We decided to give a try to the local dive operation as we are pretty limited due to the draft of the boat. With 7ft, it is hard to move as the Bahamas can be pretty shallow for miles and miles and miles. If we take the dinghy it gets easier but we cannot go very far. We can now say: Been there, dove that with Bimini Undersea...and will do it myself next time. There is an attitude problem with this operator and it's not worth paying US$89 for a 2 tank-dive. I was not convinced after a first contact as I have seen more warmth from a hungry predator and they were not able to answer adequatly any of my questions concerning the particularity of each dive site. I feel they probably got more questions about the presence of toilets onboard than anything else regarding the dive.
No this is not what I plan to do, but this is what did a gorgeous young swedish woman named Tina. Check out her website from her expedition. I'm short of words to describe what she did. We bumped into her and her friends when we were both looking for information at the Bimini dive center. They were all onboard a yacht called Tango Mango that they rented for a week from Miami.
I'm in Miami for 2 days now. Scheduled to sail to the Bahamas in the next days if weather allows. It is unlikely that I will update this site a lot until my return in mid-january since there is obviouslly very little chance to find an internet kiosk in the middle of the ocean . I wish a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to every reader of this website. A big thanks to all of you who I met during my travel and still reading this. To all friends and family in France: see you in about 3 weeks time.
I just arrived in Dallas a few hours ago and will gladly enjoy a good night sleep after all this time spent in planes and airports. We changed planes in Auckland and amazingly a couple of us (including me) who were sitting in the upper rows of the 767 between Auckland and Sydney were assigned the same seats number in the 747 from Auckland to Los Angeles...meaning that I did the trip in Business Class. And let me tell you that I enjoyed that seat ! Once in Los Angeles: total chaos !
Last day in Sydney. I managed to have lunch with Conor McNeil (Ant PMC chairman) despite the difficulty to reach him as he was moving office. I will be leaving tomorrow morning at 9:20AM and by the magic of time travel (ok, call that international date line ) I will be in Los Angeles 2h20min before my departure. I'm then connecting at 10:27AM to Dallas that I should reach at an ETA of 15:20. If I'm still alive that is, but I think I have seen worth with a Paris-London-Tokyo-Cairns (with a 8h transit in Tokyo) or a Paris-Tokyo-Noumea, so that should be ok. See you in Dallas.
After leaving sheep-land I'm now back in kangaroo-land, in Sydney. I picked up somewhat randomly a backpacker hostel, Glebe Village Backpacker. Originally I wanted to stay around Manly but a hostels I contacted a few days ago were full and I don't mind too much the city for a couple of days. However I plan to move tomorrow to a more luxury hotel as I would not mind some calm and cozy room before spending the next 48h in a plane or in an airport. Good news, the weather is splendid here.
I left to Auckland this morning and I'm now staying at Base Backpackers. I will leave tomorrow afternoon to Sydney. As this is a small world, when I was walking around Queen street I was recognized by Catherine, who I met during my stay in Noumea, New Caledonia, in may 2002 ! Funny that ! She's been in New Zealand for several months and is heading to Hawaii in about 2 weeks.
All the experienced divers were to jump into Deep Six from Paihia Dive, a fast rubber boat that can reach 30kt while all others divers were on the big slow boat. We made it to the Rainbow Warrior in about 1h despite a topside visibility that was as much as the underwater one: about 15m at most due to a very thick myst.
I left Whangarei and I have been driving to Paihia about 100km north. I will be diving the Rainbow Warrior tomorrow with Paihia Dive and will probably go back to Whangarei in the late afternoon. As you can guess it from a previous article, the Rainbow Warrior is rated in the flyers as one of the top 10 wreck dives in the world.
Poor Knights diving again. After the photographic disaster of yesterday, that was mandatory. I buddied up with Richard equipped with a dry-suit. And we did our own thing. We are both lazy divers and like to inspect every square centimeter of rock, so that was perfect. Sea conditions were pretty flat, visibility around 20m, 16C and like yesterday, full of salps.
I have been diving the Poor Knights islands with Dive Tutukaka. To be very original, I will mention what is said in just about every flyer of any company offering diving in those islands: "The Poor Knights are one of the top ten dive locations in the world." (Jacques-Yves Cousteau). This is very difficult to rate such things as you see different things at different places but New Zealand and Australia like very much to say that any place they have is among the top 10 of something (which leads probably to a top 1000 at the end).
While passing by Avis this morning I asked for a quote for taking a small car for the remaining week and got a nice rate that I decreased further with Avis$ummer Drive deal (rent for 6 days, pay for 5), which gives me about $NZ40 /day. I gave the other car back a few hours later and I was able to use my natural charm (hem) to have the lady upgrade me for free (we both turned 30 recently so we had something to talk about ). It was obviouslly better for them (and me) to give me the same car to avoid cleaning it. Deal. And a few hours later I'm 150km north of Auckland in the town of Whangarei which is somewhat a gateway to dive the Poor Knights islands. I'm staying at Bunkdown Lodge ($NZ22).
I made my way to Auckland as I have to give back the car tomorrow. In the morning I went to see the Lady Knox geyser between Rotorua and Taupo as it triggers at 10:15AM. If you ask yourself how can a natural phenomenon trigger at such precise time and frequency, it is only because they drop 2kg of soap inside to ease the surface tension.
New activity in New Zealand. I guess you all know what's bungy, but what about cordless bungy ? mmm.. that's flying ? right. Yesterday an idiot apparently thought he would be able to fly and pushed away the staff at the Taupo bungy site to fell 47m into the river. He was knocked unconscious and rescued but is believed to suffer spinal and internal injuries. He can obviouslly be nominated to the Darwin Awards.
The town of Rotorua does not smell lavender, thym but sulphur. If you don't remember the smell (were you sleeping at school during physics ?), it is basically rotten egg. Why ? Because of geothermal effects. Threads of steam issue from parks, streets or pathways, you will find geysers of steaming water and pools of bubbling mud. Basically the whole town is a giant spa and in case you don't get enough there is a spa in virtually every hotel or motel, if not in the room itself.
I'm checking (again) rental rates in order to get the most of it and I'm stunned by the prices difference quoted depending on your country of residence.
I took the ferry yesterday to Wellington. I was supposed to do some kayak in Picton, but due to a rainy weather and wind gusts around 120kph it was 'delayed'. It could have been a cheap way to sail to Australia though . I had a lift from 2 nice aussies, Joyce and Juanita who I met at Sequoia Lodge and we checked in (after touring the city) at Base Backpackers, a newly opened hostel. It's still under construction but promises to be a mass factory in the near future. It's lacking a bit of charm but facilities are obvious: big screen TV, flat-screen internet terminals, music, nice beds, comfy rooms and showers, fully furnished kitchen, etc...
Yesterday I inherited a splendid Mitsubishi Lancer from Avis to do the road until Kaikoura. Massive difference with the old wreck I had before and for next to half the price as it is a relocation ! Once in town, I went to see the Dolphins Encounter office to see if there was any possibility to do a trip the next day. Unfortunately, everything was booked until December 13 !! There was a stand-by list just in case some people were cancelling or not showing up. I did not add my name on it and continue walking in town. A few minutes later when passing on the other side of the road in front of the shop, the lady ran after me from the shop to tell me that someone just called to cancel for tomorrow. So if I wanted, I could join. You bet ! So today..wake up at 5AM, briefing at 5:40AM and here we go, looking for dusky dolphins around Kaikoura.
I'm right now in an internet shop in Christchurch and I finished updating the pictures. Sorry for the meaningless comments, but it's not that I spent a lot of time on it. I left around 9AM from Kaikoura in order to drop the car before noon as I should get a new one from Avis (relocation deal). Once done, I went straight to Qantas to rearrange my flights to North America. I had to book quickly as it gets pretty busy during xmas. So here is my latest route: Auckland-Sydney-Los Angeles-Dallas-Tampa-Miami-Nassau-Miami-Paris. I will leave Auckland on December 16, Sydney on December 19 and I will do a stopover in Dallas to leave the next day to Miami and Nassau.
I did two dives today with New Zealand Sea Adventures just to check around. You are supposed to see seals around here and that's what they advertise everywhere of course. Seals are as active as koalas. While a koala spend most of his time sleeping in an eucalyptus, a seal spend most of his time sleeping on a rock.
I left Franz Josef early in the afternoon and did not do anything there except watching 'Flowing West', a short glacier movie. The weather was not very inspiring (raining and low altitude clouds) and despite the fact that companies kindly give you rain gear (albeit if you pay NZ$100 for a guided trek) I was not very tempted to go. Two swedish girls I was talking to at the hostel have been in Franz Josef for 2 weeks waiting for a clear day to do the treks around. Oooops...
I made my way to Franz Josef Glacier through Cromwell and Wanaka. After Wanaka, I picked up Peter, a canadian from Vancouver that was hitch hiking in the middle of nowhere. He had 2 different lifts to come barely a few kilometers from Wanaka and was walking for 3.5 hours when I stopped. He was going to Franz Josef as well. I'm staying at Montrose Backpackers (NZ$21) up there and it's pretty cloudy. I will elaborate later about today's journey as I don't have much time right now.