A Travellerspoint blog

Hollywood

Oh dear...

sunny 28 °C

Well, after a lovely time in San Diego we caught the greyhound back up to LA and a cab over to Hollywood where we were staying for a week. The hostel was nice and right between Sunset Boulevard and Hollywood Boulevard.

The first thing I wanted to see was the walk of fame, where all the stars have their names in stars right along the pavement. Unfortunately it was a little disappointing - the walk of fame section of Hollywood Blvd is full of tacky shops selling tat that no self respecting tourist would buy like maps of the stars homes (yep, got one of those) and plastic Oscar statues (knew there was something I forgot!). There's also an awful lot of kinky lingery shops, selling outfits that only hookers would wear really, or maybe if you were going to a kinky sex party...

Anyway, we took a pic of Tom Jones star for my mum and walked along pointing at random stars asking each other, "Who's he?" and "Who's she?" Not heard of half of them.

Laura says: We were told that neither Al Pacino or Robert Deniro have their names on the Walk Of Fame? Apparently there is a commitee which organise the placement of the names but they require a contribution/payment - How bad is that?! Our cheque's in the post!

We also had a quick look outside the Grauman Theatre where some of the more famouse celebs and have had their hands and feet imprinted in the cement there. Johnny Depp has really big feet....

The next day we spent at Univeral Studios going on all the rides and taking a little look around the studios where they film lots of TV and films. It sorts of spoils it a bit as all the houses are all just fronts and they film loads of different films using the same props and just decorating them a little differently. Interesting though. We did get to drive along Wisteria Lane from Desperate Houswives. Didn't see anyone famous.

The best rides are The Mummy and the haunted house, where there are some actual people dressed up and they chase you around. I had to hold Laura's hand the whole way round and we screamed a lot!

We were also introduced to chilli chees fries, very nice!

Laura says: J9 gets very excitable at these theme parks, it's like spending a day with a toddler. She waved so hard at Spong Bob & Shrek I thought her elbow was elasticated. She even chatted to 'Donkey', from Shrek, & kissed him full on the mouth errrrrggghh.
If we make it to Disney I'm thinking one of those straps you tie to a childs wrists to keep them attached to you.

The next day we spent the WHOLE day on various buses. We couldn't find a decent map for love nor money so we guessed where we thought things would be! Everybody says you need a car to get around America and so far we've been fine and decided that if there are buses around LA then that was the way to go. Unfortunately, LA is huge, so spread out it takes hours to get anywhere, as we soon discovered. It took 2 buses and about 2 hours to get to Rodeo Drive and even when we got off the bus when we were told to, Rodeo Drive was about another 15 min walk away. Although everyone wants to be helpful, no one really knows how to get anywhere when you're walking or taking public transport.

But Rodeo Drive was nice, full of very expensive shops that we couldn't afford to go in, never mind buy anything!!

We then spent another 3 hours getting back to Hollywood via Santa Monica. It was a long day.

Laura says: the whole reason for going to Rodeo Drive was so J9 could live the 'Pretty Woman' experience, I seriously think she beleived she was Julia Roberts for the day. Luckily it was too hot for her wig & thigh high boots that day, so I didn't have to get her out of any awkward street corner situations.

We got back just in time for the hike up to Runyan Canyon to get a good view of LA and the smog and got back for the all you can eat barbie for $3! I did worry that I might see my half cooked burger again sometime during the night but luckily we were fine!

Laura Says: Every hostel, so far, has had a map of the area available but not here, hence it taking so long to get anywhere. I think it's all a huge ploy to get you on their tours: The Runyan Canyon Trek was $6.00 & the Bel Air Tour $7.00 which isn't much money but having to pay to follow someone round the streets seems a little harsh - It's just like doing it yourself (if you had a map) but with Germans.

Hollywood is full of wannabe actors, more so than San Fran, including our Australian guide on the hike. He starts shooting a film in January next year, so we instantly made him our best friend just in case he becomes famous.

The night ended with a few glasses of wine as we watched various new stand up comics try out there material on us. Some where funny, others were not.

The next few days we did the typical Hoolywood things:

We went to a showing of Jay Leno which was pretty good. Ashton Kutcher was on and and someone I've never heard of that is part of the american Office cast.

Laura Says: Again, she was like a child! before the show Jay comes out & chats about what's going to happen through out the filming, as it's live & there are no retakes. Then some people from the audience put their hands up to be chosen to have their picture taken with him, I couldn't believe that the hand that shot up next to me & the "me, me, me" chant was coming from J9?? I had to get her out of Hollywood asap!

That night we went out on the famous Sunset Stip. We got talked into going into The Roxy (apparently the place where a lot of famous bands first perform in LA!) by an old guy who we presumed was promoting the singer currently doing her set. And he promised to buy us drinks! It all went a bit weird from there - we found out he was some sort of mortgage man and he was there with his mate who was also in the money business, and the guy who was producing the singer currently performing.

We got chatting and they asked us what we did back in the UK. As always, we both made it very clear that we had given up our jobs and currently have the status of being unemployed. This did not deter this old chap. He started going on about how we could help to promote this singer in the UK through our jobs!!! Obviously this guy had heard the words "work in TV" only and thought bingo, these girls will make our singer famous in Europe!! After insisting on taking our phone numbers so that we could meet up the next day (we both made a mental note to switch them off) the guys left and me and Laura were left wondering whether we'd just stepped in and out of the twilight zone.

I know he was old, but his selective hearing and his own imagination was truely stretched.

But he did buy us a beer so we fogive him for being strange.

Laura says: However odd the experience may have been, I have to admit liking the sound of this guys translation of my job title, on introduction to his collegue, from Accounts Manager at Eurosport to "This is Laura, she finances film"... How cool

We also did a walk of the stars homes. There are so many of these offered around town and they cost about $50 but we did it with the hostel and it was $7 plus $3 for a bus pass!! You don't really get to see much as all the houses have massive gates and lots of security. We did see Aaron Spellings house as the security guards opened to gates for us so we could have a proper nosey!! It was very nice. We also got to chat to the security guard at the Playboy Mansion but he wouldn't let us in, spoilsport. The whole area of Bel Air and Beverly Hills is so plush, such a difference from Hollywood with all it's homeless peole. You can't really believe that all these magastars live in these $10 million plus houses and yet there are more homeless people in the state of California than there are in any other US state.

Firday night we went to watch our new friend Ashton Kutcher in his film, The Gaurdian and then we went out on the hostel bar crawl. Bit disappointing that all bars in LA close at 2am. We saw a fight in a pizza parlour which rounded the night off nicely!

Next stop, Venice Beach and Santa Monica.

Posted by J9travels 17:45 Archived in USA Comments (0)

San Diego

That's more like it...

sunny 30 °C

Before I start, we would just like to point out a mistake from the last blog entry...

Laura mentioned that we were given a 1 litre bottle of wine by some kind soul whilst in San Francisco. It was in fact a gallon bottle of wine which is 4 litres and that's why it was such an effort to run half a mile with all our bags and a bloody big vat of wine (which I was carrying).

And the contents disappeared in 3 days = Laura has a serious drink problem (mum, I was drinking lemonade, honest)

Laura Says: Apologies for the error, I can only assume I was drunk at the time of writing!

Anyway, we took the Greyhound down to San Diego and were pleased to find our hostel right in the middle of the Gaslamp Quarter where all the bars and restaurants are situated. We were liking San Diego already!

We dumped our stuff and headed out for a bit to eat, a beer and a margarita.

It was really warm and sunny here and we spent the next few days walking around the town, doing a bit of shopping, eating and drinking and going to the doctors - Laura had an ear infection that had made her deaf in one ear. I told her it was just old age, deafness is quite common in really old people like her.

Laura Says: Going to the doctors was an experience in itself:-
The surgery was located only 10 minutes walk from the hostel & it's vibrant hustle & bustle but within 5 mins you could feel the vibe change... I really was heading DOWNTOWN.
The clean interior of the surgery didn't do the run down broken window exterior any justice - LUCKILY! & the staff were great ...considering the clientele! :-

  • There was a couple who clearly thought they were on the Jerry Springer Show, arguing about why they'd actually come to the surgery in the first place?
  • Maria, bless her, was most upset they wouldn't sign her relevent form to send off to the social & was demanding to see the nurse she had already insulted once this morning - She soon changed her mind once security were called.
  • A lady in the corner, who would've got away with no one noticing how drunk she was had she not been called by the doctor & had to use the heads of the people sat down to get from one side of the room to the other??

All in all, it was a very entertaining 3 hours & something to write about in this blog.
PS: I am not old, at least I don't look it, so I keep being told ;-)

We went to a baseball game, the SD Padres versus the Arizona Diamond Backs. Luckily, after playing a bit of softball back home we managed to follow the game as the rules are pretty similar. We were suprised though how many bad balls the bowler makes. You'd think at this level they would get it right pretty much all of the time but it just doesn't happen, and these were two of the top teams playing. So Ben, you're not the only one who is a crap bowler!!!

It's not the most riveting of games, the only excitement comes when they score a home run and there was only three of them. The game lasted 3 hours and then they have to play again the following two nights - the longest game of sport ever?!

Luckily, like the rest of the crowd, we ate our way through the game. The amount of food that is on offer at these places is amazing and it's all really bad for you!

Laura says: I ordered a 'small' popcorn & thought I'd been misunderstood when they handed my something resembling the size of a 'small' adult?

Also, right at the end, this bloke called Trevor came on and everyone got really excited, shouting Trevor Time. It seems he is a really good bowler as he bowled 3 men out straight away and then the game was over and everyone was happy (apart from the Arizona fans obviously). What we couldn't understand was why they didn't bring him on at the beginning and just win a bit quicker...

Laura Says: I even bought one of those tacky foam fingers that everyone has at the game with 'Go Padres' printed on it. However, I was too shy to wear it & took it back to the hostel before the game.. & a good job too, I would never of been able to hold that, my popcorn, the hot dawg & my cola all at the same time!

J9 says - If she had've brought it, we would have definitely got on the big screen TV when they do the crowd shots, missed opportunity there....

Laura Further Says: It's definately not football!! (Well obviosuly - it's baseball) Everytime the ball is hit out of bounds fireworks go off & if all is too quite in the stadium a message pops up on the screens saying make some noise & everyone does. Each player has a theme tune which is played every time they're up to bat & the really odd bit = there are no offensive songs sung about the referee?

Anyway, after a few days in the city, we headed to the beach for a bit of R&R. We stayed at the Banana Bungalows which is a hostel right on the beach. Not the nicest of places but a great location. We spent 3 days chilling on the beach and then partying on the deck with the other guests. The first night a group had just come back from Tijuana in Mexico (you can just pop over the border for a day of drinking and strip clubs if the mood takes you). A few guys had obviously had a good day on the tequila and insisted on wearing their newly acquired wrestling masks all night and challenging everyone to a wrestle. One of them was pretty big so no one took him up on the offer except me but he chickened out, obviously my muscular right bicep put him off!

It was a good three days but then it was time to leave. We stopped back in the city for a night and met up with the lovely Josh who we had met in Hawaii and then again in San Fran. I will put his pic on for the girls as I think he has to be one of the most attractive men ever! And such a nice bloke too! He was so attractive that I just stared at him the whole time so he obviously thinks I'm some kind of loon. Luckily Laura was there to make the conversation!

Laura says: she's not joking, I've never seen her so quiet!

And that was San Diego - a really nice city and some really nice people, with a few less nutters than San Fran. We liked it!

Laura Says:
Don't forget Sea World! - yes we did the touristy theme park thing too... it's not all about cultural tours this travelling malarkey, you know. I had been to Sea World about 20 years ago & like Wagon Wheels it seemed so much bigger then. It still hasn't lost it's charm though, Schamu the killer whale is still as light on his flippers as he always was - he must be about 50 years old by now?
The only major differnece for me this time was the fact I think I was more petrified going on the rollercoaster than I was before. To help me adjust J9 made me go on it 4 times!!
Rather stupidly we did this at the end of the day & there is an awful lot of water involved & we couldn't dry off as quickly with the sun setting.
We kept being asked by passers by if they should head away from the ride but we said it'd be fine normally it's just that we were at the front & did it 4 times.
After 6 or 7 people asking us this J9 turned & said to me 'Do we really look that wet?" & burst into hysterics as she noticed my white vest top had a rather transparent apperance to it - not one for the children! & would explain why blokes were urging their wives/girlfriends to go on!

Next stop, Los Angeles

Posted by J9travels 18:58 Archived in USA Comments (1)

San Francisco

Not what we thought it would be....

semi-overcast 18 °C

Everyone raves about San Fran, saying it is one of the coolest towns in America. There's so much to do there, everyone is really cool, rah rah rah... Well, unfortunately, we beg to differ. It's not a bad town, but it didn't rock for us, unless we missed something that everyone else experienced here!

We arrived around 9pm (after a 5 hour flight with American Airlines who made us buy our own lunch, tight wads). We'd booked a hostel in the Mission District which the Lonely Planet assured us was one of the cool, hip areas, with lots of groovy bars and clubs.

We were put in seperate rooms at the hostel as they didn't have 2 beds in the same room. The guy at reception said one of us would be unlucky and have to share a room with 11 actors. I didn't see the problem with this but the reception man seemed to think differently. Obviously I was the unlucky one and as I walked into the room I was greeted by a number of people who all wore black and white and had a load of white make-up on too. Interesting. It was soon explained that they were all actors in a silent black and white play and had been rehearsing that evening. They all had rather loud voices and talked a lot but I was saved by Laura who said there was a spare bed in her 4 bed dorm.

We went out for a burrito that evening, as that was all there was to get at midnight, and then retired for the evening.

(Laura Says:
I wouldn't say that we felt completely intimidated when we arrived the 1st night, although I can confirm that we are both able to jog the half mile from the subway to the hostel with 3 rucksacks & a wheelie suitcase.

Things have been made a little easier by the free litre bottle of wine we were given by some English guy who was leaving our hostel.

& can further confirm we are still able to jog with 3 rucksacks, a wheelie suitcase & a litre botlle of wine )

We spent the day wandering around, booking rental cars and hikes into the the Grand canyon. We explored the Mission a little but didn't really feel safe wandering around in the evening, it's not the nicest of areas and the lonely planet does warn that the area between 16th St and 24th St BART stations (exactly where our hostel was located) was a dodgy area and care should be taken. Wished we'd read that first!

So we moved to another hostel pretty sharpish, which was closer to Union Square and the main shopping area (hoorah!). We're still not in the best area (just next to the Tenderloin which also happens to be under the 'Dangers and Annoyances' section in the LP!) but it's easier to get around on foot from here.

There are a lot of homeless people here and a lot of weird people too. You get a lot of people talking to themselves or shouting randomly at people or just doing handstands on beer bottles on the corner of the streets.

(Laura says:
The don't talk to strangers moto comes in very handy here!
We were chatting to a guy in the hostel the other night who told us that the local goverment really look after homeless people in the city of SanFra,n hence it attracts such high volumes of destitute people.
The amount of them I've seen drinking from brown paper bags, I can only imagine they're offering away free booze, I ignorantly replied, whilst pouring myself another drink from our free litre bottle of wine)

The last few days we've been the typical tourists!

Saturday we took a tram up the Fisherman's Wharf. We bagged an external seat so that we could take it in turns to stand and lean out as they climed the hills, which are very steep.

We had a wander round this area and booked our tickets for Alcatraz the next day. There's lots of tat shops around here, selling everything any tourist may want and lots of cafes selling clam chowder in a big bread bun. Not tried it yet.

We then took a walk through China town. Why does every big city have a China Town? They definitely get around the Chinese! We sampled some free tea and then went to visit the Cable Car Museum as it's free and surprisingly very interesting. You can see all the big cables that are pulling the cable cars around the city and there's a bit of history about the city, especially on the big earthquake which happened in 1906 and destroyed most of the town. We then rolled back down the hills to the hostel.

That evening we watched Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds outside in Union Square for free. (You'll be noticing that free stuff features quite frequently in our days!)

We visited Alcatraz which was pretty cool. The cells in there are really small. We took an audio tour around the prison and heard from some of the guards and ex cons that spent time there. A lot of the island and buildings are under repair as they are crumbling but the prison itself is still in pretty good nick.

We saw the crookedest street and took the obligatory photos.

We then hiked right across town to see some Shakespeare in the park as we are highly cultered individuals darling. We saw the Golden Gate bridge, well some of it, as a lot of it was covered by the constant fog that seems to hang over San Fran. We watched the last act of the Tempest without having any clue of what's it's actually about (I didn't do that one at school!) and then ran off before they came around with the donation bucket and walked back along Union Street which is a really nice area. Hang out around here if you come to San Fran!!

Yosemite Park
We booked ourselves on a tour day trip to Yosemite National Park which:

"Not just a great Valley...

but a shrine to human foresight, the strength of granite, the power of glaciers, the persistence of life, and the tranquility of the High Sierra.

Yosemite National Park, one of the first wilderness parks in the United States, is best known for its waterfalls, but within its nearly 1,200 square miles, you can find deep valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias, a vast wilderness area, and much more".

They picked us up in San Fran and took us back to the hostel just outside the park (this journey took 3.6hrs, this country is massive). We spent the afternoon swimming in a little river and laying on the beach and then did some mountain biking down a high windy road. My bicycle skills were not as dire as last time I am pleased to report!

(Laura says:
The 'high windy road' was pretty steep, stoney with loads of switch backs, so I can confirm that J9's 'bicycle skills' are exceptional - as far as squeezing your left hand on the back break like your life depends on it go!)

The next day we were up early for our trip into the park. First stop was a walk up to the see some trees. Now, I really enjoyed my time in New Zealand but they were pretty obsessed with their Kauri trees and it seems that America are equally obsessed with their Giant Sequoias. Yep, they're pretty big trees but both Laura and I feel that we've seen our fill of trees and prayed that the whole day wouldn't revolve around tree spotting! We did walk through the one that they carved a big hole in to attract the tourists (and yes, someone did ask if it was natural or a man made hole...)

We then had a walk up to the top of a big granite rock called The Sentinel, where you get a really stunning view of the valley and all the high peaks etc. We had lunch there and asked our guide various questions whose replies always included the word probably.

"Is that a bush fire over there Douglas?"

"Yes, that's probably a bush fire" Then Douglas stands up to get a better view of the fire, "Yes, yes, that certainly looks like it's probably a bush fire"

Excellent! Good to know that our guides are so knowledgeble and so certain in their knowledge. From then on we tried to read all the information plaques so that we were sure we were getting the correct information!

The last hike we did was to the top of the Nevada Falls. It's 594 feet high and so there were a lot of steps to climb but the view from the top was pretty good.

(Laura says:
Would just like to point out that these 'steps' up to the falls are not your average 'steps' they are pretty deep & when you're only a 28" leg they are GIANT! However, being as athletic as we are now J9 came in 1st & I came in 3rd which wasn't bad going - 2nd was some 8ft South African guy with a 4ft inside leg)

It was a good day but perhaps a little too long spent in the car driving from place to place. We didn't see any mountain lions or bears although one bear did, allegedly run right in front of our van but only the driver saw it. We did see lots of squirrels though...

More photos have been added....

http://www.travellerspoint.com/photos/gallery/users/J9travels/

Next stop, San Diego

Posted by J9travels 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Hawaii

sunny 32 °C

Loved Hawaii!!

Oahu (pronounced o wa who)
We stayed at the Polynesian Beach Club hostel which is about 100 metres from Waikiki beach. Not the nicest of hostels on first impressions but the people really make it.

Our first day we went up to Diamond Head which was a WW2 look out post and it's built on the side of a huge volcanoe crater. This is where they had the radar system that spotted the Japanese planes that bombed Pearl Harbour (they thought they were American planes so didn't raise the alarm...) It was a really hot day (as it has been every day!) so we were sweating buckets by the time we got to the top. Nice. An interesting trip though and you get a great view of Waikiki and Honolulu.

Laura says:-
J9s version of the views from Diamond Head should actualy focus more on our tour guide, Josh, from Tenerife - she wont disclose that sort of informaion but I can!

Laura says:-
Day one actually happened twice as we crossed the date line. We have decided that this has made no impact to our ages, meaning everyone should continue to estimate our ages at about 24-25 & not 24-25 + 1 day.
Having the same day twice does make you tired but also has many, many advantages... for instance:
2 breakfasts, one being a rather large American one complete with pancackes & hash browns (& optional RICE?? - what's that all about).
2 Dinners, one of which was instantly decided upon when walking down Waikiki beach & seeing the massive que outside Cheesburger in Paradise.
No it's not all about fast food here, or is it?

I think Waikiki is really nice. There's loads to do here and the nightlife is pretty good. It's really touristy but still cool. Very American though, with loads of fast food restaurants everywhere and everything is BIG.

We spent an afternoon at Hawaii's biggest shopping centre. We were there about 8 hours and only covered one floor, it was MASSIVE. You can get anything and everything here. Except a cheap US sim card....

Laura says:-
Not a good place for those with no sense of direction.. yeah like me! luckily J9 seemed to know which side of the complex we needed to be on to catch our bus back..... I say 'seemed', turned out she didn't.

I think you'll find I did, in the end... When it comes to directions do not believe a word Laura says - after spending long painful minutes looking at maps she still manages to take us the wrong way. This has happened many times. Poor J9 has to grin and bear it as Laura can get quite cross when I point out the right way in mere seconds...!!!

The first few days we spent some time on the beach, but seriously, it was just too hot to sunbathe, the sand was too hot to lie on! We also had a night out that the hostel organised, we went to a bar where the vodka was only a dollar, awesome!! Paid for it the next day though!.

The next day we went to the North Shore to relax a little bit but partied even harder there with some crazy Dutch and some crazier Canadians, hanging out on the beach until 5am most nights.

We went snorkelling and saw some turtles. The water was a bit murky so we were a bit worried the pictures wouldn't come out but then 2 of the turtles decided to come out onto the beach for a kip so we got loads of cool photos!!!

Back to Waikiki for a couple of nights - Sunday night we watched the Inside Man on the beach on a massive screen for free and then Monday we flew to Maui (almost missed the flight too!)

Maui
We decided to spend a week in Maui. We met an irish guy and girl in Fiji who recommended staying at the Banana Bungalows on Maui as they did daily tours around the island so it would save on renting a car.

We booked it all and then heard a rumour that they Bungalows had had a case of bed bugs. Now, you all know how I react to bed bugs after receiving +500 bites from the little critters whilst sailing around the Whitsundays, so you can imagine I wasn't looking forward to staying there. But, with not a lot of other options we went anyway. I asked the woman on reception and she confirmed they had had them and put us in a room that had been cleaned and treated. Unfortunately, as I got into bed that night I spotted a bug and obviously didn't sleep a wink that night.

Luckily it must have been the last remaining bug alive as we were bite free the next morning.

Our first trip was the road to Hana. A long day spent driving along the twisty turny coast road, stopping off at a black beach, a red beach, some caves that we could swim in and seeing one of Oprah Winfrey's many houses. We also did a 2 hour trek up through a bamboo forest to a really bigh waterfall. It was so nice to get under the waterfall as the heat was pretty extreme and most of us had had to run most of the hike as our guide was walking so fast. It was a good day though and we were all pretty shattered when we got back.

We also decided to spend a few days in Lahaina on the other side of the island. There's a new bus service that's just started in Maui so it was only a dollar.

Lahaina is really nice. More touristy than Wailuku (which is where we were staying) and very pretty. We found the one hostel only to be told that they were full so we found a hotel and spent $116 on a night there. It was nice though, sooooo good to have your own bathroom and nice white clean sheets and no bunk beds, pure luxury!!!

We had a walk around the town, saw some of the sights and then had a lovely fish dinner on the front. We were really treating ourselves!!

The next morning the manageress phoned early to say that if we wanted to stay another night she would only charge us $80! Well, I was well up for this. I mean, 8 months staying in shitty places, sharing rooms with 6 or more strangers, etc. etc., I deserved a second night of luxury.

Sensible Laura pointed out that it was too expensive to stay here and that we might risk losing our money on our reservation at the Banana Bungalow, as we had heard this happen to another girl.

However, I was not going to be deterred so we made a plan where I would ring them up and lie. Obviously I had no problem doing this and explained that Laura was a little unwell and didn't want to risk the bus journey (a polite way of saying she had the s**ts and couldn' stray far from the loo!). They beleived us (awesome acting skills that I have!) and we stayed another night. We spent the day seeing more sights and then went to Bubba Gumps restaurant for fish and chips!

Laura says:-
sensible Laura lasted all of 30 seconds then Mai Tai & sunset Laura kicked in & allowed J9 to lie through her teeth... she really is quite good at it you know.

We got up the next morning bright and early ready to take the bus back to Wailuku so that we could put our name down on the Volcanoe tour for the following day. Unfortunately the Good Lord had been watching and felt that my lies had to be punished and so started a massive bush fire between Laihana and Wailuku and the police closed the road....

This being Labor Day weekend, all the hotels in Lahaina were now full and so we spent an interesting 8 hours waiting to see if the bus would ever leave. This is after getting on the wrong bus and ending up at a shopping centre somewhere random, that was Laura's fault.

So, we sat around with probably some of the weirdest people that I've ever encountered. No offense to the people of Hawaii as I know you get odd people everywhere, but that night we definitely met some people whose family trees wouldn't be that extensive, if you know what I mean, small gene pools...

Laura says:-
Not only did we have to spend the day sitting around with these nutters they were waiting for the same bus & when I say bus I mean MINI bus... there was no escaping these guys, it was possibly the longest day of my life (& that includes the one I had twice!)

The bus finally went at 8pm and it took us 2.5 hours to make it across the island. The bush fire was pretty big and was still raging when we drove past.

We were dropped off in the middle of nowhere but a kindly woman gave us a lift back to the hostel and warned us not walk around late at night as this was where the druggies liked to hang out. Nice.

The next day we were up early to try and get in on the volcanoe crater walk. It was all full (no thanks to an annoying older lady we were sharing a room with who was taking a place despite having no intention of actually doing the walk). Luckily, a random Swiss guy rented a car and 8 of us piled in that. We dropped everybody off at the top and then me and Swiss man took the car back to the car park where we would finish the hike and hitched back up - my first (and probably last) attempt at hitch hiking!

It was a good day and a really long walk - 6 hours in total. We hiked right across the crater and then right up the steep cliff out of it which for me was a bit hairy. Not too keen on high mountain ledges. But we did it and then we all jumped back into the car and drove to the top to watch the sunset. Cool.

Laura says:-
It was a SOLID 6 hour walk - we stopped for lunch for literally 10 mins. Had it been left up to the French couple in our group it would've been an hour & 1/2 + coffee + cigarette!

The next day we flew back to Waikiki and spent a few more days chilling there.

We went to Pearl Harbour which was interesting, and saw the Arizona ship which is still under the water with all the people on it that went down with it.

Laura did a surf lesson and going by the pictures looked pretty much like a natural, I'll see if she'll let me put one on.

Laura says:-
Oh go on then, will have to wait a little longer though as I need to airbrush my stomach 1st, in keeping with the rest of Hawaii you understand!
Despite the fast food joints, Hawaii, Waikiki especially, has a real athletic feel to it - I even went jogging in the mornings!!! I know!! - what's going on there!!! I was in real good company too - everyone is at it (except J9 who doesn't need to jog, she has that Hawaiian bikini body already, my european hips need a little help :-)

Next stop, San Francisco

Laura & J9 footnote:-
You know you've hit America when being asked the following questions:
"Ah England - 'Top of the mornin' to ya'" ???
"London?" - "where abouts in the states is that?"
"England" - "Is that near the United Kingdom"
"Do you ever get to see King Charles?"

Will add more as we get them - I'm sure there'll be more ;-)

Posted by J9travels 21:35 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Fiji

We didn't find paradise here but we did nearly drown.

semi-overcast 26 °C

I was soooooooo looking forward to Fiji and some sunshine. After 9 weeks in NZ experiencing their coldest winter for the last 20 years I was keen to get a good dose of sun and lie on a beach for bit, or a lot.

As this is 2 weeks worth of blog I'll try my best to summarise!

We arrived in around 5pm and it was a warm balmy evening so the jackets and the boots and the socks came straight off. We'd booked all our accommodation so we were greeted at the airport and taken to our hotel in Nadi. We sorted all our stuff out so that we just took one bag with our bikinis in and things and left all our warm stuff in storage - this would prove to be a mistake!

Early next morning we were picked up and taken to the boat so that we could start our 10 day tour of the Yasawa Islands. There's a boat that make the trip around the islands every day called the Yasawa Flyer so you can hop on and off and visit different islands when you want.

Our first stop was the Wanataki cruise ship. Now, don't get ideas that this is some luxury liner that cruises around the islands - this is used by back packers so it's a little more basic than that! The upstairs is where the bar, kitchen and sunbathing/dining area is and downstairs is the 24 bed dorm! We grabbed a bed and headed out into the sunshine.

The day was spent sunbathing and getting to know the others. Laura went off snorkelling to see the mantarays so she can tell you about that:

(Lauras note) They're really really big (I'm summarising too!)

The evening we spent playing a strange Fijian game where you had to flick chess like pieces around a big wooden board and playing drinking games with a nice bunch of Israelies (If you look on Greg's site, there is a picture of the same game).

Whilst we waited for the Yasawa Flyer to pick us up and take us to our next island, we took it in turns to jump off the top deck of the boat. It's only about a 15 foot jump but when you're stood up there is feels like a 100 foot drop! All the guys did it no problem but it took the girls a little longer. Once I'd jumped and assured everyone it was fine all the girls had a try (obviously after standing at the top deliberating for a good 25mins before they took the plunge!)

The only one not to jump was Laura. After throwing herself out of a plane at 12,000 feet she thought a 15 feet jump in the sea was a little too much!!!! After much goading from me and fellow passengers (how she was the biggest chicken that we had ever known, she would always be remembered as the girl who didn't jump etc etc.) she quietly walked up to the top when no one was watching and did it, hooray!! Obviously some people didn't see it and she will no doubt remain in their minds a disgraced non-jumper, but I saw it so will vouch for her!

(Lauras note) For the record I was in the water the whole time the other jumpers were throwing themselves in the sea.... I didn't see anyone else volunteering for 'shark look out'!

Coral View, Tavewa Island
This was a first island stop and proved to be a nice one. We spent 3 days here and met some really nice people. The dorm was fine but the bathroom facilities were not really what we expected. The showers were of the slow drip variety and it was sea water so you never really felt clean, we just felt constantly sticky! And there was no light so it was all guess work how clean you were.

The first few days we spent on the beach around the other side of the island, snorkeling and sunbathing and coming back at the alloted times to be fed. Food on the island wasn't bad but it wasn't really what we expected. Apart from breakfast, all the food was plated up and served so there wasn't much options and not much chance of seconds either which for some of the guys we met was a bit of a problem!

The morning of our departure was a bit wet and windy to say the least. I got a little wet in the night as the window by my bed didn't have any glass in it so all the rain blew in and soaked my pillow and my head!

All of us that were moving islands sat around in the dining area watching the rain. At this point no one voiced any concerns about the roughness of the sea and our passage to the Yasawa Flyer. To explain - when you go on the Flyer to a new island, the ferry stops between a couple of resorts and all these little wooden boats come out and drop pasengers off and collect new passengers. You point your luggage out and it gets thrown into the appropriate boat and off you go.

When it finally came to getting into our little boat the wind was howling and the sea was raging. Seriously, it was!! We all climbed in and and set off. I was cunning enough to pack my Mac in a Sac(!) so I almost stayed dry. Everyone else was instantly soaked.

It was a little rough to say the least and you couldn't really see because you had to keep your eyes closed against the rain and the sea water which was really salty and stung. We'd got around to the other side of the island and could see the Flyer in the distance when the guys at the back pointed out the the boat was quickly filling with water. Panic took over some of the guests and they demanded to be taken to the beach for fear of the boat sinking. The guys sailing the boat didn't seem too worried (no one ever worries in Fiji it seems) but they eventually did as we asked and we all got out onto the beach.

Luckily, from out of nowhere, another boat came over to help out and offered to take us to the Flyer in a non sink boat. Most of us jumped in as we needed to get to the Flyer where our luggage was and get to another island. However, a few of them were too traumatised (one lady had lost her glasses, they'd been blown off by the wind and rain) to get back in the boat and said they would walk back around to Coral View and stay there again, despite having no luggage. Not sure what happened to them...

We managed to get on the Flyer, grab our luggage and then get straight back into another boat to go to another resort. All in all it wasn't our best sailing experience!

(Lauras note) On the up side of this story, apart from the fact we survived, we became pretty famous throughout the islands, everyone had heard about 'The boat that sank on storm day' & were in awe to actually meet two people who were on it. Obviously the story had become somewhat exaggerated so we were able to put people straight & tell them how we had single handedly overthrown the crew, sailed the passengers to safety & only wresttled 4 sharks not 5 in the process - tsk, see how these things are so easily blown out of proportion.

Sunshine Resort, Nanuya Laylai
It was awful here, we only stayed one night. The dorm was awful and felt damp, the food was really bad and always cold and the showers were non existant.

We did meet 2 nice girls from Louisiana who told us to head down their way when we got to the States and watch the famous Prison Rodeo which sounds awesome!

Coconut Bay, Naviti
We had heard good things about Coconut Bay and it was OK. The weather was still a bit rubbish so most of the time was spent reading or playing cards.

Each evening, the guys at the resort would put on a little show of Fijian dance which was nice to watch, mainly because all the guys were well ripped!!!!

One evening we went to have Kava with them all. This is the local Fijian drink which is made out of some sort of tree root which is ground up and added to water and results in a drink which looks and tastes a lot like muddy water. It is a non alcoholic drink but has a slight numbing affect on the mouth and if you drink enough of it can have some slight hallucinatory affect on the brain, apparently!

(Lauras note) To have a slightly numbing effect on J9s mouth is reward enough for drinking this stuff.

After 3 nights here, the sun came out and so we decided to upgrade for our last 2 nights and went to Bounty Island.

Bounty Island
They had hot showers here that weren't sea water and each meal was an all you can eat buffet so we packed in as much as we could. I think we both gained half a stone!! We also met up with a nice scottish couple we had met at Coral View and spent the evenings beating them at pool.

We also took a walk around the island (which took 20mins) to see what is left of the Celebrity Love Island lodgings. Not a lot apart from the Love Shack and the jetty where they did all their commentary from so we took the obligatory pictures and then laid on the beach some more.

And we had a go at rafting which I thought was a bit dull to be honest!

(Lauras note) It was Kayaking actually & considering I was the only one doing any rowing I can't see what her problem is?

After 2 days of eating as much as we could, our time on the islands came to an end and it was back to the mainland.

Sorry, it's getting a bit long, I'll really try and summarise the next bit!

Fiji Experience

Awesome trip! We had a really good group of people and the guide was excellent. We spent 4 days travelling around the main island doing different activities and seeing different towns. Highlights include sandboarding, visiting villages in the different territories, having a kava ceremony with the chief and then hanging out with him and his people, tubing down a dirty river in the pissing down rain and cold and generally having a great time.

This was the best bit of our stay in Fiji and I wished we could have spent a bit longer in some of the places that we passed through. I would totally recommend this trip.

(Lauras note) ditto on this, the village tour was one of the best moments, all the children wanted to hold our hands & show us around their village - it was like Angelina Jollie on a Hello shoot but clearly we're prettier.

We learnt loads about the ways & traditions of the Fijian people. Amazingly the chiefs of the 14 provences are still a major influence over their tribes & it's people & highly repected figures, so it was a real honour to spend some time with one of them..... & drink his Kava... errrrgh that stuff really is awful!

We found out later we could've stayed over at the chiefs hut & helped at the local schools but we had run out of time - maybe I'll have another opportunity to leave J9 in some remote village somewhere?

And then it was all over.

Next stop hawaii

Posted by J9travels 14:38 Archived in Fiji Comments (0)

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