Feb. 11th, 2017

amazonv: (TARDIS)
2/9/17
Woke up crazy early 4? 5? But hit snooze. Behind schedule!
Packed up and then took Uber to the airport. I then went to get my rental car, from thrifty. No GPS available. It was an MP Spark, I have never heard of one before. It is a tiny thing.
I was supposed to rent from enterprise, I had booked in advance, but when I called 2 days ago or so to confirm as I could not find the agreement in my email – the person said they could not find my reservation. So I panicked and booked through thrifty at a much higher price. It turns out I had made a reservation as 24 hours out I got my reminder email, I was forced to cancel and did write customer service.
Driving on the left hand side is weird, and hard to break habits. Also extra bad as I lack a left eye. I am glad to live in the states!
I drove to the Zealong tea estate, luckily my phone worked well as a GPS.

REVIEW to come

I drove back to the airport, and the phone worked less well but it was OK, I think it used a lot of offline maps.
On the way to return the car I stopped for groceries twice and fuel once. (washing powder, attempt 2 at hostel locks $10)($30 pasta sauce, pasta, water, avocado, wine) Getting fuel (20$+) was awkward. First I picked the wrong side for the tank. The car lacked the handy which side indicator that many rentals I have gotten has. Next I had to figure out with petrol it used. Then I ended up at a pre pay station, but had no idea how much I needed. I read the owners manual and moved to another spot, so it all worked out. After that nonsense I noticed it was on the keychain (which fuel to use), duh.
I returned car, but didn’t get a bill. I hate that. I handed them the keys and they were like OK, leave. This is one of the reasons I prefer enterprise.
I then got tickets ($18) for the SkyBus to downtown. There was awful traffic so it took much longer than it should (car fire on a bridge).
I then walked to the West train to Swanson (N) $7
The B&B owner got me at station.
I got in and settled in. Then I made myself a pasta dinner in the kitchenette, and ate it with a glass of wine on the porch.
I took a walk out to see where the lake path was, and then headed back. It was past 7pm already. I also read the Xena website and the booklet the B&B put together of local attractions to prepare.
I have to be careful of water use, apparently it hasn’t rained much and they are on tank water.
I was told to check out the southern hemisphere sky. But this being my night away from light pollution of cities, I couldn’t see the sky as it was cloudy. Such is my luck. I have not been outside at night much otherwise. Not that I’d see the difference anyway.
There is no cellular signal out here, either phone, and the wifi is spotty.
I went to bed. Sleep!
amazonv: (TARDIS)
2/10/17
8am breakfast at my B&B, so much good food! Fresh eggs (she keeps chickens), toast, fruit, bacon, tea and juice. Like a little Italian grandmother she had more food than I could ever eat.
Next up I put on sunblock and headed out to Bethells beach. I also got a Tupperware of the fruit I didn’t eat to take with me.
On the way down there were horse tracks and dog tracks, it made me think of tilly (the horse that played argo).
I arrived at High tide unfortunately, so I couldn’t go in the cave at the end of the beach, but I got a good walk around. When I got super close I sat on some rocks and had some water and the fruit. Sand is rough terrain :( and I am unfit, it was tiring. I did enjoy the look of the black sand beaches, but they didn’t seem to get hotter than normal sand to me?
I talked to a nice old lady on the beach for a bit and heard about her visit to San Francisco with friends, apparently they got odd looks camping in tents (being senior citizens) at the national park.
Next I tried to get to o’neil beach or bay and got soggy in the process. I thought I had gotten there but reviewing maps after I returned I had not. I had been to Waitakere Bay and seen o’neill bay. There were things (gates) that seemed to be blocking the way so I didn’t go down to the other thing I looked at. But, the walkways and are not clear (to me, not a camper or hiker) some of the walkways I took later had that same look but had skinny paths to the side for people the gates being to block things larger than a skinny adult.
I considered going back to the cave as the tide was lower, but my feet were soggy and I was very tired. So instead, I tried to get to lake wainamu. I walked in soggy shoes (from above adventure) for hours, they make you walk in a creek! At that point I was in for a penny in for a pound, already soggy might as well get soaked. It was supposed to be a 20 minute walk. Apparently (recon after I got home) I got close, but again I felt like I must have missed it, and I also couldn’t tell if there was still a trail.
Failure to properly recon, had intel but not enough. This was what originally inspired me to come in the first place, why I always wanted to go. And I failed.
www.loyaltoxena.com/XenaFilmLocations.html
I should have satellite view’d in advance, but I didn’t realize how bad wifi and (no) cellular would be out here.
My feet hurt, and I am tired, sand is rough terrain. I am out of shape and sad I need to fly away tomorrow.
I got home, showered, made pasta, had wine, cleaned the dishes, now plotting for tomorrow in wellington and writing up reviews in word in preparation for having internet.

My stomach grumbled as I wrote more day write-ups and place reviews so I ate the avocado, grown in new Zealand. It was good but not better than others I have had. Come to think of it same for breakfast, the kiwi I had was good but not amazing. Do all kiwi grow in new Zealand?

I rained a bit, quick shower, they need rain here though so I am sad it didn’t rain more. Snatched my wet sandy clothes off the line and popped into the tub.
That made me think of the avocado farmers, a couple, I met and chatted with at the Zealong tea plantation in the shop after the tour. They were very concerned over the lack of rain in the area.
amazonv: (TARDIS)
Atura Blacktown
I made a reservation at the Atura Blacktown through Expedia. On arrival I found it was not really that accessible by public transit (the bus stop is only about 1 km away, but there is a major highway in the way), so I ended up spending more than I would have liked on uber. I highly recommend using this hotel if you have a car.
As far as the staff – they were helpful, pleasant and I very much enjoyed them. They were happy to answer questions, suggest things, and call up a taxi as needed.
The room itself was clean, a good size, and had everything I needed. Please note the kitchenette is actually dishes, silver wear, drink wear, coffee maker, microwave and sink. There is a lack of fridge. There was not excessive noise or light and the bed was comfy.
I was amused it was cruise ship style lighting – you had to put your room key in a socket near the door when you entered to power up the lights, a smart thing but took me a few minutes to figure out.
The hotel buffet breakfast was a bit pricey – 27$ but offset by the green voucher (let them leave your sheets during your stay and get $10/day). I don’t eat much so I may have been better off finding a grocery and having breakfast in – but again no car. The food was good, but I find the breads in Australia a bit dense compared to the US. I had things like bacon, eggs, waffles, peaches and cream, tapioca and fruit, coffee, tea, Danish, croissant, potato pancakes, and some other cold porridge thing.
There is a pub and a drive in within walking distance.
There is a lobby bar – but I didn’t try it.
Overall I would recommend this place and stay again, but only with a car.
amazonv: (TARDIS)
Greenlane Manor Motel Auckland New Zealand
Very nice woman at check in helped me check in and helped me figure out where to head for food and best ways to get transit about. She also offered me a glass/carton of milk. New Zealand likes milk.
In my room, which was very clean and a good size there was a great booklet of local attractions and restaurants.
It is located near a train station and near shops and restaurants.
In the room I had an electric tea kettle, fridge, dishes, cups, silverware, microwave, toaster and instant coffee and tea.
The location, at least my room was a bit noisy as it is near a road.
Warning: Limited front desk hours, a maximum daily MB limit on wifi
Overall I would stay here again and would recommend it.
amazonv: (TARDIS)
Wake Up! Sydney Hostel
Always seemed to be someone at the front desk, which was great. The staff were also all pleasant and helpful.
Free wifi in the lobby, pay in the rooms.
ATM in the lobby is handy.
I was able to check in early in the day and ditch my bags to make site seeing easier which was great, some places are very picky about check in time.
I liked how I got the key on a lanyard.
I had a 4 person room. It was clean, but the bed was a bit thin and it was set out with a comforter not a top sheet which was odd to me. The locker was a bit skinny and barely fit my pack.
The daily announcement is startling as it starts wake up! But it’s at 5 or 6pm.
There seemed to be one boys and one girls bathroom per floor. It got a bit dirty unfortunately as the day went on.
Each floor also had one laundry on each floor with 2 washers and 2 dryers. They only took 2$ coins and cost 4$ each (8$ a wash and dry total). Luckily the staff are always ready to makes change. There is wash powder in the vending machine for $1.
The location is super near public transit – Central Station is down the block. It is also near food and convenience stores. In addition they have their own café and bar as part of the hostel. When you check in you get a voucher for one free coffee in their café. I got a late and it was good. I also tried the bar for dinner. The burger and fries were good, nothing amazing but not a bad price (relative to local restaurants) and not bad quality.

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