John & Anne Wiley

2017/01/07

Over Under Adventure

If you were wondering why we haven’t posted anything here since Halloween, we have a great excuse: we’ve been Over down-Under (hence the name “Over Under” aka “O U” for this Big Adventure). That is, we had a grand 5-week+ trip that included Hawaii, New Zealand, and Australia! It all began with takeoff crammed into a commuter jet from SBA to LAX.Ā  *Note: To read any of our Big Flying Adventures in sequence click here, for this one click here.

123007 SB High & Fast

123007 SB High & Fast

We prefer Tripp low and slow hereabouts, but it was a change of pace to be instantly above the clouds bidding farewell to Home through plexiglass rather than Tripp’s open windows. But as you’ve guessed, this journey followed our standard 5-step model starting with:

1. The Trip We Plan.

That step began long before Halloween but intensified as departure just after Thanksgiving quickly approached. Even with many months on this step, the last few weeks were increasingly crazy but we managed to board that flight with just two small checked bags and two backpacks.

2. The Trip We Take.

Soon we were zipping out across the Pacific in a much larger jet, to land at HNL and immediately drive our rented car across the airport to Moore Air where I’d pre-arranged a check-ride in a 172. Our plan was to then rent that plane and fly all the Hawaiian Islands. The trip we took was different. Lifting off from HNL the weather was marginal as you can see in this view of Diamond Head.

6745 Distant Diamond

6745 Distant Diamond

It got worse, and the flight instructor’s goal seemed to center on proving that only airline pilots are qualified to rent their island-weathered planes. So my focus quickly shifted from flying to photography, knowing that the plan was out the window (which unlike Tripp’s, would only open a few inches). Even so, the views were thrilling and minutes later we were low over the North Shore.

6814 Oahu North Shore

6814 Oahu North Shore

I’ll probably say this more than once, but it’s puzzling why anyone would visit a beautiful place and not fly in a small plane. Especially with two of us, so that charter and tour prices are more than renting a plane with pilot. Many glorious scenes and countless pix later we were nearing HNL when ATC told us to circle over Ford Island. If you know something about history or aviation, that will have special meaning as it did for us.

6897 Ford Island Tower

6897 Ford Island Tower

The iconic control tower seen in so many WWII movies is next to an excellent aviation museum. Nearby is the somber Pearl Harbor site memorializing the Navy’s losses on Dec. 7, 1941.

6883 Pearl Harbor Memories

6883 Pearl Harbor Memories

Anne’s recently departed Dad and her grandfather both served here as officers during that conflict, so the family is steeped in stories. A reverie settled over us as we circled where Japanese aircraft once did.

6926 Weeping Arizona

6926 Weeping Arizona

The empty gun turret and stream of slowly weeping fuel oil bear silent testimony to the frantic men who met their end beneath these waters.

Times change, with the many Japanese residents, visitors and friends in HI and the U.S. mainland sharing our hope for an ever more peaceful world. On that note, after landing we drove to the iconic Aloha Tower where I shot panoramic videos from the four sides of this free tourist attraction. Here’s a screencap toward Waikiki.

153801 Aloha Tower View

153801 Aloha Tower View

Next we visited the famed Royal Hawaiian where we’d gone together soon after meeting in cold Seattle, for a warm romantic adventure.

6944 Royal Hawaiian

6944 Royal Hawaiian

Now even more dwarfed by the surrounding high-rise towers, it still commands an amazing view from its infinity pool where time seems to stand still as people ride the long waves to shore.

6952 Long Ride

6952 Long Ride

Our own long ride had just begun on this first long and varied day. In coming posts we’ll share some highlights with you. šŸ™‚

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2017/01/08

Perfect Dream

We favor the thread of philosophy encouraging us to notice the Perfection in all things. It’s implemented in our Five Step journey model, noting that the first step isn’t actually planning.

0. The Trip We Dream.

We dreamed a trip flying small planes (aka General Aviation – GA) over all the Hawaiian Islands, New Zealand, and Australia.

6998 Chasing Rainbows

6998 Chasing Rainbows

1. The Trip We Plan.

We’d planned for months with online research and countless phone calls, emails and texts, to set up the Cessna 172 rental at Moore Air so we could fly from HNL around Kauai and other islands. Already we’d released that part of the dream, due to the marginal weather and adverse orientation of the company. But by anticipating and finding the Perfection, we had a Plan B of flying Mokulele Airlines relatively low to Maui via Molokai.

1. The Trip We Take.

So when a rainbow framed Waikiki our hearts were Perfectly ready to soar light and bright. We could delight in the differences between dreaming, planning, and unfolding our journey.

For example, flying GA it’s unlikely due to airspace restrictions that we’d have enjoyed this overview of Diamond Head providing a completely different perspective on the iconic silhouette.

7029 Diamond Head Crater

7029 Diamond Head Crater

We’d also dreamed of snorkeling with the tame colorful fish at enchanted Hanauma Bay as we had on that first romantic journey long ago, so we smiled as it slipped beneath our wings, refreshing memories.

7053 Hanauma Bay

7053 Hanauma Bay

Now some may say Molokai is less interesting and beautiful than the other islands, but we beg to differ. We were greeted by the muted red dirt roads between brilliant red/green of irrigated farms on the flat terrain of the West end.

7088 Red, Green, Blue

7088 Red, Green, Blue

But the real magic began after the stop at little MKK airport inĀ Kualapuu, when our Mokulele Air pilots treated us to a departure below the clouds along the towering cliffs. The cliffs of Molokai alone would be spectacular, but the innumerable waterfalls are breathtaking! Our fav was this one leaping in rainbow mist from a cliff.

7278 Flying Falls

7278 Flying Falls

Despite low light from thick clouds, haze and mist, milky airliner windows that don’t open, and of course reflections on the inside of the windows; Anne managed to capture this that I was able to tweak into something close to the majesty we saw.

7276 Impression of Wonder

7276 Impression of Wonder

It’s tall, starting above what you can see in the first pic, rests briefly in misty pools on the way down as you can see in this pic, and the blown mist is making tiny new waterfalls at the bottom-right. Obviously we have many more pix of this day, especially the flight, so I’m saving some future views of these areas and moving now to our Kahului arrival.

7425 PHOG Approach

7425 PHOG Approach

Unlike KSBA and other mainland airports, those in the Pacific islands start with P as in PHOG which also goes by the “name” OGG. It’s surely nothing to do with Fog or P-HOG, but the distant rainbow over the runway delivered on the promise of a wet walk to the terminal building. We laughed as the rain stopped the instant we stepped under the shelter, and set out to meet dear friends who live nearby. They took us for a delightful dinner at the open air restaurant in Kihei. Early Hawaiians created an ancient fish farm from a rock enclosure next to Kalepolepo Beach, providing a seafood bounty like the one we enjoyed there. Out beyond the quiet beach, everyone watched the colorful end to this Perfect day.

7505 Sunset Over Lahaina

7505 Sunset Over Lahaina

2017/01/24

Maui Memories

Seems to me Maui is not an island, it’s a mellow scenic state of mind. Our first extended stay there on this trip began with dear friends who introduced scenes like this.

7528 Mauna Kahalawai

7528 Mauna Kahalawai

Sitting in another outdoor restaurant gazing at this, quiet conversation with Paula, another long-time friend, included plans to take a hike. We also invited Jim & Jori with whom we enjoyed many delights like breakfast on this screened balcony.

115149 Greeting New Days

115149 Greeting New Days

So one of our days included going to the Waihe’e Coastal Dunes & Wetlands Refuge for a custom hike led by Paula, who leads larger hiking groups to her favorite Maui marvels.

152747 Wandering Waihe'e

152747 Wandering Waihe’e

Anne and I also explored some via car, pondering whether we’d see the volcano on the other side of the valley.

7534 Haleakalā

7534 Haleakalā

So we drove back to the airport for my “check ride” with the flight training, tour, and Cessna rental companyĀ Maui Aviators at OGG, hoping they’d be better than Moore at HNL. After 15 minutes aloft their lead instructor said, “You’re good.” For other pilots wanting to rent or anyone looking for a relatively inexpensive private aerial tour of the islands, I’ve posted our summary of the two HI companies we used. We dropped the instructor off at the airport and went for a short tour back across the valley including the short water crossing to this view of the small islet where snorkeling tour boats go.

7764 Molokini

7764 Molokini

The Molokini sanctuary is beautiful from the air, and offers wonderful experiences on and in the water. Flying back wearing big smiles, we again passed these smokestacks that are a landmark used by air traffic. Driving “home” for another evening with J&J we snapped this view of it shaded by one of the many clouds that would obscure peaks and shower on us for most of our Maui days.

7547 Cane Plant

7547 Cane Plant

We’d heard from our friends and others that sugar production was about to end there bringing joy to environmentalists and many residents, and unemployment to others. Hopefully there will be new jobs as the economy adapts. After our days of delights we felt both excitement and sadness to take another airline back to HNL for our flight to New Zealand. We got this fresh look at Molokai.

150212 Molokai High

150212 Molokai High

This high altitude perspective had me wondering if we’d manage to get back there in a GA rental plane. While lovely, this view only served to further whet my appetite. In minutes we said Aloha again to Waikiki.

151926 Aloha Tower

151926 Aloha Tower

Having been to the top of Aloha Tower it was surprising I couldn’t spot that tall landmark as we zipped by. Only now looking at the pic can I make it out (arrow) among skyscrapers that loom behind it. The next day dawned clear and bright. The airliner taxi for takeoff kindled hope that such calm air with few clouds would expand our GA flying options upon return to Maui in late December.

100043 HNL Taxi

100043 HNL Taxi

As now familiar HNL slipped beneath our wings and disappeared from our expanding view, thoughts of Auckland turned our attention forward.

100233 Farewell HNL

100233 Farewell HNL

2017/01/28

Over The Rainbow

Rainbows appeared everywhere we’d been on Oahu & Maui, and it was all the more magical to lift off from HNL toward New Zealand cruising miles above the rainbows. We passed over Kiribati, which holds fascination for me since Y2K when it featured in New Year celebrations as the first place on earth to greet the new millennium. Alas, it was lost in clouds below us, and foretold of fuzzy weather awaiting us in Auckland after our 9-hour flight.

182947 Gray Greeting

182947 Gray Greeting

In the hazy distance you can just make out the Sky Tower, a tiny point on the horizon just left of center. We descended over the island and saw many hints of what was ahead, yearning for clear air and windows that open. Rather than take the rather expensive new light rail, we opted for the cheapo shuttle bus with lots of locals and other visitors to chat with, giving us an intro to the city. Of all the fun scenery along the route, this dance bar sign caught my Yankee psychologist eye.

125618 You Are Wanted

125618 You Are Wanted

By the time we checked into our cozy affordable room right in the heart of Queen Street downtown, it was getting dark as we ventured out into the mist.

8117 Into Mystery

8117 Into Mystery

Despite all our Dreaming and Planning we had little clue what to expect, so a sweet sense of mystery brightened our weary eyes. We’d paid the relatively small extra fee for a “SkyCouch” but didn’t get more than half a night’s sleep (we’re told ANZ’s Premium Economy is better & cheaper). After an hour of wandering a few blocks we settled in and dreamed the night away.

Morning found us blearily greeting a new reality, both in Kiwi country and because Anne’s phone with expensive NZ calling plan died. If you have a “smart” phone, you’ll guess the trauma that entails at the start of an enchanted adventure. After doing all I could to resuscitate it without tools, the view from our window of Auckland Town Hall coaxed us “half-connected” out beyond Cyberia into the colorful new world around us.

8133 Window On Wonderland

8133 Window On Wonderland

We love Auckland! The architecture, people, and enchanting mix of calm cosmopolitan bustle. It totally made up for the fuzzy weather (see the Sky Tower disappearing into it?), especially after French Coffee at the cafe around the corner. Across the street is this fanciful square in front of the concert hall.

8197 Art Walk

8197 Art Walk

In our already altered state, the creativity here helped us see the artistic magic in everything (and everyone) on our meander down Queen Street.

8185 Green & Human

8185 Green & Human

It’s a great place for walking, with little traffic compared to other big city cores and lots of green. Though there are lots of people on the wide sidewalks, as conveyed by this pic…

8180 Quiet Din

8180 Quiet Din

…we were well spread out and mostly moving at a sedate pace in remarkably quiet yet colorful and stimulating surroundings. Plenty of tall buildings to gawk at, with a wide array of styles and eras welcoming yet another boom of new construction.

8174 Architectural Variety

8174 Architectural Variety

One surprising landing we made on our walkabout was at the music shop. Surprising because we’d packed very light for 5.5 weeks in climates ranging from tropics to snow: one small “travelpro” checked bag and small soft backpack each. After all that frugal winnowing of every square inch, only the muse can explain our purchase of this candy apple red ukulele to poke his head out my backpack on the rest of our journey.

8199 Creative Impulse

8199 Creative Impulse

Well, we also got a great deal (esp. with USD exchange rate) and we love the bright tone.

With low clouds and only two nights before our quick jaunt to Australia, I didn’t try to ferret out any GA flying options. Instead we went up in the Sky Tower and got this glimpse down at our hotel.

8430 Down Home

8430 Down Home

Looking up across the island we could almost make out the airport in the hazy distance among the gradually clearing cloud cover. Rising above the streets we’d wandered, our hearts were already starting to move toward the journey beyond.

8312 Beyond The City

8312 Beyond The City

In a few hours we were already back aboard another airliner climbing toward Sydney, glancing back where we’d just been in that distant tower. From these two high perspectives, we’d begun to sense the adventures awaiting us after “Oz.”

8456 High Perspective

8456 High Perspective

Yet as we got this last glance back at the New Zealand coast, a touch of melancholy upon leaving this sweet place quietly passed, before we looked ahead to the vast cloud-dotted blue of the Tasman Sea.

8493 Looking Back & Ahead

8493 Looking Back & Ahead

2017/02/01

A Touch of Oz

Filed under: Flying,Happiness,Has Photos,O U Adventure,People,Random — John @ 00:24

Dreaming of this Adventure, we first imagined adding Australia (aka Oz) to the Maui (HI) trip. As the Dream stage blended into the Plan stage we realized that Oz is still a long flight from HI and December is usually hot there. Then we decided to visit New Zealand instead, but as planning continued we were convinced by Aussie friends to add back at least 3 nights in Sydney. This way we’d add at least a touch of Oz, in case we never get back and to increase the chance we would. It worked. Here then is a hyper-condensed photo memoir, starting with our first glimpse of downtown – the only part of a vast continent this trip touched.

8551 Circling Oz

8551 Circling Oz

By the time we arrived at the wonderful Amora Hotel, another donation from our life savings to this memorable journey, it was dark. Taking in this view from our room, we were in Oz.

8719 Oz Welcome

8719 Oz Welcome

Morning found us out exploring the streets, enjoying the vast spectrum of architecture and humanity (many in seasonal garb).

191705 People & Structures

191705 People & Structures

One big difference between the trip we Plan and the trip we Take, is the Unexpected. We took our two smartphones on this trip, so we could adapt along the way using net access and easy communication. Both phones died, a few days apart. Part of our NZ time and this Sydney wander included seeking ways to repair, and when that didn’t work out, replace phones. At one point we had five phones, with one of them functional. A few days ago, back home and somewhat caught up on sleep and life, I did surgery on those dead phones and found the culprit.

113923 Microscopic Oz

113923 Microscopic Oz

That tiny white thing is the power switch, which had shorted out on these years old phones, within a few days of each other, deducting many hours from our Plan for the trip. Luckily for us, the dazzling scenes and bustling throngs of residents & tourists, combined with the remarkable power of Oz to effortlessly transport us far beyond the tiny distraction of phones.

8795 Bustle

8795 Bustle

Walking along this Darling Harbor promenade we came to that iconic white shell in the first pic of this post, that shouts Oz around the world.

8809 Sydney Opera House

8809 Sydney Opera House

Somehow we’d imagined it as a low smooth white sculpture, but we now saw that it’s up on a pedestal, etched with zig-zag lines, and always thronged with people. On this first encounter we walked all around and inside the public parts of it, and further learned that it’s actually covered in a dragon’s skin mosaic of small tiles.

8877 Dragon Flank

8877 Dragon Flank

Beneath the beast is the din of several crowded cafes, bars and restaurants where the tourist mob descends for refreshment.

8922 Belly of the Beast

8922 Belly of the Beast

Looking back along the promenade, the impressive skyline greeted our return to the throbbing, noisy heart of Oz.

8851 Darling Harbor

8851 Darling Harbor

Like us, you may have noticed the highest point in the city, called the Tower Eye. Since our “Plan” for a low altitude aerial tour of the city fell through, we decided to pay for a table in the rotating bar up there. Lots of pix, as you can imagine, but here’s a single example that includes a look back at a small slice of the Amora all but invisible among the giants.

9138 Amora Dwarfed

9138 Amora Dwarfed

To get out on the water like so many in Oz, we took the ferry over to Manly Island and got this look back at the Harbor Bridge.

8967 Harbor Bridge

8967 Harbor Bridge

Soon we also got another angle on the skyline we’d so recently seen through an airliner window.

9000 Sydney Skyline

9000 Sydney Skyline

Like most on the ferry, we enjoyed the short walk across the island to its famous beach where seasonal garb was even more common.

9245 Holiday Spirits

9245 Holiday Spirits

The easy and joyful buzz so many people had there seemed to arise from the open hearts of Australians, combined with liberal enjoyment of alcohol. Walking back to the ferry along the pedestrian mall, we continued to soak up that playful energy.

9257 Manly Walk

9257 Manly Walk

For our last of three short nights, we walked again to the “clamshell” and saw it transformed to a different sculpture.

9322 Sculpture

9322 Sculpture

Across the water, an amusement park at the base of the bridge also presented a different face in the night.

9317 Night Fun

9317 Night Fun

Our final walk back into town began closure to this journey down under to the land of Oz.

203759 Night Shapes

203759 Night Shapes

Flying out the next day we got one last look at a few landmarks, now familiar, disappearing into a jet engine among the seemingly infinite array of places we’d like to have visited.

105634 Looking Back

105634 Looking Back

Memories were settling within us when the green of New Zealand greeted our return to Auckland.

133719 NZ Green

133719 NZ Green

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