I just saw this video on Facebook about the world’s second largest fish tank where you see numerous whale shark and manta rays swimming by… amazing!
Today I took the other route through Yosemite National Park and headed for Lee Vining and Mono Lake.
The day started a bit cloudy and chilly but it cleared up later on the day and became quite warm again.
I arrived in Lee Vining around 16:00, got myself a nice room at the Lee Vining Motel ($ 63,50) and went next door to the El Mono Motel / Coffee House for a double capuccino and some wireless internet to update my blog While I am writing this, several humming birds are hovering around my head eating sugar water from the feeding tray and sucking nectar from the flowers in the garden.
I’ll try to capture them hovering tomorrow…
While I am writing this, having a capuccino at the El Mono Coffee House, several Humming Birds are hovering around my head. I’ll try to take a couple of photographs tomorrow, hopefully they will pose a bit for me
Here’s an impression of the day:
Today I visited Yosemite National Park, for $ 20,- you get a 7-day pass to visit the National Park. Yosemite Valley was about a 50 minute drive from the Bug Hostel and has a number of parking facilities and a free bus to the several walks and sights all along the valley. The first thing I noticed was Half Dome, a mountain in the shape of a severed dome which might look familiar to a lot of people who have been playing Sierra Online games (Leisure Suit Larry, King’s Quest, Space Quest, etc) in the past as their logo is based on Half Dome.
Compare it to the Logo
After having walked around the valley for a couple of hours, making lots of photographs (see slideshow on the bottom of the post) I got back into my car and headed for Glacier Point. Along the way I passed this magnificent view of the valley at Tunnel Point (clickable):
When I reached Glacier Point the view wasn’t less impressive, you could overlook the Yosemite valley and Half Dome from the top of the mountain. The scenery and view was excellent (clickable):
Here’s a photographs of me and Half Dome:
From Glacier Point I drove to the Mariposa Grove, home to several giant Seqoias. Funny that I am now here looking a massive Seqoias about a week after having seen the massive Kauri trees of New Zealand Here’s me and the Grizzly Seqoia:
And a Seqoia with a tunnel through it:
At the end of the day I drove back to the Bug Hostel but unfortunately there was no bed available anymore. Luckily there was a motel a couple of hundred meters away which still had room but the room price was about 4 times the price of the hostel ($ 77,- instead of $ 22,-). At least I got a place to sleep I went for dinner at the Bug Hostel again and met up with those Dutch I met yeaterday.
Here’s an impression of the day:
On Friday I walked into the oposite direction. My hotel is just around the corner of the Museum of Asian Art and City Hall:
Continuing along McAlister Street (where my hotel is on) after a couple of miles you get to Alamo Square. Next to it is Steiner Street with the most photographed houses of San Francisco. Unfortunately the sun was not shining on the houses, so I photographed some houses on the other side of Alamo Square qhere the houses are actually quite alike:
From Alamo Square I continued on to Golden Gate Park. Along the way again a lot of these typically San Francisco Houses, even a sleeping place of some bum:
When I reached the Golden Gate Park I went to see the Dahlia Garden, The Flower House and The Japanese Tea Garden where I had a nice cup of green tea. Funny enough my fortune cookie said: You will be unusually successful in bussiness. I wonder if that will come true
After the tea garden I walked to the end of the park to go see the Dutch Windmill and Queen Wilhelmina’s Garden (I wonder how that came to be?). While the first part of my walk (to Alamo Square) went quite quickly, the next park took me a really long time. I really didn’t understand how that was possible, also the park seemed much larger than it appeared on the map. When I had a closer look at the map it seemed that the left part of the map was compressed! Duh… What seemed like a short walk in fact was quite a long walk!
After the (not very impressive) Dutch windmill and flower garden I decided to take the bus to the Palace of the Legion of Honor, a museum with classic artists. They had a lot of statues from Rodin and several works from Dutch Masters. Here’s an impression:
When I got back to the hotel (by bus ) I went to see another movie at the cinema. Today Mirrors, a new horror / thriller with Kiefer Sutherland premiered and imdb said it was quite good. The film is pretty scary, much better than the lousy X-files movie I saw yesterday
Today I visited the Waipoua Forest, the only still remaining Kauri Forest in New Zealand. The Kauri trees are massive, but unfortunately their impressive size does not really show on the photographs. You should really see them for real. The two largest Kauri trees are:
Tāne Mahuta. The tree’s Maori name means “Lord of the Forest” (see Tāne), and is the name of a god in the Māori pantheon. Tāne Mahuta is the most massive kauri known to stand today. It is 51 metres (169 feet) in height, and has a circumference of 13.8 metres (45 feet). There is no proof of the tree’s age, but it is estimated to be between 1250 and 2500 years old.
Te Matua Ngahere. The tree’s Māori name means “Father of the Forest”. Although not as massive or tall as its neighbour Tāne Mahuta, Te Matua Ngahere is much stouter, with a girth (circumference) just over 16 metres (52.5 feet). There is no proof of the tree’s age, but it is estimated to be about 2000 years old.
The genus Agathis, commonly known as kauri or dammar, is a relatively small genus of 21 species of evergreen trees in the very ancient Araucariaceae family of conifers. While initially widespread during the Jurassic period they are now found only in small areas of the southern hemisphere. The trees have characteristically very large trunks and little or no branching for some way up. Young trees are normally conical in shape, only upon maturity does the crown become more rounded or irregularly shaped.
From Dunedin I had drive to Te Anau near New Zealand’s West Coast to spend the night. The next morning I left Te Anau to drive about 120 km’s to Milford Sound, the most popular Fjord to visit in New Zealand.
Along the way you pass the mirror lakes, beautifully reflecting the mountains around:
In Milford Sound I booked a boat cruise across the Fjord; when we reached the ocean and looked back to the Fjord it looked like this:
On the way back to the harbour we cruised passed the Stirling Falls which violently dropped in the Fjord below:
Almost next to the Harbour where the Bowen Falls, now beautifully lit by the sun:
On the way back I passed a spot where plants where totally covered in ice:
Sydney’s Zoo lies a 15 minute ferry ride from Circular Quay on the other side of the harbour. A skyrail brings you from the ferry harbour to the Zoo’s entrance on top of the hill so you can walk down, zig-zagging through the zoo to see all animals. The cages were smaller than those of Steve Irwin’s zoo, but Taronga zoo was better than I expected (and remembered from my 2001 visit). Besides the native Australian animals (kangaroos, koala beers, crocs, echidna’s and wombats) they also had a red back spider…
…and a chameleon
After spending the night in Nowra, I drove through the lovely Kangaroo Valley. While the valley itself was beautiful the town was a bit touristy with its corny handycraft shops and its extremely kitsch castle bridge over the kangaroo river.
From Kangaroo Valley I continued on to Fitzroy Falls / Morton National Park. The falls lie in the path of the Yarrunga Creek, which drops over 80 metres down the escarpment, and flows on into the Kangaroo River. Walking around I noticed signs that Lyre Birds (I have written about the Lyre Bird earlier) were living in the area. So when I heard a bird singing different tunes I just walked through the ferns into the direction of the songs. And just in front of me the male Lyre Bird jumped onto a log and started singing its repertoire. I recorded its songs on my phone, and when I played him his own songs back he started following me.
Now he probably saw me as competition as he was listening very closely and quietly when I played him his own songs. When I stopped playing him his songs he started singing really loud again. Here is the video I made with my phone, listen to his songs
After the interesting experience of seeing a Lyre Bird I drove, past Moss Vale, towards Katoomba (a 1.5 hour drive) to stay for the night. I had visited Katoomba a couple of nights ago as well, but as it was all cloudy, rainy and wet I left quickly. But the last couple of days I had lovely weather with a blue sky, warm sun and some clouds, so I decided to go to Katoomba again.
At the campsite I met two Dutch people (Pieter & Silvia) who, funny enough, were also moving to Australia and whom I (sort of) knew from xpdite.net. That night it was very cold, the coldest night I have experienced here in Australia. It felt like a cold winter night back home in my chilly house in Utrecht; well… former house that is
That morning I again visited Echo Point, Katoomba’s lookout over the Blue Mountains and the Three Sisters. The Blue Mountains are called like that due to the blueish haze, caused by the eucalypt oil evaporated from leaves of the the eucalypts in the valley. The view was much better now, compared to a couple of days ago:
When I was walking along one trail I saw another Lyre Bird; this time a female (only the male sings and has curled tail feathers). After having seen Katoomba again (been there in 2001 as well) I headed for the Big4 campsite at Sydney’s Northern Beaches to stay for the night.
On Sunday we were picked up at the caravan park to go on a while shark tour with 3 Islands Marine (AU $ 345,-). After pickup we drove to the boat ramp on the other side of the peninsula where a small speedboat took us to the larger vessel.
Our first stop was a snorkeling stop on Ningaloo Reef, about 1 km from the coast. It was great to snorkel around the coral and the tropical fish, frequently duck diving to the bottom; about 4 to 5 metres below.
After about 30 minutes of snorkeling we got the call from the spotter planes that they had found whalesharks, so we went for it. When we arrived at the location we were divided into two groups of 10 people, as only 10 people are allowed to swim with a whaleshark at one time (government rules). As there were also two other boats present, every boat had to take turns to have a group jump in to swim with the whaleshark.
When it was our turn we jumped in the water for our first swim with the whaleshark. At first I could not see anything but bubbles, and gazing around I could only make out deep blue water with the sun’s rays beaming down below to an endless depth. When looking into the direction of the guide, I could make out a giant mouth appearing in the distance, swimming right towards us. I swam to one side of it, getting close to the huge fish. It was really amazing to see such a huge creature swimming beside you. It was gently swimming forward while foraging for plankton with it’s mouth wide open; it’s (in comparison) tiny eyes watching us swim along.
I’ve frequently seen whalesharks on in documentaries, and I’ve always wanted to see and experience the sensation of seeing one myself. And today we even swam with 3 different whale sharks of about 8 to 9 metres in length. Small considered they can grow up to 18 metres in length. It was a very impressive experience
Afterwards we made another stop at the Ningaloo Reef for another snorkel round. This time we spotted a giant cod of about 2 metres on the bottom below the boat, and the massive sea turtle swimming around.
That night, back at the campsite, we had dinner with cheese, crackers and couple of bottles of rosé. It turned out to be a strange night, ending up with more rosé at Andy’s (the guy who made the whaleshark video that day) caravan. Us having too much to drink, Hilde & Jorinke singing Aussie songs, Andy trying to get them to stay for the night, us buggering off, etcetera