and we got to meet her sister and both her sons as well as a cousin. We’ve also had a friend of Jane’s by the name of Joyce staying for the past week or so from Dubai. She’s been here training for a duathalon that’s coming up tomorrow during her vacation. It’s amazing how much she and Jane train for their sports. I think they’re up at like 5-6 am everyday running, biking or swimming in the sea. it’s exhausting just thinking about it. Speaking of folks training like mad, Jane invited her running club over for a boxing day bar-b-que. Everyone brought a dish and Marc manned the grill.

MBBQ

Marc mans the grill.

He did a very good job too considering at one point there was four people standing around trying to give helpful advice. It was a wonderful party and we were surrounded by very fit people half of whom were vegetarians. I’ve got to say that nut loaf is actually pretty good, as is falafel. Not ready to give up sausages though.

BDParty

Debs and Jane

The evening is winding down now, and tomorrow is supposed to be more of a regular day; although I believe most of the country is off work till next year. I want to wish everyone a most joyous holiday season and a healthy, prosperous new year. Oh, and one more thing…. Do y’all remember that artichoke field I photographed a month ago? Well when we passed it yesterday we got a nice surprise. Take a look.

Artichokes