A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about town

Through the Rockies on our way to the Pacific Northwest

Livingston, Anaconda, Granite, Coeur d' Alene, Spokane, Ellensburg

sunny 24 °C
View Around the world 2016/17 on dreiumdiewelt's travel map.

Our plan was to leave Yellowstone via the Northeast Exit and to drive along the Beartooth Highway. We had already gotten that recommendation from the French couple we had met in Loreto, once more from Ralf in Zion and it was also featured as a spectacular diversion in Janis’ National Park magazine.
Still, after looking at the map and realizing it would be more than a 200 mile / 300 km detour and factoring in that it was starting to rain heavily when we left Mammoth Hot Springs, we decided to skip the Beartooth Pass. I guess that with the over 9000 miles we’ve driven so far and Max still not being a real fan of long drives, we have gotten a bit more conscious about distances and the difference in mileage we can make on small windy roads vs. the interstates.
So the new plan now foresees to leave Yellowstone via the North Entrance, getting on the interstate in Livingston and heading due West via Idaho to Washington. This plan also results in skipping beautiful Glacier National Park in favor of having more time to spend at Mt Rainier and Olympic National Parks. Unfortunately, even with five months to spend in North America, we have to make choices and it’s simply not possible to see everything we’d love to see.
By the time we arrived at our beautiful campground at Mallard’s Rest 42 miles north of the park exit right next to the Yellowstone River, the heavy rain had stopped and there were only the clouds remaining.

IMG_9696.jpg

We hoped that by night time they’d be gone such that we could observe the Perseid meteor showers. And we were lucky indeed, around 11 pm most clouds had disappeared and we got to see significantly bigger and lighter shooting stars than so far on our journey – in fact the nicest ones both Sam and I have ever seen so far.
The next day no one of us was keen to leave. So we took it easy and enjoyed our lovely campground for a bit longer. Eventually hunger made us leave after all and Rosa’s Pizza in Livingston came just at the right time to help us out.
Sam had picked the Lost Creek State Park for camping this night via our map. As we pretty much did not have much network reception and internet since back in Moab, we could not check our usual resources. And as our mobile phone seems to have issues since the update to a newer version of the operating system, also our navigation system Scout let us down, as it did not find the downloaded maps on the SD card anymore. So with just the map as a guide, we did not really have high hopes in finding a campground when there was no camping signposted, just binoculars for wildlife watching. We turned around and rather headed to a national forest campground a bit behind Anaconda.
That way Sam also got to tick one more of the items on his bucket list: he wanted to see a ghost town and close to Philipsburg there was ‘Granite’ up the hill. Despite the recommendation to only go up the road with a vehicle with high clearance (which ours definitively does not have), we went up the 4 steep and windy miles making over 1200 ft / 400 m within that relatively short distance. The road was relatively good (much better than what we had encountered in Mexico around Coco’s Corner) and we made it without any issues.
There were still quite a couple of buildings around – all of them in more or less desolate states. After all, the main exploitation of the mine with more than 3000 miners living there had taken place already over 100 years ago. And since then nature was allowed to take over again.

IMG_9701.jpg

But as there was not too much to see with many buildings simply being destroyed over the years and probably some wildfires, we left again and made our way down the steep grade. And even though it felt like we had been sitting in the car already for ages, we only really started getting moving once we had reached the interstate.
As we were only going to pass a very short stretch of Idaho (less than 100 miles), we at least wanted to stay there for a night. The plan was good, the execution less so: what had looked on our famous map like a very short 10-mile detour from the interstate to get to a lakeside campground along Lake Coeur d’Alene, turned out to be a tiny windy road that did not end and did not get us to where we wanted. And after an hours’ worth of driving and seemingly just being half way of where we wanted to get to, we turned around with a bit of frustration.
At least we were lucky then to get a spot at the campground at Wolf’s Lodge – at a cheaper rate than the KOA in Spokane we had called and with better services. And the first activity was to use the WIFI and to install the Washington map again on the mobile phone, such that as of tomorrow we’d be able to do better planning again. And then we headed with Max to the kids’ puppet-theater and games evening. He had lots of fun and was really proud once he got his new football as a prize.
The next day I requested to spend a day in a mall. We’ve had enough landscapes and nature around us and this felt just like the right change in scenery and atmosphere. And so the Spokane Valley Mall was the perfect opportunity to see how many Americans spend their Sunday, but as well to get new sandals for all of us.
We spent so much time in the mall that we did not want to go much further to find a place for the night. So when we saw the signs at the interstate in Spokane towards the Riverside State Park, we simply took the exit and eventually got a space at the Pitcher and Bowl area of the park.

IMG_9721.jpgIMG_9724.jpg

So after having spent most of the day inside, we got the opportunity to hike a bit, to throw stones into the river and building some dams.
The next morning, we eventually headed on towards Western Washington. We were amazed – after weeks and weeks of having poor to no mobile phone reception, we suddenly had continuous excellent phone connection all along the highways even far from the next towns. The last time we were able to enjoy that luxury was probably along the densely populated stretches of the California coast. We used the opportunity to make some calls and research while driving. While I’d consider myself not necessarily dependent on a mobile phone, it still proves to come in very handy when trip planning. And it helps to save tons of money when being able to research free vs. governmental vs. private camping options. So it felt relieving to see that I had my planning tools back at my disposition again.
We eventually stopped in Ellensburg for the night. Even though we were a bit disappointed when we realized that the pool of the KOA was defect and closed, we consoled ourselves with the fact that we had a really nice location under big shady trees next to a very fast flowing river. A nice spot to stay and figure out where to go next…

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 14:51 Archived in USA Tagged town shopping lake river mall drive ghost yellowstone idaho reception Comments (1)

Around Perth

Yanchep NP, Joondalup, Freemantle, Rockingham

sunny 30 °C
View Around the world 2016/17 on dreiumdiewelt's travel map.

As we reached the Northern suburbs of Perth, we were keen to have lunch. It was not really on purpose that we ended up at Yanchep NP. It was probably just good fortune, as we realized soon after getting there. First and foremost, we did find the BBQ station we had been looking for in order to grill our burgers for lunch. There were a couple of cheeky cockatoos around, keen to get a bit from our lunch. They were not lucky – we ate everything ourselves.

IMG_3998.jpg IMG_4009.jpg

Well fed, we headed towards the grove of gums that is home for ten koalas. We managed to spot seven of them up in the trees. After all, sleeping up in the trees, they are camouflaged very well.

IMG_4005.jpg IMG_4007.jpg IMG_4014.jpg

Even though Max was keen on finding all ten koalas, we convinced him successfully to rather check out which other animals we can find. And soon enough, we came across lots of kangaroos and observed cuter birds playing in the water of the lake. The hike around the lake was beautiful and we were happy that we had stayed to explore the park.

IMG_4020.jpg IMG_4031.jpg IMG_4032.jpg IMG_4034.jpg

Anyhow, we liked the national park very much and also wanted to stay for the night. And soon after we had set up camp, we were in for a big surprise: Guido, Lucia and Emia, who we had met already back in Coral Bay were there as well. While Max was excited to play with Emia, Sam and I were happy to talk with our nice friends again. And we had great conversations about traveling in Asia – after all we were just in the process of making up our mind where to go after New Zealand and having traveled Asia extensively, we got some excellent input from Guido and Lucia. While we talked, we were treated to a colorful sunset and could listen to the sound of some laughing Kookaburras in the trees above us.

IMG_4043.jpg IMG_4047.jpg

The next morning, were in for another surprise. Getting into Perth, I wanted to do some shopping at Aldi. With Christmas coming closer, we were all keen to get some typical German sweets like Lebkuchen. The Joondalup Aldi seemed to be along our route, so we went there. We had not realized in advance that it is located in Western Australia’s largest mall. And a week before Christmas, the place was packed with people. We were quite overwhelmed and fought our way through the crowds until we eventually found the Aldi store.
The mall also featured a huge food court. It was very noisy, but at least we got excellent and quick food. And once again, we met our Swiss friends, who were just as surprised about the size of the shopping center.
Coming from the North of Western Australian, we were not really used to so many people anymore. So we decided to keep the discovery of Perth until the very end our stay in Western Australia and headed directly to Fremantle.
Fremantle is not only a bit smaller and cozier than Perth, but it also features a busy port. Just to find out a bit more about the size of the container ships in the harbor, I googled the MSC Flaminia and found myself engulfed in a thriller like story of a big fire in 2012 with dangerous goods on board, many European harbors not wanting to accept a disaster ship like that and eventually being unloaded in a German port before having the middle section of the ship repaired in Romania. What a story – and what a coincidence that I had not googled the name of any other ship laying in the harbor.
Our destination was the Esplanade Youth Skatepark. It had been Max’ idea and Sam and I were perfectly fine with that idea. After all, we did not feel like doing lots of sightseeing anyhow. Just sitting as the side of the track with hot tea and cake and having a chat was just the right thing to do.
We soon got talking with some of the locals, such as Tony who emigrated from Italy and has was pretty vocal about ‘hating’ his mother country. In comparison to the collusion and corruption there, Australia is the perfect place for him to be. Luckily for us, he knew exactly what kids (and as a result of that also their parents) like and made me write down a list of the best playgrounds in and around Perth. Perfect!

IMG_4051.jpg

This being the first weekend of school holidays, we were lucky to have called our campground in advance (a first), as otherwise we would have not gotten a site anymore when we arrived.
The next day was dedicated to exploring Fremantle. Starting from the skate park, we explored the fishing boat harbor. Sam pointed out the statue of AC/DC founding member Bon Scott to me, who was long dead by the time we went to the Bucharest AC/DC concert six years ago.

IMG_4055.jpg IMG_4056.jpg IMG_4059.jpg IMG_4061.jpg

We got to the Round House with perfect timing to experience the firing of the 1pm cannon ball. This is still performed daily, in memory of the times when ships required to have the precise time in order to being able to navigate.

IMG_4079.jpg IMG_4068.jpg

We had lunch in town at the excellent SpudBar that had been recommended to us – potatoes with lots of different fillings. For anyone like me who loves boiled potatoes, this is just a great idea!

IMG_4080.jpg IMG_4081.jpg

A tour of Fremantle would not have been without a stop at the historic prison – a World Heritage Site - and the Fremantle market. And Max’s highlight came at the very end: we had promised to him that he’d be able to spend some more time biking in the skate park again.

IMG_4088.jpg IMG_4085.jpg 0B853F0CA0C8C9CFD2D40990D95B2FC1.jpg IMG_4093.jpg

Back at camp, every one of us had plans: Max biked around the park with other kids, Sam went for an extensive run to Woodman Point and I did a bit of typing and researching - a good base for a nice evening in which everyone was happy.

20161126_182424.jpg 20161217_182824.jpg

The next morning, we headed south along the coast to see what is there to be explored. Our first stop was at Peron Point in Rockingham, a nice peninsula with great views. But as it was very windy, this is not where we wanted to stay for lunch.

large_3EA7EF0AB8CEE431945D5802690E1111.jpg IMG_4108.jpg IMG_4102.jpg

We rather went to an adventure playground that was located along our way south. What a great playground. Max was happy and very busy. We enjoyed watching him play. After all, very often he is happily putting up with our ideas of what we’d like to see and do, so it’s just fair when he gets to go to places he loves.

20161218_124543.jpg

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 10:23 Archived in Australia Tagged koala harbour fort market town shopping prison hike mall kangaroo playground skate Comments (0)

Kia ora New Zealand

Christchurch

overcast 19 °C
View Around the world 2016/17 on dreiumdiewelt's travel map.

Our descent into Christchurch was very bumpy due to heavy winds despite the sunny weather. Immigration was no issue at all – we even had a chat with the officer about traveling. But customs proved to be a challenge, as already expected. Even though we had eaten all fruit and vegetables before entering New Zealand, we still had a bit of food with us and we also had our hiking boots. The customs officer wanted to inspect all of the shoes and also decided that our pack of rice needed to be inspected before we’d be able to import it. In the end a single one of the shoes had to be disinfected. After a couple of minutes of wait, we had our shoe and also the rice back. We were warned once more about a 400$ instant fine in case we had not declared something and could then proceed to the x-ray machine. All good…
At the terminal, we got within 10 minutes our most urgent needs settled: a new and instantly activated SIM card valid for the next eight week and some leaflets and brochures from the information center. With that we were just in time for our shuttle to the rental company.
Having decided rather late that we wanted to rent vs. buy a campervan in NZ, we did not have too much choice in regards to availability. We were happy to get a rather cheap deal with Lucky Rentals. We were well aware that we’d not be having a luxury camper, but were still rather unexcited upon seeing our new home for the next seven weeks.
After all, our ‘Roadie’ has already done more than 495,000 km in his lifetime. While having all the promised features like a fridge or cooker, it was cheap in many ways. Once more we realized how lucky we had been in Australia with our Drive Beyond which featured brand names for all the equipment that came with it. Here we had to deal with the really cheap version of everything. Eventually after having checked the sixth camp chair, we had three together that we deemed fit enough to survive the next seven weeks.
Still, we had been very clear that despite the fairly high price tag of camping in a campervan, that’s how we wanted to travel: being outside most of the time while still being sheltered from the NZ rain. And if that meant that we had to reduce our luxurious standards vs. our van in the US and the 4WD in Australia, so be it.

IMG_4945.jpg IMG_4944.jpg

After a first stop at McDonalds to get our empty stomachs filled, we headed to our first campground for the night. And being used to Australian prices for campgrounds, we were in for quite a shock, as a comparable campground in Australia would have cost us maybe 33 AUD vs. the 58 NZD we were paying here (and AUD and NZD are almost the same in terms of exchange rate). Wow! At least food shopping seemed to be similarly priced than in Australia. In other words: still much more expensive than in Germany, but at least not much more than what we’ve gotten used to in the last couple of weeks.
In the end, the rather expensive campground was an excellent choice after all. Sam and Max met Rudi and Michi, the first Austrians travelers we got to meet since back in Sedona. They had their last night in Christchurch before leaving the next day back home to Austria. And we were the lucky ones to get everything they had left over from their three weeks of traveling: lots of food, some plastic storage containers, toilet paper, beer and cider. And best of all, they also had quite a list of recommendations for us in regards to places they liked and where to go. Thanks!
The next day was dedicated to getting some more supplies. After having checked a couple of camping stores for lights, we eventually found exactly what we needed at a hardware store. We also bought new Crocs for Max – this time in yellow such that we might be able to spot them more easily in case he’d forget them somewhere again.
As expected, central Christchurch was dominated by vast empty spaces, lots of road cones, steel supported crumbling buildings and gigantic construction sites. Even though the last big earthquake took place almost six years ago, it will still take a very long time for its destruction to disappear. Those areas of the city which have been rebuilt already were quite impressive. We marveled at some of the new architecture displaying ostentatiously the structural reinforcements intended to withstand future earthquakes, some buildings were restored seemingly without changes vs. how they looked before.

IMG_4954.jpg IMG_4952.jpg IMG_4962.jpg
IMG_4964.jpg IMG_4968.jpg IMG_4967.jpg IMG_4969.jpg

Max had been looking forward very much to that evening, as we picked up his new bike. We had already placed a bid on TradeMe – the NZ equivalent of Ebay – back in Perth and secured a used kid’s bike for Max. The bike worked well and Max was very happy to be mobile again.
On the way out of town we discovered a special deal on CamperMate and decided to stay in the luxurious Christchurch Top 10 holiday park after all. And it proved to be an excellent decision. For one, we were once again the lucky recipients of quite a couple of leftovers other campers did not need anymore. And even more importantly, Max made a new friend, 4-year old Leo. And while the two of them played blissfully, we got to talk at lengths with his mom Simone. As we soon learned, they moved from Germany to Timaru four years ago. Hearing how they like their new home country, we were looking forward even more to the coming weeks of exploring New Zealand.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 15:01 Archived in New Zealand Tagged town plane bike campervan earthquake customs Comments (0)

East coast towns

Oamaru, Hampden, Moeraki, Dunedin

semi-overcast 20 °C
View Around the world 2016/17 on dreiumdiewelt's travel map.

We had heard nice things about the town of Oamaru and soon realized ourselves that everything we had heard was true: there were nice buildings, a very positive atmosphere and a bit of funk. After all, Oamaru is also the location of the ‘Steampunk HQ’, a gallery dedicated to all kinds of fun metal exhibits.

IMG_5362.jpg IMG_5363.jpg 45B01DEFC55770041E8DD67F53727961.jpg 45B079739C36AACFF49E43E3B268E590.jpg IMG_5369.jpg IMG_5371.jpg

From there it was just a couple of steps to get into the old town featuring the first buildings of the settlement dating back almost 150 years. We were thrilled to find a good bakery and browsed through some of the galleries, workshops and stores. Eventually we ended at our usual destination of choice: the local skatepark.

IMG_5372.jpg IMG_5374.jpg

When trying to extend our parking ticket, Sam realized that we had gotten fined for parking in the wrong area of the carpark, where it is permit parking only. Given the two equally unsuitable choices of paying by check (something I have ever used a single time in my life) or NZ internet banking, I headed to the office to get the fine sorted right away. After paying the fine, I also wrote an appeal explaining that our mistake had been a misunderstanding. Carols, the helpful lady at the desk, referred me to the head of the respective department. I explained to him that I would have parked correctly if it had been clear about the difference between ‘permit only’ and ‘pay and display’. And he agreed that this might be difficult from someone with a different mother tongue coming from a different background. I was pleased to get my 40 NZD fine refunded and very happy – life is fair after all.
As we left Oamaru a bit later, we took the scenic drive along the coast instead of just following the highway. A good choice, as we got to see long empty beaches and a very nice coastline.

IMG_5379.jpg IMG_5381.jpg

Once we had secured the last powered campsite at Moeraki Boulders Campground, we followed the recommendation of the friendly Swiss owner to go to Katiki Lighthouse. And we were in fact lucky to see four of the very rare yellow eyed penguins up close. They were on their way from the beach to their hides along the steep coast. Underneath them were a couple of New Zealand fur seals lazing in the last rays of sun. And there were even a couple of little pups around as well. We loved our excursion and were happy that we had gone.

45B3C519FB8ACE9C96B359534DFF5416.jpg IMG_5393.jpg IMG_5399.jpg IMG_5403.jpg IMG_5412.jpg

After a couple of unsuccessful trials in trying to locate the Southern Cross, we finally succeeded that evening. It was the first real clear night since we had arrived in New Zealand and we just had to look up to see the signature constellation that is also featured on the flag.
The next morning, we hiked from our campsite along the beach to the Moeraki Boulders. While the beach was deserted, the boulders were crowded with tourists making pictures with and on the boulders from all possible angles. And indeed, the boulders make for a great photo motive. Still, we did not mind heading back and having the beach for ourselves again after a hundred meters. And anyhow, we did not want to linger too long to avoid getting trapped by the tide coming in.

IMG_5461.jpg IMG_5452.jpg IMG_5463.jpg IMG_5434.jpg

Lucky us that we returned early enough. Otherwise we would have been hiking back in the rain. We enjoyed a quiet afternoon, reading and writing in the campervan while Max was playing outside with his new friend Basili.
The weather forecast for the next day did not foresee much better weather, but at least it was dry until we left our first stop at Shag point where we got to see seals again. From then on it was raining heavily.

large_IMG_5478_stitch.jpg IMG_5492.jpg

At least that way it was easy to decide what to do in Dunedin: we headed to the Otago Museum and had a relaxed and dry afternoon discovering the many exhibits and watching a show in the planetarium called ‘We are stars’.
A short spell without rain tempted us to head into town to sit in a café and do some shopping. As expected, we got wet on the way back to the car, but at least we were well fed and had new stuff to wear. Even though we passed lots of beautiful buildings, the weather was too miserable to take pictures of the otherwise very beautiful town. That evening we stayed in a suburb of Dunedin at the Wingatui racecourse - essentially a parking lot with an adjacent amenities block located next to the race track.

IMG_5499.jpg

Surprisingly enough, we woke up to a beautiful day the next morning. After some grocery shopping and lunch at the local skatepark, we headed into Dunedin once more.

IMG_5505.jpg
IMG_5506.jpg IMG_5508.jpg

And what a difference vs. yesterday: we got to see the beautiful railstation, the churches and Victorian buildings around the main square Octogon and were blissfully soaking in the afternoon sun. Given the Scottish heritage of Dunedin, a young bagpipe player provided the perfect ambience.

IMG_5536.jpg IMG_5515.jpg IMG_5521.jpg IMG_5538.jpg IMG_5528.jpg

A pair of Chinese dragons reminded us of Chinese New Year with the Year of the Rooster starting. That made us realize that the Chinese holidays might be the reason for so many Chinese people traveling. Initially we had assumed that the Chinese just prefer New Zealand vs. Australia, but it might in fact rather be linked to the period of the year.

IMG_5532.jpg

Eventually we headed to the Beachlands Speedway. Intrigued by a sign entering Dunedin ‘Races every Saturday, we had found out that there was a stockcar race with following demolition derby going to be taking place. That sounded like a lot of fun. After all, we had tried already in the US to see if we could see a stockcar race, so this was the perfect opportunity.
We were there early enough to be able to take a tour of the pit area where the teams were getting their cars ready. Some of them looked nice and polished, whereas others had obviously been part of a number of crashes already.
We picked front row seats and were anxious for the races to start. At first we only got to see trucks making round after round to prepare the track. But after an introductory grand parade of all race cars, the first race started with the 'streetcars'. It did not take long for us to realize that our front row seats might not have been the smartest choice. As of the first round, we were bombarded by pieces of dirt flying at us. And despite the strong fences between us and the track, we thought it might be a good idea to get a bit more distance to the track. After all, the racecars tended to get into battles. Looking at the cars, this was pretty obvious that this would be happening. And as expected, some of the cars ended up slamming the concrete wall lining the track. That was very loud and we definitively did not want to be in the trajectory of any parts flying around.

IMG_5567.jpg IMG_5631.jpg IMG_5641.jpg IMG_5645.jpg

At the end of the first race for the streetcars, we also realized that those cars that are not able to leave the track anymore, do not necessarily need a tow car to tow them out: usually there's just another one of the racers pushing them out. The tow trucks were busy enough with the more severe cases anyhow. As next classes started their races, we soon learned to distinguish the stockcars, mini stockcars or saloon cars. In total, there were seven classes. Each of them got to go for three races, such that by the second and third round we already knew what to expect.

IMG_5647.jpg IMG_5653.jpg IMG_5663.jpg IMG_5679.jpg IMG_5695.jpg

There was always something going on. In some classes like the saloon cars, it was exciting to follow who's leading the race and how the second and third were battling to lead of the race. In other classes, like the streetcars, it pretty much did not matter who's leading and who not. There all was about the crashes. And sometimes it was a mix of both, like in the mini stockcar class.

IMG_5707.jpg IMG_5709.jpg

At the end of those 21 races came the demolition derby in which five blue cars fought five red cars to the point when only a single blue car was functional and able to take the checkered flag on a winner’s tour around the track.

IMG_5726.jpg
IMG_5711.jpg IMG_5728.jpg

Even though it got pretty late by the time we left, we all agreed that it had been an awesome day and something we would have had a hard time to see back home. Long after all other campers, we arrived in Wingatui. But as we had been there already, we knew our way around and soon fell into a deep night’s sleep.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 15:31 Archived in New Zealand Tagged rain penguin town museum race seal rail boulders stockcar Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 4 of 4) Page [1]