A Travellerspoint blog

Portland

Oregon

semi-overcast 14 °C

3rd May

Arrived in Portland around half eight in the morning, slightly tired, dazed and confused. Just a 20 minute or so walk to the hostel. Portland is the capital of the state Oregon. Its known for its large number of microbreweries and coffee fondness. Its also listed as one of the most 'green' cities in the world.
I couldn't check into my room till the afternoon so I threw my bags into storage and went for a walk around town. Despite being bigger then most cities in New Zealand its still relatively small compared to San Francisco and LA. The city has a free 'street car'/tram that runs through the city, making it easy to get around. I just walked around for a few hours and took some photos. Was still exhausted from the journey up so went back to the hostel and rested for the evening.

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4th May

Had a bit of a lay in (half 9 is considered a lay in) and went out to look around again. Walked up the hill to Washington park to get a view over the city, could even see snow capped mountains in the distance which I didn't notice before. Walked back down into the city and caught the street car to the water front along the river. Walked along the river and had lunch. Some other Portland facts, it has ten bridges and has the largest new/used book store in the world (Powell's book store) taking up an entire block.

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5th May

Got up early, packed and walked to the bus terminal. Getting a four hour bus to Seattle.

Posted by Stefan.m 20:48 Archived in USA

San Francisco

sunny 20 °C

27th April

After a long bus journey I arrived in San Francisco at about 8pm. Got myself orientated and began the walk to the hostel. It was easy enough to find, but was still a half hour walk with bags and all. Walking through the city at night it immediately seemed safe. Got checked in and found my room. Basically just rested after the long bus journey.

28th - 29th April

I'm staying at a hostel that is part of the same company as the one in LA, so more make your own pancakes. Found out about a free walking tour run by the hostel in the morning so joined that. We walked through various parts of the city while the guide explained the history behind each place. We went through the original and oldest Chinatown, the place where the first fortune cookie was created. After this we began the climb up the many hills of San Francisco, but you do get a good view from the top. We went to Coit tower for more good photos and then back down through various regions, eventually finishing along the sea front by the many piers. It was a good introduction on my first full day in the city.
During the tour I met a couple of English people and we decided to rent some bikes and cycle through the city and across the golden gate bridge. Despite the good weather its a very windy city, especially up on the bridge. You get a good view across the city from the bridge, we stopped a number of times for photos. It didn't take that long to cycle across. Once across we went down to Sausalito, a small town by the water front. We stopped there for a while and had lunch before later getting the ferry back to the city. A long day but a good one.
Unfortunately it turns out i'm in a room with an extremely loud snorer... didn't get much sleep. Still more good weather though, a rarity for San Francisco. Makes for some good photos while walking round.

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30th April

Had to get up early (6am) for a day trip to Yosemite national park. The drive there was 3 hours long, but it wasn't too bad. We stopped along the way for breakfast, and I slept most of the way there. The national park is known for its granite cliffs and waterfalls, its also home to the worlds largest trees which only naturally grow in a small area of land here, the giant sequoia. Unfortunately we couldn't see these as we couldn't get to them. The park had a large amount of snowfall in the winter, a large amount of which is still sitting at the higher parts of the park, The park itself is very accessible to the public. There's a small village in the centre, you can stay there a couple days if you wanted to. If you have your own car you can drive through, but there's also free buses that run constantly through the area. Our tour guide/driver took us to the main sites for photos before dropping us off at the village area to do what we wanted for a few hours. I got the bus to a couple of areas and walked around getting some photos. Went back to have lunch and walked up to the bottom of the largest water fall in the park, Yosemite falls. The park is very picturesque, similar to New Zealand in a way. The park gets very busy though, more so given it was a weekend. Was good to see one of the higher rated parks in the country. Would be good to see Yellowstone too but that's less accessible unless you have a car, so this was a good compromise.
Didn't arrive back in the city till about 8pm. Slept a lot of the way back again, I’m beginning to think I become narcoleptic as soon as I enter a bus.

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1st May

My last full day in San Francisco. Someone who had checked out the previous night gave me their 'city pass' that was still valid for a few days, this allowed me to ride the trams in the city for free, or 'cable cars' as they call them. They are very popular with tourist and get very crowded, but its better than walking up the hills all day. Went to Alcatraz in the morning/early afternoon. You simply get a short ferry over to the island, its only 1.5 miles away from the city. You can walk around and see various old buildings that are still standing, the main part of the tour takes place in the centrally located cell blocks at the top of the islands hill. The tour is an audio tour so you're given headphones and a digital player that guides you around the cell blocks and describes what life was like from former guards and prisoners. It also describes a couple of the high profile escape attempts. It was a good way of showing you around. Spent a few hours there and got the ferry back.

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Walked along the water front and had lunch. Had a look around the famous pier 39, its become a two story pier filled with a number of shops and restaurants. Its also home to a large number of sun bathing sea lions. After this I walked up one of many hills to Lombard street, the famous crooked, winding street. Got a few photos and caught the tram down to Chinatown, forgot to take photos on the previous tour. From here I made my way back to the hostel via the financial district, lots of skyscrapers.

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Wanted to book my bus ticket for the next day, so I walked to the Greyhound terminal only to be told I couldn't book it till the day of travel, still sure this isn't true. Walked back, had dinner and passed out. Was so tired the snorer didn't even keep me awake.

2nd May

Packed and checked out the room, but still had to wait around most of the day. Bus to Portland is a total of 16 hours from 4pm to 8am, saves a nights accommodation. The first bus was only a couple of hours long but was small and cramped like my first bus. I was also sat next to a strange smelling homeless looking person who was talking to the person opposite in the isle about his bizarre views of the world and how everything will end. He did however later say he sat next to me because I looked 'normal' and 'safe', i'll take that as a compliment.
Arrived in Sacramento for a bus change. Luckily this one was much bigger, with big seats and more leg room, much better for the long journey over night... the narcolepsy kicked in.
San Francisco was a nice city, bigger then I expected it to be, one of my favourites so far. Was also lucky enough to not see a single cloud the entire time I was there, something not even the locals could believe. Its meant to be cloudy all the time.

Posted by Stefan.m 22:09 Archived in USA

Los Angeles

Arriving in America

sunny 26 °C

24th April

The flight over was about 12 hours. It wasn't too bad, slept for part of it and for the rest I watched the films and TV shows they had available. Arriving in America on time at about 2.30pm, it took a long time to get through security checks. It wasn't that there was a lot of security, none more then New Zealand, they just weren't very fast in getting people through. Once I was through I just had to find the shuttle bus to take me to the hostel.

The journey to the hostel was a relatively long one, LA is a huge city, due to it being so spread out separated into a number of different regions. I'm staying in the Hollywood area, and driving through LA to get there it seemed to mainly be a town of concrete and palm trees. Eventually got to the hostel and got checked in. The hostel itself seems a nice place, quite expensive but in a fairly good area.

Went out looking for food as I had none, despite probably being slightly jet lagged. Got a map from the hostel and was directed to a place round the corner. A few seconds round the corner from the hostel and I’m on Hollywood boulevard, directly on the walk of fame which runs down both sides of the entire boulevard and even down some side streets. Rows of stars line the street, naming people nominated in 5 categories, film, TV, radio, theatre and music. I didn't recognise most of them, but now and again I did.
Got to the food shop (or grocery store as I should call it) and found it was closed early due to it being Easter. For the same reason no where else was open so I had no food. Luckily I found a subway and got a sandwich. Didn't walk much more after that, just went back and settled into the hostel.

25th April

Woke to the hostels free breakfast, which is basically all you can eat pancakes (if you make them yourself). The problem was in making them myself, but I managed, not that I can really stomach pancakes in the morning. Spent the day walking around. Walked down Hollywood blvd and took in all the touristy sites. There's the Chinese and Kodak theatres, the former has the hand and foot prints of various famous people engraved into concrete out the front. There's also the previously mentioned walk of fame stars, which causes everyone to look at the floor/take photos and get in each others way, myself included. Eventually found a food shop and stocked up.
It turns out LA is very sunny and hot, not a cloud to be seen. Walked back via sunset blvd. The whole area is full of tourists and is generally a very busy place.

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Managed to get some money back from the hostel which helped, though I did nothing to warrant this. The dorm room had its own bathroom, the lock of which broke and a guy got stuck in there. They eventually got him out the window and offered money back off that night as the bathrrom couldn't be used, and even a free barbecue, unfortunately I wont be here for that.

26th April

Took a tour with the hostel where a few of us went up to the Hollywood sign. We got a bus out of the busy city area and then had to walk for a while up hill, which was easier said then done in this heat. Eventually made it and got some good photos. There's an extra long trail you can take to get right to the top, but I didn't do that. You can't get right up next to it as its not allowed after people have vandalised it over the years or tried to change what it says by blocking out letters. Also got a good view of down town LA. Later in the day I just walked around again getting a few more photos. Luckily I had a map and knew where I was going, but if you walk for too long in the wrong direction you can easily end up in the dodgy area of town. Not safe to be alone there. But there's generally plenty of homeless people asking for money, or just some strange looking people who you'd cross the street to avoid, addicts of one thing or another. Not that its that dangerous, I was fine by myself. However to see the whole of LA you need a car.

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27th April

Filled up on ok-ish pancakes and checked out the hostel. Waited around for a while before going to get my first Greyhound bus up to San Francisco. I was slightly apprehensive given a less then glowing reputation of their buses. As it turned out the bus wasn't great. To begin with the air conditioning on the bus wasn't working and this is a problem coming out of a very hot LA. The driver opened the roof hatches which atleast created a breeze. It was a long 8 hours. The bus was practically full of Mexicans, which was different given their low population in England.

Posted by Stefan.m 22:01 Archived in USA

Auckland

sunny 17 °C

18th April

Left Rotorua in the morning and arrived in Auckland around midday. Got a bus to the road the hostel is on, it started to rain so finally had use for my backpack rain cover. Hostel was only a few minutes away though. Didn't do much else during the day.

19th April

Walked around the city today. Auckland is the only truly large city in New Zealand, its home to one third of New Zealand's population, with two thirds living in the north island. Its nicknamed the 'city of sails' due to its large population of yachts, more per capita then any other country. It also has a surprisingly large Asian community. Got a map and found my way around, working out where things are. Wasn't too difficult, there's one main street that everything is either on or just off of.
Went up the sky tower in the afternoon. Its 328 meters high, taller than the one in Sydney, and the tallest in the southern hemisphere. You get a good view over the entire city. Also saw some people doing a walk around the tower on the outside platform, other, braver, people were also bungy jumping off the tower. Afterwards I just had lunch, looked around a few shops and made my way back.

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20th April

Got up early today for a bus tour around the city and other near by areas. Its a day pass so you can hop on and off at the different stops along the way. Unfortunately its not summer any more so they weren't running half of the route, so it probably wasn't worth the price. Didn't know this at the time. Stopped off at a look out point over the city and harbour area, had some lunch there. Got back on the bus when it came back round, it went round a few sites providing commentary on them. Got off again at Auckland museum. Not as big as the one in Wellington, but still has three floors. A lot of Maori stuff which was interesting, plus you're actually allowed to take photos which is a first. Also got a ticket for a Maori cultural performance while there. Its basically just their traditional dances and performances, including the Haka which was good to see. After looking round some more I got the bus back into town and walked back to the hostel.

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21th April

Got up late as I didn't have to be out till midday. Walked down to the harbour for a dolphin and whale safari. The tour goes out into the Hauraki golf, a marine national park where dolphins are often seen all year round. As its a safari you don't know if you'll actually see anything, the crew have to go out looking for them. They look for the Gannet's (large birds that dive into the sea to catch the fish) which are often flying around a school of fish of sitting on the surface. Once they found them the dolphins were close by. We saw groups of hundreds of common dolphins as they often hunt and feed in large groups. They would often come up to the boat and ride the waves created at the front or back of the boat.

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Later we found a group of them feeding and stopped to watch. Despite what people think they are very violent animals, herding up the fish, and have even been known to attack each other. We also saw a whale while here (Bryde's whale). It often surfaced so you would see its back arch as it dived down deeper, before reappearing again somewhere else. We spent a little longer out there then they usually do as it takes a while to find them so we stayed around and made the most of seeing them. On the way back there was also a good sun set, got a few photos. Arrived back in Auckland at 6.30pm, got a good view of the city lights as we came in.

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22nd - 23rd April

Had a couple of days resting (got a few blisters that wont go away), washing clothes and getting stuff sorted out for America, fly out tomorrow. Also walked all the way to the supermarket on friday, only to find out that it was closed on good friday. The only two large supermarket chains in the country were both closed, seemed strange.

24th April

Got up early, filled up on the hostels free breakfast, packed and checked out the room. I'm now waiting around the hostel today. Will be getting a bus to the airport just before 6pm and then fly out to Los Angeles tonight, arriving seven hours before I left.... an extra long Easter. That concludes 35 days and a night in New zealand.

Posted by Stefan.m 18:01 Archived in New Zealand

Rotorua

sunny 17 °C

15th April

Got the bus from Taupo to Rotorua, only a short one hour journey. Rotorua is a very popular tourist town, known for its Maori culture and thermal parks. It also stinks of rotten eggs! This is due to the thermal activity in the area and the release of sulphur, resulting in the hydrogen sulphide egg smell. You get used to it, but now and again it hits you as you walk out the door. Spent the rest of the day looking around town, it seems packed with tourist shops. Walked through the thermal park in town with its smelly bubbling mud pools. With the steam rising from them they don't make great photos, but I tried anyway. Walked up to another lake, lake Rotorua and back to the hostel as my legs were still aching and complaining of the excessive physical exercise.

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16th April

It more or less rained all day today so didn't get a chance to do much. Went to get some food but mainly just rested... my legs were grateful.

17th April

A much nicer day today. I walked into town and got a bus out into another near by town. This is where they run Zorbing, among other things. Rotorua is where Zorbing was first created and made available. Unfortunately they weren't running the dry option that I wanted to do, only the wet version. I had paid for the bus so decided to do it, luckily I had brought a change of clothes as a back up. The Zorb's are basically large inflatable balls, you climb in and get pushed down a hill, simple. At the top of the hill they filled the ball of some water (warm water thankfully) and you then dive in through a small hole. I then got pushed down a zig zag hill. I had watched other people do it and thought it looked quite slow and tame... I was wrong. The central sphere you climb into isn't totally see through so the outside looks blurry and your getting thrown around with water. Its very disorientating. Throw some soap in and it might as well be a washing machine, I could have come out clean. It was over fairly quickly but was good fun.

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Got the bus back to town and had lunch while looking around, most places closed on a Sunday though. Tomorrow I head to Auckland.

Posted by Stefan.m 16:45 Archived in New Zealand

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