California Bill\’s Travel \’n Other Stuff

Travels and occassional rantings of an old guy.

Paradise in the Tuamotus: October, 2008

 What and where are the Tuamotus?  They are a group of about 77 atolls in French Polynesia, south of the equator, about 2,500 miles south and a little east of Hawaii.  They are some 200 – 300 miles north of Tahiti, sprinkled across 10 latitudes and covering a length of 900 miles and a width of 300 miles.  They are considered some of the most remote islands in the world, as well as some of the most dangerous to ship’s navigators.

 

They are atolls, as opposed to “high” islands.  Volcanic in origin, long ago the volcano and surrounding land mass sunk into the sea, leaving the ring reef and a languid inner lagoon.  They are home to some 400 varieties of fantastic, rainbow-hued fish and beautiful coral formations. Some are very large (Rangiroa is the 2nd largest atoll in the world).  Some are mere specks in the vast ocean.

 

Atolls generally have a maximum elevation of 3 or 4 meters, and there are stories of dead fish in trees after terrible storms.  Outside the lagoon, the ocean is thousands of feet deep; inside, depths range to about 100 feet.  Inside the lagoon, the water can be mirror calm, and feature turquoises, blues and greens that dazzle the eyes.

 

We came back to the Tuamotus in October of 2008 to rest, snorkel and relish the complete tranquility of being far, far away from everything.  We visited Rangiroa in 2002, and have wanted to go back ever since.  Our itinerary included Tikehau, Manihi, and Fakarava.    We weren’t disappointed! See our pictures at http://www.flickr.com/photos/calbillstravnstuff/sets/72157608525521115/.

 

Tikehau; The first island on our itinerary, is almost circular, averaging about 26 miles across.  It has a population of about 400, located mostly in the little village of Tuherahera, in the southwestern portion of the atoll.

 

After a one hour flight from Tahiti, we arrived at Tikehau airport and were picked up by Caroline, the proprietor of our lodging for 3 nights.  It is located on a beautiful beach very close to the airport. We loaded our luggage into the back of a Toyota pickup, and climbed up on wooden benches in the back of the pickup.  Caroline was delightful, with a quick smile and very friendly.  We loved our stay at this pension (their version of our B&B’s).  Dinners were top quality.  Fish, lobster, fresh veggies, great desserts.

 

Our bungalow was on a beautiful beach. The deck was great for looking out at the world. The bathroom was complete with a hot water shower and sliding windows and doors.  Very comfortable.

 

We went on a motu picnic, crossing the lagoon and stopping for snorkeling while the guides speared some fish for lunch. Yes, that’s right.  As you snorkel and view the pretty little fishes, “TWAK,” a spear comes hurtling by you and one of the little pretty’s is now lunch. The picnic was great, with barbqued fish, poisson cru, vegetables and the ever present Hinano Beer.

 

Manihi;

The atoll of Manihi is the farthest north we travelled, at latitude 14 south.  The Tahitian Black Pearl was farmed intensively here until a few years ago. Now only about 10 farms survive of the several dozen that once existed.  The village of Turipaoa holds most of the 1500 residents.

 

De-planing at Manihi airport, you can watch people take a few steps, then stop and fumble for a camera.  The airport is – er, ah – “quaint.”

 

Our stay here was impacted by 18-20 knot winds that stayed for three days, except for one little hour break. We were in the water for that and found a large Moray Eel right outside our overwater bungalow.  But due to the winds, all excursions were cancelled except the shuttle to the little village.

 

Fakarava: We saved the best for last.  The atoll Fakarava is part of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere global network, so beautiful is this lagoon.  It is large, second only to Rangiroa, at about 37 miles long and up to 15 miles wide.  Most of the 1,700 inhabitants live in the village of Rotoava, in the northeast corner, where the airport is located. However, we were taken by boat some 60 km,s south to Raimiti (Between sea and sky), a pension on a remote motu in the southeast.  Only 6 bungalows, no electricity or hot water; just what we were looking for.

 

The food here was incredible. Dinner was to lantern and candle light.  Fish, fresh vegetables and dynamite desserts.  Annalee was particularly impressed by the vishyswa and crab bisque. How they do it in such a remote place is beyond us.

 

Our tiny bungalow, simple but comfortable, was open to the world, with balmy tropical breezes bringing the scent of hibiscus and bougainvillea.  Trying to identify a tree, she smelled the flower.  When asked what does it smell like, she said with a sigh, “The South Pacific.”  The cold water shower was refreashing in the tropical heat.  After dinner, a lantern lit the way back to the bungalow, and was our only light until the next morning.  Quickly we were into the spirit of the location, totally relaxed and taking in the gorgeous views of lagoon colors, sunsets and night skies.

 

We didn’t meet any Americans during this trip, but we had a very fun time with the French and Italian honeymooners here at Raimiti.  We laughed and joked with each other’s language deficiencies, and had fun with national rivalries, all in the spirit of fun and comradeship.  One night, astronomy book in hand, we all gathered on the dock.  In the incredible south pacific darkness, pointing and laughing, together we learned the French, Italian and English name for the Milky Way.

 

Our snorkel trips to the pass were amazing, especially the drifts we did in the pass.  In the “fish pond” we got up close and personal with giant Napoleon Wrasse, Moray Eel, and black tipped reef sharks.  The photos will show you what I mean.  http://www.flickr.com/photos/calbillstravnstuff/sets/72157608525521115/

 

We had a great trip to the Tuamotus.  We will go back. It might be our favorite place on earth.

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November 2, 2008 Posted by | Travel | 1 Comment

Galapagos Islands – A National Geographic film; and we are in it!!!

Grinning Sea LionWe have seen the episodes on the nature channels. So we knew about the islands (we thought), their volcanic origins, barren landscapes, unique flora and fauna. And of course, Charles Darwin’s (or, Chuckie D, as we came to call him) famous visit.  Origin of the species, and all that. So to actually see the nature; to walk among iguanas, sea lions and hundreds of mating birds becomes an incredible experience. Topping that off with a snorkel during which we were besieged by a score of sea lion pups gone wild makes for one wonderous week.  Please view some pictures at http://www.flickr.com/photos/calbillstravnstuff/sets/72157600219089853/.

The islands are 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. Even though they are on the equator, the water, fed by currents from ALand Iguanantarctica, can be cool; in our case, 19 – 21 degrees centigrade. Wetsuits required. Ambient temps were mostly in the 20’s, a little warmer away from the shore on some of the islands. Our home for a week was Linblad’s MS Islander with about 40 other travellers in search of nature. We were ecstatic most of the time, and when gathered, laughed and talked over one another at the wonders that had been seen that day.

This was not a restful or langorious vacation. Lots of work. After a wake up call at about 6, we embarked on our twice a day (sometimes thrice) excursions ashore or snorkeling. Our nature hikes were sometimes strenuous over rocky ground or pahoehoe type lava, that wanted to twist ankles and shread shoes.  Our excursions were in maximum groups of 16. We could not stray from the paths, nor go off on our own. Boats are scheduled so that too many do not arrive at a given sight at once.

We never walked very fast. Too much to see. Every few steps something to gaze at, photo and wonder about. We stepped over sea lions nursing theiSoaring Albatrossr young. Stepped over and around nesting boobies and albatross. We were toe to nose with iguana, both land and marine.  Our guides were excited, extremely knowledgeable and committed, and always very interesting.

One morning, about 0830, all hands were invited to the bridge. We were about to cross the equator, which is a big deal on the ocean. Annalee happened to be standing at the right place, and the captain told her to blow the ship’s horn. We all watched the GPS count down, and when it hit 00 degrees, 00 minutes, amid great cheers and whoops, Annalee pressed the button for a long blast. No one felt the bump as we passed over the line.

In the water, we swam and snorkeled with numerous fish species, but most thrilling were the penquins, sea turtles, flightless cormorants, and oh my, sea lions. On one of our snorkels we founds ourselves amidst 15 or so 6 moMarine Iquananth old sea lion pups “gone wild.” It was like we stumbled into a nursery and the teacher was gone.Blue Footed Booby

They swooped and swirled around us, blowing bubbles and teasing us with headlong rushes, swerving at the last moment. They tugged on our flippers, jumped over us, looked at us up side down, and generally went bananas, to our great delight. It was one of the most incredible snorkeling experiences we have ever had, and will live in our memory forever.

At another site, during a dry landing, we saw several sea lions surfing in the waves. The wave was back lit by the low sun. The panga (zodiak) lingered so we could watch the surfing dudes for a while. The hike itself, through tough lava, was exhilarating. Great numbers of nesting Albatross some close enough to touch (we didn’t).

Soaring frigates, albatross, boobies, Galapagos Hawk, and the beautiful swallow tail gull, among others, continued to chew up memory on  the camera card. Mockingbirds walked and ran along with us on the paths. Lava lizards watched as we almost stepped on them. Boobies and albatross with eggs and some with chicks, were in our path, or within touching distance. They ignored us and we tried not to disturb.  Finches and warblers continued to put the serious birders in gleeful bliss.  A warbler’s nestFrigatebird with feeding chicks was eye level along a path. Frigates with their red pouches inflated trying to attract Ms Right. Boobies and Albatross in their intricate, beautiful courtship dances, bills clicking and clacking.Swallow Tailed Gull

On one of our walks, we crossed a low saddle to a very private beautiful beach. We saw sea turtles and their nests, with the tell tale tracks of tiny turtle foot prints as they scurried to the ocean, probably the previous night. In the nearby surf, swarms of sharks and rays congregated for that night’s anticipated meal. The circle of life, I guess.  The babies hatch at night, people are not allowed there at night.

On a beach we walked amid dozens of sleeping and nursing sea lions. A mother would come out of the surf barking loudly. A small pup would rise up from slumber, yapping wildly. They would hear and run towards each other, where the pup began nursing.

During the week, a fun guy from New Zealand, nick-named Scruffie, filmed our escapades. The DVD was available at the end of the cruise for $50. We have watched it 4 times now, and it is loaded in the DVD player. It is our own National Geographic episode, and we are in it!!

On board the Islander, we enjoyed wonderful food and several educational presentations. But mostly, we enjoyed getting to know many new friends, all of us in wide eyed wonder about the fantastic things we had seen.  A Galapagos trip is not for everyone. No laying around on fine sugary beaches with drinks with little umbrellas in them. It is intensely nature oriented in a fragile area strictly regulated by the Galapagos Park Service. If you love nature, this should be on your list.  You can find a much more detailed report of the week at http://www.fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=6&tid=34998911.

May 17, 2007 Posted by | Travel | Leave a comment

Target – St Petersburg, Russia, with many stops along the way!

Nyhavn, CopenhagenOk, this was our first large ship (1600 passengers, 700 crew) cruise and we were a little trepidatious about it.  On previous trips, we avoided contact with those “cruise hordes” and planned daily activities around them.  Now here we were, part of “them.”  But we should not have worried.  It was fantastic.  We were on the Celebrity Century, a ship that supposedly maintains a higher than normal level of service. Service was superb.To view pictures of this trip, please visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/calbillstravnstuff/sets/72157594258507060/ .  There are 108 pictures, but if you wanTallinn's Viro Gatet to see a couple hundred more, I’ll be glad to oblige.Amsterdam Canal

Our target was St Petersburg, Russia, which we have wanted to see for some time.  The itinerary also took us to Copenhagen (Denmark), Stockholm (Sweden), Helsinki (Finland), Tallinn (Estonia), and Oslo (Norway).  We sailed from and returned to Amsterdam, so we got to return to a city we liked very much. They were celebrating Rembrandt’s 400th birthday. We enjoyed the Scandinavian capitals, especially Copenhagen, where we lunched (above) on Nyhavn, near Hans Christian Anderson’s home, and Stockholm, where there were scores of children out and about.  Tallinn was a medieval jewel to behold.

As for the ship, well all that we had heard about the vast quantities of fine food still did not prepare us for the daily gourmet dining experience.  It was truly amazing.  Thankfully, they had a wonderful gym; otherwise they would have needed a crane to debark me.  (Debark – a nautical term for getting off the boat.)  I actCenturyually debarked a few dollars FROM THEM in their small but efficient casino.

We had been mysteriously upgraded from the engine room to a stateroom with a sliding glass door to a cute little veranda. Magical.  The ocean and the bourbon were both smooth. Three of the dinners were formal, requiring tuxedos, etc., three others coat and tie, and, well, you get the picture.  We loved it.  Baltic Sea Midnight

Shortly into the cruise it dawned on us (excuse the pun) that it really never gets dark. We awoke with sun streaming through the curtain, and jumped up fearing we had overslept our shore departure time.  Throwing open the curtain, we saw sunlight on the tops of trees and houses on the island in the Swedish archepelago we were passing.  Looking at the clock, it was only 4 am.  The sun had been up for about ½ an hour.  It didn’t set until 11:30.  It never really got dark.  We were at 60 degrees north, and stayed around that latitude most of the trip.

St Petersburg is said to be mOnion Domed Church on Spilled Bloodore European than Russian. Peterhof, with all of its fountains and gardens, rivals, and some say exceeds, the grandeur of Versailles.  Catherine’s Palace is remarkable, even more noteworthy in that most of the rooms have been restored after WWII, when the retreating Germans inflicted horrendous damage on the buildings and their contents.  The churches are stunning with their onion domes and ornate forms of architecture.  In St Peter and Paul Cathedral, we got a special treat in a separate room when 4 priests sang a Capella for us, bringing tears to our eyes.  All very impressive.

We saw Swan Lake ballet in the evening.  We had a Russian feast of a lunch, complete with vodka that tasted more like pure grain alcohol.  And the Hermitage, the world famous museum, while a glorious thing to behold, was way too crowded to truly enjoy.  Our little tour group of 11 became instant friends, and we had a lot of fun with our guide Elena.

With all the grandeur of the attractions we saw, there were no children. (“Oh, no, they gPeterhof Fountainso to the country for the summer!” said Elena.) And  maybe it’s just us, but we didn’t sense that the Russians were a very happy lot.  And getting in and out of the dock area was pure  cold war – esque.  We felt friendship and warmth in all of the countries we visited, except Russia. 

We saw many wondrous things, and visited cities we we will never return to, including St Petersburg.  But we would like to return to Sweden and Norway some day.  They seemed a very happy lot with some wonderful looking countryside to see.  Hopefully we’ll make it.

We finished our trip off with North Sea mussels in a white wine cream sauce in the Gran Plac of Brussels.  For desert, Belgian waffles with ice cream and chocolate sauce.  Then home.  We have lots of wonderful memories after a really great trip.

August 29, 2006 Posted by | Travel | 4 Comments

Finally, a little about our New Zealand Trip!

I know, you’ve been on the edge of your seats waiting for this.  Well, I am not totally organized on this stuff.  I just got around to putting some pictures up on Flickr (please see http://www.flickr.com/photos/calbillstravnstuff/sets/72157594209116164/).  In the meantime, we’ve been on some other trips, including New York, Las Vegas, and a Baltic Cruise, which is my next blog/flickr project. So if I get organized, maybe I’ll have the Baltic thing up by Christmas.  Don’t hold your breath.

So you all know that we went to New Zealand in Feb/Mar of 2006. Bill came off the ice in February, and he and his Antarctic friends were hanging around various parts of New Zealand getting used to colors, particularly green, and smells, after being at McMurdo for 5 months or so.  We were fortunate enough to meet several of these wonderful people, and consider it an honor.

So Bill and friends showeBill drives a Hagglundd us around some, leaving us on our own for part of the time.  He met us at the Christchurch airport where we toured the Antarctic Center.  He proved a wonderful guide, as he explained the exhibits in great detail only because of his first hand knowledge.  Our ride in the Hagglund was special, as he drives this vehicle at times on the ice fields of McMurdo.annalees-merino.JPG

Akaroa is a special little seaside town that has a unique charm.  A short trip out of Christchurch.  Many “ice people” were de-toxing there.  An idealic retreat from the world.  We visited the Arts Center, Christchurch Museum, and Botanical Garden whilst in Christchurch.  Then we took  off in our rented car for The Wilderness Lodge in Arthurs Pass. (No, it was not particularly hard to learn to drive on the left.  We just don’t talk about a few little events.)

Up on  Arthur’s Pass, we had an encounter with an operating sheep ranch, and Annalee adopted one.  on-top-of-fox-glacier.JPGWhen they are held correctly, they go completely limp.  The dogs are incredible to watch.  From there, to the west coast town of Hokitika and southern alps village of Fox Glacier.Doubtful sound

We helicoptered Fox Glacier and hiked to its terminus, where Bill retrieved some 1000 year old ice. (It didn’t taste any different).  The helicopter ride was awesome and we flew over two glaciers; Fox and Franz Joseph.  We landed on the neve of Fox Glacier for photo ops.

Then over Haast Pass to Queenstown, where fortunately, the wind caused a halt to bungy jumping.  Otherwise, I would have been challenged.  Our next few days was spent in Fjiordland, a magical, mystical place of fiords and sounds and snow capped mountains and thousands of waterfalls.  I think the highlight of our trip was the overnight on Doubtful sound, where it was so quiet you could hear the dolphins talking. 

Later in Dunedin, and the Otago Peninsula in SE New Zealand, we saw Royal Albatross and Ooops!molting penguins and very curious rocks and gorged on scrumptuous meals, one after another.  After two weeks on South Island, where we endured cold, rain, and wind, we flew to Auckland, and drove north to the Bay of Islands.  At last, warm again. 

Our apartment in Pahia was terrific, overlooked the bay and Russel.  We toured Cape Reinga, the northern most point of New Zealand, where the Tasman and Pacific Oceans meet.  It is also the place where the souls of Maori depart for their mythical home land.  Our jaunt on 90 mile beach was great, as was the boogy board ride down a 60 meter sand dune.  Mom and I did it once; Bill went up and down thrice. The surf is dangerous, and rental car companies don’t want their cars on the beach.  We dug up Pipi’s, a mussel like shell fish on 90 mile beach, and dined on them back at the apartment that night.

We ended our trip in Auckland, where we took care of some business and Bill got his suit for the big wedding that has since ocurred.  We loved New Zealand. We loved the humor and character of the kiwi spirit.  We loved the natural beauty and wild feeling of South Island.  We want to go back.  Three weeks is not enough.

For more pictures, just click on the flickr link to the right, or click on http://www.flickr.com/photos/calbillstravnstuff/sets/72157594209116164/.  You might also want to check into Bill’s blog, www.elementarypenguin.com.  He will be starting his third season in August.

July 23, 2006 Posted by | Travel | Leave a comment

Where in the World is Parkfield?

Parkfield, California.  PopulatiCity Limitson 18; Elev. 1,580 feet.  The Earthquake Capital of the World. 

Says so right here on the combination newspaper/menu at the Parkfield Café.  There have been four editions of this newspaper/menu since 1989.  Things don’t change much in Parkfield.

A few miles west of  I-5, at the junction of State Routes 41 and 46, there is a little road that goes off straight to the north.  “Parkfield, 15 miles,” says the sign.  Another sign warns of roaming cattle.  The first thing you see is a cattle guard crossing the singlWatch for Cattlee lane road.

(This junction, of course, is famous.  Or infamous, more appropriately.  It was here in 1955 that James Dean met his tragic death in an auto accident that has never been fully explained.  There is a sign nearby:  “James Dean Memorial Junction.”  I’m kind of sorry he got a junction named after him.  I mean it could have been a highway or bridge or something more significant.)

The road goes straight north for about 8 miles through absolutely flat grazing land.  According to the map in the Parkfield Café Newspaper/Menu, you are driving exactly on top of the San Andreas Fault, the most famous fault line of all, I suppose.  This fault line is traced from down Mexico way all the way up past San Francisco, and of course is the fault that produced the famous San Francisco earthquake of 100 years ago April, and more recently, Loma Prieta, in 1989.  As you drive the road, you realize that on your left is the Pacific Plate, advancing inexorably north ever so slowly.  On your right is the North American Plate.  Off a short Peaceful Faultdistance on both sides are low hills, still tinted green from a very wet spring, and covered with majestic Live Oak trees.

This little valley, The Cholame Valley, was settled in 1854 by settlers from nearby coastal towns who shared the unfenced valley with a myriad of wildlife, including grizzly bear, so says the newspaper/menu.  The cattle ranches established then are pretty much unchanged 150 years later.  In the summer, the hills turn brown and the daytime temperatures are stifling, many days over 100.  Jackrabbits carry canteens, say the locals.  But now, in the afterglow of spring, it is beautiful.  If you were to sell your ranch, you need to dGoing Ino it in the springtime.

The road actually has a center line for a while after it crosses intoMonterey County, but soon reverts back to single lane as it winds its way into low but rugged hills.  The Oak trees are very thick.  It is peaceful and beautiful. At a bridge, with Parkfield ½ mile away, a sign announces that you will be leaving the Pacific Plate and entering the North American Plate.  Watch your step, please. The little stream, with a trickle of water in it, looks tranquil enough.  And then you are in Parkfield.                                                                         

The Parkfield Café, as you might guess, serves up a variety of burgers, steaks, and ribs, all with great helpings of beans and fries.  Apple pie ala-mode is their house specialty.  A sign hanging from the ceiling says, “If a quake starts to shake, get under a table and finish your steak.”  In addition to the café, there’s a 4 room Parkfield Inn, a 1 room Parkfield School, not much left of the Parkfield General Store, and a well-maintained Rodeo Grounds, around which most of the campers stayed, including me.  I was here for the

9th Annual Mothers Day Weekend Bluegrass Festival.

There were scores of campers, RV’s, tents and other assorted vehicles centered around the rodeo grounds.  There was a rodeo two weeks ago, and the aromas left by various forms of wandering livestock lingered in the air and in the grounds.  Watch where you step, Luther, I heard one mother admonish.  But there were flush toilets, an unexpected luxury, and incredibly, a free public shower, not necessarily hot.  Nailed uLost Highwayp on a beautiful Valley Oak was a hand-painted sign that said, “Park under a tree at your own risk.  Limbs do fall.”

Bands played hourly on stage from about 10 am to 10pm daily from Thursday thru Sunday.  (I was only there Friday and Saturday.)  But the real reason one goes to one of these things is the jamming that goes on most of the day and night in the campgrounds and parking lots.  Yes I watched a few bands, especially Lost Highway, my current favorite group (well, except for Alison, of course).  And of course I slept and ate.  But there was jammin’ until well after midnight and into Saturday morning.

What is jamming, bluegrass festival style?  These campgrounds are inhabited by hundreds of really good musicians (and not so good ones, like me) playing acoustical instruments such as guitars, banjos, dobros, mandolins, fiddles, stand up bass and a few other weird looking things. Please, nothing electric.  They congregate in scattered little groups around a trailer, tent or lantern and just play.  You can walk around, guitar in hand, wander up to a group and start playing along.  It goes on for hours.  You might hear a few first names as people acknowledge your presence with a nod, but its just play, play, play. Not much is said between tunes (A tune is a song without words).  Somebody starts pickin’ and everyone just picks it up and joins in.  If you know words to songs, you are encouraged to sing out, which I do. Conversation goes something like this:  “Gravel Yard. G.”  “In C?”   “No, G”  “Got it. D.”   “No, G!”  or  “You came in a little early on that A minor.”  “Well, at least I came in.”

About 2 am I lay down in my SUV.  The still night air carried the far off sound of banjos and guitars playing sometimes recognizable tunes.  Every so often, in the way-off distance, a cow in the adjacent field bawled out loudly.  The light from a full moon filtered through the Oak trees, casting a shadowy blue lunar glow to the surroundings. The faint odor of the rodeo grounds worked its way into the van.  I smiled myself into a peaceful sleep, only vaguely conscious of the distant music.

About 9 am, after a pre-dawn walk featuring a conversation with a couple of horses, and a post dawn nap, I finished off two really thick peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a beer from my cooler, ran into the fiddle player from last night and struck up a tune. Soon we had drawn other sleepy eyed but eager-to-play jammers.  Life is good!

Click on http://www.flickr.com/photos/calbillstravnstuff/sets/72157594213179590/ to view pictures of my Parkfield trip.  The jammin’ pictures are from some Saturday night jam sessions I go to accassionally. Didn’t seem right to try a flash photo at our late night Parkfield sessions. Thanks for viewing.

June 21, 2006 Posted by | Travel | Leave a comment

Why California Bill?

For my very first blog site, I chose the name “California Bill.” Why?
Let me back up. I have wondered about doing a blog for some time, but like many, wasn’t sure what I wanted to accomplish. I didn’t want to get into political or social commentary. Plenty of people do that already. I did want to somehow share our travel Meet California Billadventures with friends, family and other interested travelers.
Then there was the technical issue. I mean I can find my way around a keyboard ok, but tech wizard I am not. Then I learned about WordPress, and here I am. At least this is the first excursion into cybertalk. I hope there’ll be many more. We’ll see.
One of the first things they ask you is your blog name. That is a serious question, not to be answered lightly. So how’d I come up with this name? We recently returned from 3 weeks in New Zealand. I intend to file trip reports and pictures on that trip later. But for now, lets stay on point. Which is the name.
We arrived late one soggy afternoon at the west coast town of Fox Glacier Village after a long, wet drive from Arthur’s Pass, via Hokitika. We checked into the Te Weheka Hotel, and were directed to our room. What?!? The sign on the door said “The California Bill Room.”
Ok, so I’m Bill and I’m from California. Boy, this hotel is alright. Pretty nice. Then we noticed that the other rooms were also named. And the names had the ring of local historical figures. Could it be that there was a California Bill in Fox Glacier Village’s past, and the room was coincidentally assigned to me? Ummhhh!
I checked with the desk clerk, who seemed to be genuinely surprised at the connection. Coincidence? Well, maybe. So who was California
Bill, anyway. Here is an excerpt from the written blurb we found in the room.
Many of the gold diggers who rushed to the West Coast during the 1860’s were known to each other only by nicknames, based upon their first names plus references to physical attributes, occupation or place of origin. Among them was California Bill, known for his earlier experience on the California goldfield which distinguished him from Liverpool Bill, Maori Bill, Bill the Packer and all the other Bills who followed the rushes.
As the gold resource dwindled late in the century, California Bill laid down his pick and shovel to take up oars and become a ferryman. He chose one of the worse places possible, near the mouth of the Cook River where water from the Fox Glacier finally reaches the sea. The river was often flooded to a dangerous level and Bill’s boat was always leaky, but he earned a reputation as a ferryman who could be relied upon for a safe crossing, day or night.
So ok. California Bill of Fox Village, New Zealand, c. 1880, got around. He was resourceful, and apparently reliable, leaky boat and all. OK, I like that. A tip of the hat and a lift of the glass to the Fox Glacier California Bill of years ago. I hope his worldly travels were as rewarding as mine have been.

April 23, 2006 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | 2 Comments