Author Archives: Bill Barber

Oahu – the last stop

Our final stop on this fantastic adventure was the island of Oahu. Both of us had been there before; Liz for a brief visit and I was stationed there ’73-’76.  The Solstice docked early in the morning and our flight outbound was not until later in the evening. We decided to sign up for a tourist trap bus tour of southeast Oahu.

From the Hawaiian monarchy to the attack on Pearl Harbor, an exploration of Oahu’s history reflects the key influences that have impacted all of Hawaii. In 1795, King Kamehameha I led his forces in the legendary Battle of Nuuanu near the scenic precipices of the Nuuanu Pali Lookout. This pivotal battle resulted in the conquering of Oahu and the eventual unification of the Hawaiian Islands under one rule in 1810.

Seven Hawaiian monarchs followed after Kamehameha the Great. King Kamehameha III (Kauikeaouli) permanently established the Hawaiian Kingdom’s government on Oahu. King Kamehameha IV (Alexander Liholiho) and his wife Emma’s summer retreat, the Queen Emma Summer Palace, can still be visited in Honolulu’s Nuuanu Valley today. King Kalakaua, also known as the Merrie Monarch, built the majestic Iolani Palace in Downtown Honolulu. Queen Liliuokalani was Hawaii’s last reigning monarch after American colonists overthrew the Hawaiian Kingdom in a controversial coup in 1893. In 1898, Hawaii became a territory of the United States.

The 1800’s were a time of great change for Hawaii. Christian missionaries became influential after King Kamehameha II (Liholiho) ended the traditional kapu (taboo) system. Many of the historic churches on Oahu are reminders of Christianity’s influence, such as Kawaiahao Church in downtown Honolulu, which was a place of worship for Hawaiian kings and alii (royalty). Soon, new commerce emerging from whaling, sugar and pineapple industries resulted in an influx of western settlers.

As agriculture boomed in the late 19th century, plantation owners found themselves in the midst of a labor shortage. Immigrants from Japan, China, Korea, Puerto Rico, Portugal, Russia and the Philippines arrived to work in the plantations. Today, this mix of ethnicities is the source of Hawaii’s multicultural population. Visitors can step backward in time to explore this era at Waipahu’s Plantation Village. You can also still see the smoke stack of the old Waialua Sugar Mill as you drive toward historic Haleiwa town.

In the early 1900’s, agriculture began to wane and Hawaii’s visitor industry began to grow. In 1901, the Moana Hotel opened on the beach in Waikiki. Today the Westin Moana Surfrider is Hawaii’s oldest resort still in operation. The Halekulani Hotel opened in 1917 as a cottage colony and was rebuilt as a luxury hotel in the 1970s. The Aloha Tower opened in 1926, and was the tallest building in Hawaii for four decades. In 1927 the iconic Royal Hawaiian Hotel opened and was nicknamed the “Pink Palace.”

On the morning of December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor pushing America into World War II. The surprise attack was aimed at the Pacific Fleet of the United States Navy and its defending Army Air Corps and Marine Air Forces. The attack damaged or destroyed 12 American warships, destroyed 188 aircraft and resulted in the deaths of 2,403 American servicemen and 68 civilians.

In 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States. Completed in 1969, the Hawaii State Capitol is located in Downtown Honolulu, behind Iolani Palace.

From the largest museum in the state, Bishop Museum, to the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites, Oahu is home to numerous landmarks and significant points of interest that shed light on the fascinating facets of Hawaii’s past.

Rabbit Island away from Oahu

Rabbit Island

Waimanalo Bay Beach not like Oahu

Waimanalo Bay Beach

Waimanalo Bay Beach

Waimanalo Bay Beach

lighthouse

Makapuu Point Lighthouse

Kaluahole Channel

Kaluahole Channel

Halona Cove

Halona Cove

nuuanu pali pass

nuuanu pali pass

Lookout

Nuuanu Pali Lookout

Hawaiian Chicken

Hawaiian Free Range Chicken

Posted in Hawaii, lighthouse, photography, travel

Bora Bora and Maui

I am combining our stops to Bora Bora and Maui because our stop in Bora Bora shoud be called Poura Poura! It rained hard all day long. We did take a tender from the ship to shore but quickly saw that we would soon resemble drowned rats if we stayed. We got underway early that evening and after five sea days arrived in Maui!

The last time I had been to Maui was in 1975 and I was looking forward to going up to the Haleakala crater.  The island of Maui is the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands. Native Hawaiian tradition gives the origin of the island’s name in the legend of Hawai’iloa, the navigator credited with discovery of the Hawaiian Islands. According to that legend, Hawai’iloa named the island of Maui after his son, who in turn was named for the demigod Maui. The earlier name of Maui was Ihikapalaumaewa. The Island of Maui is also called the “Valley Isle” for the large isthmus between its northwestern and southeastern volcanoes and the numerous large valleys carved into both mountains.

Haleakala Observatory is one of the most important observing sites in the world. Lying above the tropical inversion layer it experiences superb seeing conditions and dominant clear skies. The University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy has managed this site for over 4 decades as a location for conducting dedicated astrophysical experiments. In most cases these are programs that could not be conducted anywhere else on Earth.

The Silversword is an exceptionally rare and endangered plant native only to the island of Maui and the Big Island of Hawai’i (all other occurences being introductions). Silversword is itself a very unusual plant. A very striking silvery-light-green color, this almost metallic looking plant consists of very dense rosettes of yucca type leaves that radiate out from a base. The leaves are thick and taper to a point at the ends. These rosettes can range in size from a few inches for babies to three or four feet for mature healthy adults.

However, what is really strange about Silversword is how it flowers. Silversword will live for 40 to 50 years before flowering once and only once. When it is time to flower the leaves seem to invert and bend upwards and out of the center rises a huge 4 to 6 foot stalk from which radiates hundreds of drooping yellow flowers. The entire result is something that resembles a narrow 6-foot tall mushroom – a very impressive sight. Once the plant has flowered a single time, the entire plant dies.

We left Maui late evening and set sail for Honolulu where our cruise ended. Stay tuned!

Welcome

Welcome

Park Sign

Park Sign

Silver Sword

Silver Sword

Silver Sword

Silver Sword

Observatory

Observatory

Observatory

Observatory

Crater

Haleakala Crater

Crater

Haleakala Crater

Crater

Haleakala Crater

Posted in art and entertainment, Cruise, French Polynesia, Hawaii, Maui

Moorea – Tahiti’s Little Sister

Moorea

Believed to have inspired the mythical Bali Hai from James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific, Moorea is one of the most scenically striking islands in French Polynesia. Despite her immaculate beauty, she is far from unapproachable. Possessing a relaxed vibe and welcoming spirit, Moorea is just as warm and inviting as the Tahitians lucky enough to call this island home.

Located only ten nautical miles from Tahiti, Moorea is easily accessible by ferry or plane from Papeete. This proximity, coupled with the island’s receptive and neighborly nature, makes Moorea a favorite destination for couples, families and even locals. Still, Moorea has managed to maintain its small island feel despite this popularity and the presence of a few internationally branded resorts.

The attraction toward Moorea comes as no surprise; the island is a geographical marvel. Eight voluminous mountain peaks rise from its translucent lagoon, creating a distinctive and rugged silhouette visible from the western coast of Tahiti. Splitting the northern shore are two symmetrical bays: Cook’s (Paopao) and Opunohu Bay. The island is roughly shaped like a heart from overhead; and in the theme of love and romance, Moorea is one of the top honeymoon destinations in Tahiti—second only to Bora Bora.

Moorea is the pride and joy of French Polynesia. She may be considered Tahiti’s little sister, but she steals the spotlight every time. The island is a true reflection of the laidback Tahitian lifestyle and the warm, welcoming character of French Polynesia and its people.

solstice

Celebrity Solstice at anchor

Harbor

Harbor view

docks

View from docks

BOP

Yellow Bird of Paradise

Bali Hai

Bali Hai through the clouds

Tiki

Carved Tiki

 

Posted in Bird of Paradise, French Polynesia, Tahiti, travel

Next stop – Tahiti

Tahiti – Queen of the Pacific

The heart and soul of the South Pacific, Tahiti is the largest in a chain of islands that make up French Polynesia. The name can either refer to the main island or the entire destination. Commonly referred to as The Islands of Tahiti, French Polynesia is a collection of 118 islands and atolls scattered across an impressive nautical surface area the size of Western Europe. Still, these tiny islands—many of which remain uninhabited—make up a total landmass of only 1,600 square miles (4,100 sq. km).

The Locale

You may be wondering, where is Tahiti? The islands are situated halfway between Los Angeles, California and Sydney, Australia. They are in the same time zone as Hawaii and located just as far south of the equator as Hawaii is north. Since the word often conjures up visions of a distant, unspoiled paradise, many assume them to be far away; but in all reality, Tahiti is only eight hours from Los Angeles.

The island of Tahiti is divided into two parts: The larger portion to the northwest is known as Tahiti Nui, while the smaller, southeastern peninsula is known as Tahiti Iti. Tahiti Nui is dominated by three extinct volcanic mountains including Mount Orohena, the tallest in French Polynesia; Mount Aorai, known for its incredible views; and Le Diadème, which appears to crown the island as the rightful queen.

Home to the capital city of Papeete, Tahiti is the economic center of French Polynesia. Tahiti strikes an interesting contrast to some of the more quiet, secluded islands in the region; with a selection of wonderful and convenient resorts available.

The Allure

Papeete is a vibrant and multicultural city with busy boulevards and a bustling harbor. The downtown municipal market, Le Marché, is an exciting place to purchase all things Tahiti including vanilla beans, monoi oil and colorful pareos. Just down the street at Le Centre Vaima is the Robert Wan Pearl Museum, which is a great place to start if you’re hoping to purchase a Tahitian black pearl during your stay. To live like a local, head to Vai’ete Square after sunset. This waterfront promenade comes to life at night when gourmet food trucks, Les Roulottes, open their windows to serve a range of affordable meals including Chinese food, French crépes, steak frites, fresh fish and pizza.

Recreation

Beyond the city atmosphere, Tahiti is also a scenic island with lush landscapes and large abounding waterfalls. Leave the more developed areas behind and you will find shady hiking trails, pleasant beaches and calm waters. This unique juxtaposition makes Tahiti one of the most diverse islands in French Polynesia. We recommend exploring these interior peaks and valleys on a guided hike, ATV or Jeep Safari tour.

Other popular activities include snorkeling, Jet Skiing and surfing. Experienced surfers should visit the famed Teahupo’o and bear witness to one of the world’s most intense waves. Beginners can surf or take lessons at some of the more mellow beaches around the island. You can also enjoy a day of golfing at the Olivier Bréaud Golf Course, one of only two courses in French Polynesia.

Garden

Garden

Garden

Garden

Lotus

Lotus

Ocean going canoe

Ocean going canoe

King Otoo

King Otoo

Religious Marker

Religious Marker

Ancient Head

Ancient Head

Torch Ginger

Torch Ginger

Waterfall

Waterfall

Posted in art and entertainment, Tahiti, travel

Auckland

Auckland stretches over volcanic hills, sitting between the twin Waitemata and Manukau harbours. Often known as The City of Sails, Auckland has more boats per capita than anywhere else in the world. With so many bays, beaches and islands, glistening waters seem to beckon from every point.

Maori people are first thought to have settled in the Auckland region approximately 650 years ago. Auckland would seem to have been a highly sought after area due to its rich and fertile land. The name given by the early Maori for the area, ‘Tamaki’, meaning ‘battle’, would seem to confirm this.

The volcanic cones that are dotted all over Auckland became natural sites for pas, or fortified Maori settlements. Several of the best known lookout areas in Auckland, such as Mount Eden and One Tree Hill, bear the traces of these pas.

Fierce inter-tribal conflict in the 1820s led to there being little organized Maori resistance to European settlement, and by 1840 the British had either beaten or bought out (generally for a few trinkets) the Ngati Whatua tribe.

The onset of systematic European settlement can be traced to 1840. New Zealand’s first governor, Captain William Hobson, chose Auckland as the capital. Hobson decided upon the name Auckland, in honor of his patron and former commander, Lord Auckland (at that time, the viceroy of India). Many of the other place names in Auckland bear the influence of Hobson’s patron. Lord Auckland’s family name was Eden, and a great many parts of the city bear this name.

Auckland is New Zealand’s center of commerce and industry, and is perhaps the most vibrant, bustling and multicultural city in New Zealand. Auckland is the biggest Polynesian city in the world, and this cultural influence is reflected in many different aspects of city life.

Welcome Sign

Welcome Sign

Sky Tower

Sky Tower

Rocky Shoreline

Rocky Shoreline

One Tree Hill

One Tree Hill

View from Mt Eden

View from Mt Eden

View from Mt Eden

View from Mt Eden

Marina

Marina

Maori Statue

Maori Statue

Bayside

Bayside

 

Posted in art and entertainment, New Zealand, photography, travel

Bay of Islands

On the next day of our adventure, we checked out of our hotel and checked on to the Celebrity Solstice to begin our cruise. The Solstice was docked next to the Sydney Opera House and as we set sail (after dark) we were able to get some nice nighttime images, one of which is shown below.

Our first stop was at Bay of Islands, New Zealand.  The Bay of Islands is a subtropical micro-region known for its stunning beauty & history. For those that love beaches and water activities, it’s paradise.

The Bay of Islands is one of New Zealands great holiday destinations – enjoyed by ‘Kiwis’ and international visitors alike. This is authentic New Zealand – both stunningly beautiful and historically significant.

With a sub-tropical climate, you can enjoy beach and water activities, go exploring one of the many nature walks, swim with dolphins, charter a boat to go fishing or to explore the 144 different islands in our bay.

The Bay of Islands was where the first European settlers arrived, and where they forged the first relationships with local Maori – not always a friendly experience! The famous Treaty of Waitangi became the founding document for our new nation, and is celebrated every year here in the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

Each town in the Bay of Islands has it’s own unique culture and lifestyle – from the more up-market lifestyle focus of Kerikeri, to bustling Paihia with its focus on providing a great visitor experience, to the calming historic atmosphere of Waitangi and the Haruru Falls, and the beautiful and sometimes quirky sea-side town of Russell.

Further afield is Kawakawa with its famed Hundtertwasser toilets and Gabriel, its lovingly restored steam train. And you will gain a completely different perspective in Kaikohe, which is the farming and commercial ‘hub’ for the district and has its own Pioneer Village museum.

The Puketi Kauri Forest is a conservation estate just a few minutes by car north of the Bay of Islands. Here you can walk through our Kauri Forests looking as they did when the settlers first arrived. After the loss of much of the native bird life as the result of introduced pests, our native birds are once again returning to thrive in their natural habitat.

The Bay of Islands is a great base for exploring all of the Far North. Further west is the Waipoua Kauri Forest, home of Tane Mahuta – often described as the 2,000 year old ‘Lord of the Forest.’ You can travel north to Cape Reinga – the light-house where the Pacific ocean and the Tasman sea are in collision – the place the ‘spirits’ in Maori legend depart to return to their ancestral home in Hawaiki.

 

Next stop – Auckland!

 

Sydney Opera House at night.

Sydney Opera House at night.

Mother dolphin and calf

Mother dolphin and calf

Tourist Boat with tourists

Tourist Boat with tourists

Random cove

Random cove

Random boat at anchor

Random boat at anchor

Rugged Shoreline

Rugged Shoreline

Beautiful but ruged shoreline

Beautiful but rugged shoreline

Mother Nature at work

Mother Nature at work

Gorgeous scenery everywhere

Gorgeous scenery everywhere

More vistas

More vistas

Cape Brett Lighthouse

Cape Brett Lighthouse

Zane Grey Hole in the Rock

Zane Grey Hole in the Rock

Zane Grey Hole in the Rock

Zane Grey Hole in the Rock

Zane Grey Hole in the Rock

Zane Grey Hole in the Rock

Otehei Bay

Otehei Bay

Me, Liz and Makayla from Australia

Me, Liz and Makayla from Australia

Posted in New Zealand, travel

Sydney – Day Three

Our next day in Sydney was a wonderful day spent touring Sydney from top to bottom. Liz and I and two other couples had arranged a tour with Scott Ricketts. It turns out this was the best thing we could have done. Scott runs a tour business named Your Sydney Guide and you can check out his business and even arrange your own tours at his website here.

As I indicated, Scott took us to as many different areas of Sydney as we could possible fit into one day. This included a stop for lunch at a wonderful sea-side eatery.

Here are some of the sights we saw this day:

A Different view of Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge.

A Different view of Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge.

Cloudy Sydney Harbour from Fairfax Lookout

Cloudy Sydney Harbour from Fairfax Lookout

Farifax Lookout

Farifax Lookout

I had to shoot this because our neighbor loves this eatery.

I had to shoot this because our neighbor loves this eatery.

L-R Mario, Laura, Karen, David, Liz & Me

L-R Mario, Laura, Karen, David, Liz & Me

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Observatory

Sydney Observatory

Posted in art and entertainment, Australia, Sydney, travel

Sydney – Day Two

On the morning of our second day in Sydney we met up with some other folks for an arranged tour to the Blue Mountains. As we got closer to the mountain region it quickly became foggy and overcast. A mist hung in the air but our spirits were not dampened. Although the fog made it hard to see things at a distance, it just meant we had to concentrate on things closer to us. We headed to Scenic World!

Covering an area 60 to 180 kilometres west of Sydney, the Greater Blue Mountains region includes Australia’s most accessible wilderness area. Changing in elevation from near sea level to 1,300 metres, the area covers 1.03 million hectares with dominant geographic features including sandstone plateaux, escarpments and gorges.

The Greater Blue Mountains region has been inhabited by indigenous Australian Aboriginal people for thousands of years. The area protects over 700 known places of Aboriginal cultural and historic significance, and is home to six Aboriginal language groups – Wiradjuri, Gundungurra, Dharawal, Darug, Darkinjung and Wanaruah.

The area consists of eight adjoining conservation reserves and national parks, supporting more than 100 of the world’s Eucalypt species and more than 400 kinds of vertebrates, including mammals, birds and reptiles.

A place where civilization meets wilderness, the region provides a unique blend of conservation and tourism. Visitors are never more than minutes away from the edge of spectacular escarpment, outdoor adventures, great food and wine, shopping or relaxing in at a heritage guesthouse.

In 2000, the Blue Mountains was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List, acknowledging the region’s natural heritage of outstanding universal value.

There is  a 52 degree incline riding the steepest passenger railway in the world, the Scenic Railway. At the bottom we entered a Jurassic rainforest on the Jamison Valley floor with a 2.4 kilometer elevated boardwalk for minimal impact on the environment.

Along the way back into Sydney we stopped at the Featherdale Wildlife Park. Here we were able to experience much of Australia wildlife upclose and personal. Liz was especially thrilled to get her hands on a Koala!

Scenic World

Scenic World

Foggy Blue Mountains

Foggy Blue Mountains

Incline Railway

Incline Railway

Palm

Palm

Valley bottom

Valley bottom

Scenic Cableway

Scenic Cableway

Featherdale Wildlife Park

Featherdale Wildlife Park

Dinner time for Mr. Koala

Dinner time for Mr. Koala

Liz loving on a Koala

Liz loving on a Koala

Black-Necked Stork (I know it is green, but that's the name)

Black-Necked Stork (I know it is green, but that’s the name)

Echnida

Echnida

Komodo anyone?

Komodo anyone?

Pink Cockatoo

Pink Cockatoo

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

Wallaby

Wallaby

Posted in art and entertainment, Australia, outdoor, photography, Sydney, travel

Sydney – Day One

After a 17 hour non-stop flight from Dallas, we landed in Sydney around 6AM Wednesday April 6th.  Obviously is was too early to check in to our hotel/apartment but they had told us we could store our bags there and we could play tourist until check-in time. So after storing our bags, we walked off in the direction of Darling Harbor and Kings Warf. We had signed on for a Harbor Luncheon Tour that left out of Kings Warf and decided our legs could use the exercise after being on the plane that long. We stopped at a little coffee shop/bistro/bakery type of place and got a snack and watched the city come alive with workers scurrying off to work and students headed to classes.

One of the first things we noticed in Sydney was how clean the air was. It was actually revitalizing. The folks in Sydney we a cheerful bunch also. Twice, just to confirm our directions, we randomly stopped people on the street to make sure we were headed in the right direction. In both instances the folks we stopped were most helpful.

There is a lot of construction going on in the Darling Harbor area so apparently the economy is on a rebound. There were lots of tourist type sight seeing boats coming and going. We saw a replica of the HMS Endeavor (Capt Cooks ship), and other monuments throughout the shoreline. Below you can see some of the sights we saw:

 

Cape-Bowling-Green-Lighthouse-web

Cape Bowling Green Lighthouse

Darling-Harbor-construction-web

Replica-HMS-Endeavor-web

Replica HMS Endeavor

Bradleys-Head-Light-web

Bradleys Head Light

HMAS-Sydney-Main-Mast-Memorial-web

HMAS Sydney Main Mast Memorial

SOH-under-bridge-web

Sydney Opera House under bridge

SOH-closeup-web

Sydney Opera House closeup

SOH-with-flag-web

Sydney Opera House with flag

Posted in art and entertainment, Australia, photography, Sydney, travel

Beginning of an Adventure

Liz and I just returned home from a four week long adventure. Over the next few weeks I will endeavor to share our trip with you, providing some details and images of our travels. If you want to make sure that you know when new postings appear simply plug your email into the box on the right where it says “subscribe to blog” and you will get an email when I post new articles. You can opt-out just as easily at any time.

To begin our latest adventure we first had to travel from our home in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina to Sydney, Australia. You do not need to be a student of geography to know that is a long way. In fact it is 9,590 miles and will obviously involve air travel. We began by flying to Dallas, Texas where we boarded a Qantas A380-800 Airbus for a non-stop 17 hour flight to Sydney! This plane is so big it has TWO complete decks. It will hold 525 people in the typical three-class configuration. It was a pure joy to fly on this beast.

When we left Dallas it was (local time) 10:40 PM on Monday April 4th. When we arrived in Sydney it was (local time) 6:30 AM on Wednesday April 6th! Lost a day to the International Date Line!

Pictured below is a Qantas A380-800 Airbus like we flew on. Stay tuned and enjoy our adventure with us!

Qantas A380-800 Airbus

Posted in art and entertainment, Australia, Sydney, travel