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Wine Cellar On Wheels

Our campervan lacked a theme.  Sure, she had a rad name: Bazils.  But at the end of the day, she was an ordinary home on wheels.  She wanted an identity.  Enter wine connoisseur, snob, and gulper: Ashley Miller.

Martinborough Fields of GrapesSeven days on the North Island went by in a flash and too many kilometers were logged.  A day with absolutely no driving was in order and Ash found just the spot: Martinborough.  This inviting municipality is located just outside Wellington where the North Island terminates.  A peculiar component and one of Ashley’s favorite past times drew us to this quaint town.  The avenues are named after places the founder had visited including some US States.  Oh, and there are numerous vineyards.  As my buddy Can Can wrote me via electronic mail, it seems our destinations all have something in common… wine.  Ashley’s purple teeth certainly verify this fact.  With Ashley foaming at the mouth, Bazils stopped short of a fence abutting a polo field and we hit the pavement after quick showers… it had been a few days!

The Wine Cellar on WheelsBe it Napa, California or Mendoza, Argentina, wine producing areas share a common problem: one must drive or ride bicycles because of the distance between cellar doors.  Each mode of transportation presents its own problems like budgetary constraints, DUI, and safety.  Ahhh, the shoe-string-express cures all ills!  A handy “Wine Tour” brochure provided a colorful map and an ambitious assault plan on four wineries was created.  The first battlefield was cleverly named Martinborough Vineyard, but the grape juice was anything but bland.  Despite me pointing out that Bazils was quickly becoming a wine cellar on wheels due to tastings a few days prior, Ash couldn’t leave without their 2008 Te Tera Pinot Noir.  Let it be said: we already had five bottles of vino on board.

We Should Have Just Purchased The Barrel Martinborough Vineyard Martinborough Vineyard Flowers

Not needing a designated driver (Ash refused to drive Bazils, so this was a moot point), we tasted ten wines at Margraine.  Starting with champagne and ending with port, our taste buds were on a runaway train.  At this point, we were hoping the vineyard name was not indicative of our general health in the morning.  During the tasting, several Europeans and the wine provider herself started ganging up on us two Americans, saying we as a nation don’t enjoy laughing at ourselves.  Never before had I thought Jeff Foxworthy would be helpful when defending America’s reputation.  Boy did he suffice.  Our heads held high, we departed with a Pinot Rose.  Ash insisted this one would be consumed on a Fijian beach.

Ata Rangi Vineyard Rose Bush Ata Rangi Vineyard Vines Ata Rangi Pillow Top Mattress  

A leisurely stroll down one of Martinborough’s rustic streets and we arrived at Ata Rangi, one of the original cellar doors in this simple town.  Walking up the drive to the vineyard was sensational with wildflowers blooming and rose bushes marking the start of each row of grapevines.  Interestingly, wine producers plant rose bushes here to protect the fruit because if disease begins to spread, the beautiful flower will show signs first.  Once the distracting environment released us, six wines met our awaiting pallets.  Once again, it was hard for Ashley to simply walk away.  Lest the two previously purchased bottles were getting lonely, a 2007 Celebre variety provided some company. 

Vynfield On The MoveAlready impressed with the quality of wine produced in this picturesque region of New Zealand, the best vineyard was the finale.  Again, the approaching walk was a delight with horses and an eternity of grapevines.  Vynfield was situated at the foot of rolling green hills and a cream colored home looked incredibly inviting.  Before imbibing on more fruit goodness, we learned how the domicile came to be.  Similar to how Ashley’s parents created their home in Kansas, the house was moved in separate pieces from the country and reassembled at its present location.  Quite amazing really.  Wanting to enjoy the pleasant aesthetics, we chose to drink from flights outside in the garden area.  Perhaps all the wine and fresh air had gone to my head, because this time it was yours truly that wanted the 2007 Pinot Noir Reserve.  It was a real treat on Christmas Day in the South Pacific.

Vynfield Vineyard Vynfield Vineyard - Wine Flights Vynfield Vineyard Grapevines

Four bottles of wine to add to our growing collection… that was enough for one day.  So we headed into town to find some street signs.  That is what you do after wine tasting, of course.  This city boy from Cincinnati, Ohio and country gal from Claflin, Kansas must be meant for each other.  Low and behold, the streets of Ohio and Kansas intersected!  Ash was so excited that she climbed on top of the neighboring white picket fence to get her petite body under the KS sign.  Not wanting to be imprisoned for loitering, our time beneath the street signs was limited to ten minutes. 

Intersection of Love O H... I O We Aren't In Kansas Anymore

With bag ‘o wine in tow, we joyfully meandered back to Bazils where Ash cooked green pepper burgers and pasta for dinner.  One guess what she served to drink. 

- Greg and Ash    

Learn From Our Footsteps:

1) Most vineyards in Martinborough charge a fair price of $5 NZ per person to taste their wine.  However, they will waive that fee if you purchase a bottle.  Thus, that $17 NZ vintage doesn’t seem so expensive when you count your tasting fee.  All but one winery we visited waived both of our tasting fees with a purchase.  Thus, a $7 NZ bottle of wine from the cellar door is dang good. 
2) We purchased ten bottles of wine while in New Zealand.  It is that good.  But the ones we drank in Fiji or later in New Zealand developed a slight vinegar taste as a result of storing them in a hot campervan.  If cruising around with wine in a vehicle for an extended period of time, find a cool/dark place to house them. 
3) New Zealand’s most popular wine region is Blenheim on the South Island.  While the product there is good (we purchased three bottles… put the wallet away Ashley), we both prefer Martinborough not only for the quality of wine, but the layout as well.

Middle Earth

Hobbits reside inside rolling green hills.  That is a fact not worth disputing.  Frodo Baggins grew up in an area that Ashley describes as “perfect, a place only found in my dreams.”  But the incredible setting for The Lord of the Rings and Ash’s imaginative slumber is oh so real.  And underneath New Zealand’s picturesque countryside is a whole other world.  A Lost World.

NZ Countryside Fence and Beyond NZ Countryside with Cattle   

Mt. RuapehuAfter spending a few days exploring the North Island’s northern coasts it was high time to discover the interior.  As our credit card statement racked up petrol line items the further south we motored, the more beautiful the hills became.  Sheep, cows, and hairs dotted the green vastness surrounding our stress-free souls.  Near Lake Taupo in the North Island’s geographic center, Mount Ruapehu provided a splendid backdrop at over 9,100 feet tall.  I learned my lesson in Chile… no more climbing active volcanoes. From higher elevations, one could see ponds intersecting wire fences and clusters of trees where farm animals would seek refuge from the sun above.  The kilometers indicated southbound progress was being made, but the incredible beauty was static.  If we were amazed by the rolling surface, a surprise was waiting just below. 

Drinking Vino in BazilsUpon reaching the tiny Kiwi town of Waitomo, the fact finding mission began.  So many things to do below the Earth’s crust, but so little time and money.  Three stops and three different recommendations of how to enjoy the limestone caves and underwater rivers.  What is better than a human being’s personal suggestion?  Video evidence.  Upon seeing the Lost World excursion with our own eyes, we ponied up the cash and rebuffed the plethora of other options like black water rafting (sounds better than it actually is).  The friendly staff of Waitomo Adventures even offered us their toilets and parking lot for the night.  That was our backup plan if we didn’t locate a camping spot in the hills.  Locate we did!  With just the lush hillside, an occasional cow, and sprinkling rain providing company, Ash and I drank merlot and ate dinner with Bazils’ hatch ajar.  Early to bed, early to rise.

Boots Hanging Ten LONG Way Down

With a cup of New Zealand’s cheapest coffee in hand from Bazils’ gas stove, we arrived at Waitomo Adventures and met a family of six from Brisbane, Australia that would round out our excursion group.  Ash couldn’t help but smile as this young family was reminiscent of her’s back home in Kansas.  In particular, the fearless eleven year-old boy whose personality had a striking likeness to Ashley’s kid brother, Bryce.  The eight of us boarded the 4×4 van and drove through a rather ordinary looking farm.  Fitting for boots, harness, and helmet was quick and it was first time we heard the oh so popular Kiwi  phrase: sweet as bro.  The gentleman guide directed this at Ashley after he fitted her harness and I thought he added an extra “s” to “as.”  Some hearty laughs and a short time later we all plodded into the green field until reaching a thick patch of trees.  Then down some slippery rock steps until a steel platform came into view hugging the side of an immensely deep limestone sinkhole. 

Collared Greens Angels From Heaven Abseiling

One by one we were locked into the abseil device and leaned out over the abyss below.  With 330+ feet between us and the mossy bottom, our inhibitions were relaxed and down we went.  Surprisingly, there is nothing to stop us from sliding off the end of the rope besides the weight of the rope itself.  Thus, the top portion was slow going while we had to wrap out feet around the rope length towards the bottom to create additional friction.  The thirty minute repel was incredible.  Once it was clear a short plunge to our death was not inevitable, the ferns and vines clinging to the sinkhole walls presented themselves.  To be suspended high above another world below and every color of green in our periphery was a unique experience to be certain.  Within 100 feet of the now evident river below, the plants gave way to a bald limestone cave that reached far into the darkness.  As if Waitomo Adventures had done this before, the rope length ended where the cave’s floor began.  Feet planted firmly back on rock, the roof of the limestone fortress looked as if one thousand Suns shown through a small tear in the night sky.

Tear in the Night Sky Mossy Beam Me Up

GlowwormsHelmet lights switched to the “on” position, the eight spelunkers trekked over the limestone boulders that once formed the cave’s ceiling.  The underground river splashed along over our right shoulders as we moved deeper into the cave, natural light giving way to darkness.  The skylight provided from the sinkhole entrance made for some interesting silhouette photos.  Careful with each step, we huddled together under a small overhang and shuttered our headlamps.  As our eyes adjusted to the light deprived environment, tiny blue specks of light began to appear.  Glowworms!  They formed constellations against the rock exterior from which they hung.  Silently watching, twenty minutes surely passed before it was time to leave.  But how the heck do you get out of a cave you just abseiled into without a walking exit? 

Mysterious... Ashley Ladder of Death Exit At Last!

Up a 100+ foot slippery ladder is how.  Ash and I were number five and six to climb, respectively.  The second of two guides went up fourth, but not before showing us how to lock our harness into the safety rope.  We waited in the dampness while the others climbed.  When other climbers would reach the top, they would lower the rope back down.  “Splat.” That is the noise a rope makes when it hits a cave floor and is ready to be utilized.  Adding to the nerve racking experience, the mud and dampness created a formidable lubricant on the ladder rungs.  Every 20 feet or so the metal structure was fastened to the limestone wall, just enough space to let the ladder sway and put a jolt into your heart.  Finally at the top, we walked a bit further in the cavern until a slightly graded path provided an exit from the Lost World.     

As they say: true beauty is what lies within, it is not what is on the outside that matters.  But it doesn’t hurt to have both.

- Greg and Ash    

Learn From Our Footsteps:

1) Taking excursions where your own digital camera is disallowed can be pricey and frustrating. If you really want pictures, they have you in a pinch to purchase from the tour operator.  Due to the dampness and abseil harness, cameras were disallowed on the Lost World.  However, before we booked the trip we negotiated the inclusion of all photographs on one DVD.  This saved us in excess of $80.
2) Men: when doing anything that requires a harness, spend as much time necessary to get your “junk” situated.  Nothing ruins a good time like being squeezed by a vice.

Roadtripping with My Loves…

She was a rare beauty: smooth exterior, reliable, and displaying exquisite features. Love is fickle and I was falling for a nineteen year-old named Bazils… an automobile. Was my heart large enough for two ladies? Time would tell. And Ash was along for the ride.

Auckland Skyline Arriving in Auckland Auckland

However, our three-week adventure discovering New Zealand’s fjords, mountains, and vineyards with Bazils the campervan would have to wait a day. Auckland was our first Kiwi experience and Ashley found this North Island city quite likeable. A couple local pints of beer were consumed in a pub while a driving itinerary was planned. All the while, a loud and very obnoxious man was blabbering about this and that using foul language every other word. It was the first time we encountered the worldwide American stereotype proven accurate. We both apologized to the pub staff declaring that the rude person isn’t typical of USA citizens and the Kiwis agreed. Feeling good about the good folks of New Zealand and excited to hit the road the next day, we strolled home to the hostel and caught some shuteye. Damn you Sir for making America look bad.

Bay of Islands285,000+ kilometers on the odometer, but she was looking good and purred like a kitten. Ash hopped into the shotgun position as I guided the manual transmission Toyota HiAce onto the left hand side of the wet asphalt. Like that, we were headed towards the Bay of Islands region and hoped for dryer weather. We were exhilarated upon arriving at our first destination, but our excitement was tempered with the need to fill the small fridge with groceries. If you would like to see how different Ashley and I can sometimes be, follow us into a supermarket. Ash insists on perusing each isle while my impatience boils over. Anyway, we procured the necessary (and unnecessary) items and found a spot to camp along the road. We woke early and cooked breakfast with the bay providing a pristine backdrop. Next stop was the tip of the North Island: Cape Reinga.

Cape Reinga Light Tower Cape Reinga Cape Reinga Waves Crashing

Only one road connects Cape Reinga and the journey is no short jaunt, but Bazils was fearless. Located 100+ kilometers from the nearest town, we sought the advice of the gas station attendant and he assured us the weather at the Cape would be swell. But as we drove North, the drizzle turned to a steady downpour and the fog grew thick. Pulling into the carpark, it was clear the friendly petrol man should not opt for a career in meteorology. Nonetheless, we hit the footpath and reached Cape Reinga where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet in a raucous manner. Through the dense fog, the crashing sea was plainly audible. Despite not witnessing the grandeur how we imagined, the inclement weather did not deter us from enjoying the moment. Seat belts fastened, we headed South for the Giant Sand Dunes of Te Paki.

Te Paki Giant Sand Dune Meets Rainforest Te Paki Giant Sand Dune Te Paki Vastness

We had no idea New Zealand offered such a unique place. The rainforest literally abuts a barren desert of huge sand dunes then gives way to the Tasman Sea. A bearded man sat on the bumper of a 4×4 vehicle offering rental boogie boards to essentially sled down the golden sand. We declined, but saw revelers in the distance making slow progress up one massive dune. If you have ever walked in sand, you know the difficulty. Now apply a 45 degree slope. On all fours, we climbed Te Paki and finally reached the summit only to realize the dunes stretch for eternity down Ninety Mile Beach. It was as if we were transported to a barren wasteland (like Cleveland, Ohio). Before the delightful descent, we watched the sandboarders leave snake-like markings as they jetted downward. One poor gal made it to the top after fifteen grueling minutes of climbing only to drop her makeshift sled and watch helplessly as it plummeted to the base. The return trip was tremendous as we bounced like astronauts down the fluffy sand towards the surrounding forest.

Te Paki Giant Sand Dune Sandboarders Ash On Her Way Down

With no grand stop on our next day, Bazils treated us to a delightful and relaxing drive along the coast. Initially, Ash and I were bummed about the unrelenting fog, but in the end it made every place look more charming. Cable Bay was empty on such a damp afternoon, so we enjoyed the vista under a tin shed as the droplets rang out above us against the metal roof. Certainly our favorite drive on the North Island was into Doubtless Bay. The lush green forest surrounding the calm water filled with fishing vessels and monohaul schooners was enveloped with a white fog. It seemed the Kiwis were sipping tea on this day because yet again, no one was around. Hugging the forest on one side, the bay on the other, the narrow asphalt road was a bit tricky to navigate especially when the driver was gawking at everything in sight. But Bazils did not want to meet her fate quite yet and kept us from a cool bath in Doubtless Bay.

Cable Bay Doubtless Bay Fog Doubtless Bay

Our love affair was just beginning, but it turns out Bazils is quite the minx. Upon arriving in Christchurch three weeks later, she would go gallivanting with yet another adventuresome individual(s). So I am stuck with the gal from Claflin, Kansas. Happily stuck with the gal from Claflin, Kansas, I mean. Bazils, please don’t forget the time we spent together.

- Greg

Learn From Our Footsteps:

  1. There are countless way to see New Zealand. There are hop-on/hop-off buses, internal flights to smaller airports, or daytrips from major tourist destinations. As you have read above, some of the best adventures cannot be had within the confines of packaged tours. Having your own automobile opens up more doors than you can walk through. We found the most awe inspiring places not mentioned in any guidebook as a result of having our own four wheels.
  2. Most rental cars or vans are manual transmission outside America. Thus, before embarking on an international trip it is suggested you become acquainted with the “clutch and stick.” You’ll find automatic transmission vehicles for hire, but prepare your billfold for the increased cost.
  3. New Zealand was my first experience driving on the left-hand side of the road. Couple that with changing gears with my left hand and you get a rough first two kilometers. If you find yourself in a similar situation, first get a general sense of where you intend to go then focus on the flow of traffic. Simply following the car directly in front of you will ensure you stay on the proper side. If criticized for poor driving, insist that they drive on the wrong side of the road!

Where Oh Where May Bazils Rest? Locating Campsites in New Zealand

Bay of Islands (North Island)“How about right here?” I would ask.  “S*$%, this is someone’s private drive.” 
“Greg, this looks good,” Ashley would point out.  “Wait, nope.  Too exposed to the road.”
Having a home on wheels in New Zealand is fantastic until the sun retreats West.  About the size of Colorado and with just 4 million folks, one would think finding a hidden spot to pull over for the night would be a cinch.  Negative Ghost Rider the pattern is full.  Thus for twenty nights the same song and dance was performed.  Broadway won’t be calling us for auditions any time soon.

The ideal spot for “freedom camping” revolves around being hidden from the world.  If your campervan is exposed, concerned citizens will wake you in the middle of the night to ensure everything is AOK.  Or passing police will knock on your window until you begrudgingly move along into the pitch black night after parking in a prohibited area.  But we were focused on the first syllable in the phrase “freedom camping.”  A success rate of one in four nights (mainly within National Parks) planted the seeds of frustration each evening.  We seemed vexed until utilizing Department of Conservation (“DOC”) campgrounds.

Cloudy Bay Vineyard (North Island) Doubtless Bay (North Island) Navigator

DOC campsites are no frills to be certain: no showers, treated water on occasion, and roadside style toilets.  For what these sites lack is made up for by being inexpensive ($5 per person), no crowds, and offering sensational views.  When our patience grew thin searching for a free spot, helpful DOC brochures directed us to their locations.  Sometimes we would arrive prior to daylight giving way to shimmering stars.  Other times not so much.  Such as the night we drove through the rain, fog, and darkness of Waipoua Kauri Forest completely lost.  Over two hours of madness and an incredibly lucky siting of a nocturnal Kiwi, we arrived at the campground.  Our favorite DOC campsites were found in Merita, Lake Moke (outside Queenstown), and Mount Cook.  When we began smelling ripe due to hiking and lack of showers, it was time to pony up for legit campsites ($12 per person).

We fought like hell to avoid campgrounds (called Holiday Parks) such as these because they were expensive versus the alternatives, overcrowded, and offered lesser views.  But certain needs must be met like charging the auxiliary battery (powers fridge and internal lights), obtaining fresh water, and bathing.  The hippies of the 1970′s would never have condoned our “shower every third day” behavior.

Cook Strait Ferry Bay of Islands (North Island) Cable Bay (South Island)

For twenty nights, we slept beneath the stars in Bazils, our 1990 Toyota HiAce campervan from ExploreMore.  Like brushing your teeth every morning (let’s hope anyway), we were trained to snap a photo of each campsite.  Below is a brief slideshow portraying Bazils’ bed each day:

- Greg and Ash

Learn From Our Footsteps:

1) DOC campsites are not equipped with personnel to check in/out guests.  Payment is on the honor system.  So don’t be a jerk and short the National Parks.  After all, your money goes towards these incredible places of nature.
2) As mentioned above, freedom camping is more difficult than it would seem.  Secondary roads don’t exist like in the USA.  New Zealand has main thoroughfares and side roads typically lead to homes.  Asking locals and conferring with the friendly folks at iSites (green signs) provide good leads on where a suitable overnight place could be found.
3) Find a camping spot well before nightfall.  We learned this quickly having searched in the darkness on several nights only to end up paying for a Holiday Park.  Pick a time at least one hour before sunset to be settled in a location.  Then toss the migraine medication out the window (not literally, that would be littering such a beautiful country).

3…2…1… Action: Fiji

Take a peak at the beauty of Fiji through the lense of our Canon cameras.

1) Greg channeling his 10 years of age on an uninhabited island within the Mamanuca Islands of Fiji.  Ignore Greg’s stupid commentary, focus on the beauty.

2) Ashley continues to push Greg to greater heights of athletic ability.  This time in the pool.

3) A brief look into the incredible villa at Tokoriki Island Resort.  Hands down the most incredible place we have ever rested our eyes.

4) O Come All Ye Faithful by John Wade.  As performed by the adorable child choir of a local Mamanuca Island school in Fijian (Polynesian).  See if you can follow along.

Bula,

Greg and Ash

Next Petrol Station: Fiji

Twenty-one nights catching Zzzzzs on couch cushions atop plywood in a cramped campervan had us longing for a comfy mattress in a room that didn’t shake from the breeze. Prior to embarking on our round-the-world adventure, we reckoned mini-vacations would be necessary to refuel from the draining world of independent travel. Bula (Hello) Fiji!

Denarau Island SunsetSanta and his elves (Mr. and Mrs. Miller, Grandma June, the late Grandma Rausch, and Kiley & Adam) spent some serious time in the workshop having pulled together some greenbacks to help foot the food and beverage bill on Denarau Island. Home to numerous resorts, private mansions, and a championship golf course, the master-planned island provided private viewings of sunset each night. I suppose the mosquito eating, upside down sleeping, and starlight masquerading bats had an even better vantage point atop the palm trees. Ash found these nocturnal creatures disgusting, but I wanted a closer look and ended up concussed from an enemy coconut.

Climbing Palm Tree HUGE Bat Concussion Coconut

During our three day stay on Denarau we made sure to make up for lost calories while cooking inside a van down by the river in New Zealand. Ashley was greeted with early wake-up calls from yours truly pleading to gorge ourselves via the breakfast buffet (included). Bottomless cups of coffee, pancakes, fresh pineapple, three egg omelets: it had all our favorites. Eating to the point of feeling ill, we would settle down near the salty water of the South Pacific or Man’s best attempt at emulating nature, only with fresh water. After such breakfast bonanzas, we filled our minds and thoughts with novels during the lunch hour. Then we would settle in for Mother Nature’s lightshow as the fiery Sun boiled the sea in the vast distance. On one such occasion, Ashley felt compelled to dawn her leotard from the pre-teen years and perform front-walkovers, round-offs, and back-handsprings all set to The Very Best of Aaron Neville. After sand-removal showers, we would prepare ourselves as normal vacationers and patronize one of the many seaside restaurants. Ash looked like a beautiful celebrity in her black dress and long golden locks while I wore a fishing shirt with a built in tacklebox and sported the birth of a mullet.

Gymnast Fake Reading Dinner and 10 Glasses of Wine

We bid adieu to Denarau Island after three nights as we had other fish to fry in the Mamanuca Islands of Fiji. We packed our Osprey backpacks and some spirits after having nightmares concerning the cost of booze in such a remote place. And like that, we were aboard the Cheetah Catamaran headed for Tokoriki Island Resort. We drank Fiji Beer (awful) en route with fellow travelers as we passed incredible island retreats and the location where Castaway starring Tom Hanks was filmed (Monuriki Island). We watched patiently as the catamaran ferrying island vacationers slowly emptied after being met by each resort’s transport boat. After an hour, Tokoriki Island Resort came into view and like two school girls having overdosed on Lick-A-Sticks, our excitement bubbled.

Beachcomber Resort Monuriki Island - Castaway Movie South Sea Cruise Ferry Ride

Pool Side Villa #5The Fiji Guidebook says this about Tokoriki Island Resort: “if you aren’t married or engaged when you arrive at Tokoriki, you will be when you leave.” The place was oozing with romance. Gulp. We were amazed by the condition of the villas, grounds, and common areas having been dealt a direct shot by Cyclone Mick just eight days earlier. The normally lush hills had turned brown after the foliage was uprooted and the path leading to a mountain lookout was closed due to debris. Somehow the pleasurable workers at the resort had turned the war zone into a honeymoon escape. Though much work lies ahead, the place looked serene. Our poolside villa was beyond compare. Never have I seen anything like it: climbing tree out over the South Pacific, Infinity pool, floor to ceiling windows, outdoor shower, daybed… the list goes on. Beer can even be consumed underwater! We have high praise for the architect behind the layout as each room had an incredible view (even the closet) and the airflow kept us cool. Once again, the sun’s encore was magnificent each night and gave way to an equally brilliant half moon. What a place to hang your hat.

Climbing Trees... Over the South Pacific Drinking Stella Underwater Voyeurism

Sunset View From Bed If I Could Lasso the Moon Sunset From Pool

Vanna White As if Tokoriki Island didn’t exude enough romance already, the Miller’s treated us to an incredible time on an uninhabited white sand paradise all to ourselves. I really think Ashley’s family was giving us not so subtle hints about getting hitched. Armed with a bottle of red wine from Martinsborough, New Zealand and a cooler of cheese, sandwiches, and fresh fruit, we boarded a small watercraft and leisurely made our way to a nearby strip of land where the humble boat captain dropped us forty-five minutes later. No one in sight, no footprints, nothing. Just the two of us and a pristine canvass from which to view. We explored the lengthy beach then planted our headquarters atop a rise in the glistening sand where we assumed high tide could not reach. But as the waves lapped near our towels, I summoned the magic from my days as a child along Myrtle Beach and dug a moat to protect Princess Ashley.

En Route Moat Built By Man Picnic Beauty

While she drank the pinkish wine and read thrilling novels about the risque lives of shrewd women, I slipped away to explore the world within the blue water via snorkeling. The villa’s pool where I spent most of time was outfitted with an incredible turquoise colored rock, which I discovered in its natural state in the shallow water along the rocky shore. Someday I hope to build a pool fully tiled in this Fijian rock for Ashley’s water aerobics. One must have a dream you know. For the most part though, we frolicked in the warm water, ate the delectable picnic, and debated important issues such as how to get to Miami, Florida for the Super Bowl should the Bengals return to their proper glory. In a flash, our time in this paradise free of humans was up and were whisked away back to civilization at Tokoriki Island Resort only to leave the islands for good the next day.

Snorkel Dude Fijian Rock Uninhabited Island

Fiji was just the mini-vacation our battered bodies desired. Fuel tanks “full” with many miles to go!

- Greg

Learn From Our Footsteps:

  1. Whether at a hostel or five-star hotel, take advantage of everything included in the price of admission. If breakfast is included, stuff your belly and smuggle a couple danishes in your pocket for later. Ash hates to be woken up, but if our $15 a night hostel includes stale toast, you betcha we won’t miss it. Same goes for Internet, plan a time around your agenda to use the included service rather than a local e-Cafe. If the price for lodging includes an amenity, you are doubtlessly already paying for it, so use it.

  2. Traveling without a mobile phone is real freedom. But when you need to make a phone call, it can be expensive. Some countries have mobile plans based on pre-purchased credit making borrowing someone’s telephone troublesome. Payphones have an insatiable thirst for loose change. Thus, plan ahead to use Skype or gather toll-free numbers of hostels or transportation that you may need.

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