Zurich

The next stop on my three weeks of travel was the beautiful city of Zurich, Switzerland. I spent two days here, with one of the days being a side trip to Jungfraujoch, but more on that later.

Accommodation was at the ibis Airport Hotel. The cost was reasonable at $70 CDN, although the rooms were rather simple, but the beds were comfortable.

Zurich is Switzerland’s largest city at 408000 people. Switzerland has a population of 8.2 million people. Before we take a look at Zurich let’s look at a bit of history of Switzerland and how Zurich came to be.

Switzerland’s history is rather young. Switzerland was inhabited by the Gauls Raetians and was under Roman rule in the 1st century BC. The Gallo-Roman culture was combined with German influence during 235-284 AD time period. The Swiss Confederation was founded in 1291 as a defensive alliance among three cantons (similar to states or provinces). Other localities joined the original three cantons over the years. The Swiss Confederation became independent of the Holy Roman Empire in 1499. The constitution of 1848 replaced the confederations with a centralized federal government. This constitution was modified again in 1874. Switzerland’s sovereignty and neutrality have long been honoured by the major European powers and the country was not involved in either of the two world wars. Switzerland did not become a European Union member until 2002, but maintains its own currency.

Zurich has an extensive tram network that would make many other cities jealous. The trams run every 6 minutes and are very punctual. This keeps traffic extremely light in the city as most people take public transport. Other cities that I have visited that have had great success with trams are Amsterdam, and Melbourne. Two cities that I’ve visited that used to a great tram network before the 1950’s rush to build automotive highways were Auckland, New Zealand and my home town Calgary, Canada. The mayor of Auckland even ordered the removal of some of the tram lines in the middle of the night! It’s a shame because these two cities are absolutely plugged with traffic.

Zurich is an extremely wealthy city, and Switzerland is also an extremely wealthy country with a large population working white collar jobs such as Google (3000 people in Zurich alone), fine quality jewelery and watches, chocolate, and banking and finance.

Zurich straddles both sides of the Limmat river and has many bridges that offer fantastic views, and a beautiful viewpoint from Lindenhof Park. Another wonderful spot for photographs is Grossmunster church, a Romanesque-style Protestant church, which was built between 1100 and 1220 AD.

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Check back shortly for the final installment of my trip; a trip to Jungfraujoch, a notable saddle in the Bernese Alps, connection the two peaks of Junfrau and Monch.

2018-05-23 – US Route 66 Day 7

Today we drove 350 miles from Vega, Texas to Grants, New Mexico. We ended up staying at The Super 8, which was a horrible hotel. We had no working air conditioner, no hot water, bed bugs, and no fire alarm. We saw the following sights today:

  • Route 66 Motel, Tucumari
  • Cactus RV Park, Tucumari
  • Tee Pee Curious, Tucumari
  • Town House Motel, Tucumari
  • Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumari
  • Motel Safari, Tucumari
  • Vista Gas Station, Tucumari
  • La Cita Flowers, Tucumari
  • Odeon Theatre, Tucumari
  • Quality Tire, Tucumari
  • Restored Gas Station, Tucumari
  • Route 66 Sculpture, Tucumari
  • Route 66 Museum, Tucumari
  • Ruins, Newkirk
  • Cuervo Church, Cuervo
  • Blue Hole, Santa Rosa
  • Joseph’s Bars & Grill, Santa Rosa
  • Club Café Sign, Santa Rosa
  • Comet II Restaurant, Santa Rosa
  • Musical Highway, Albuquerque
  • Premiere Motel, Albuquerque
  • Nob Hill District, Albuquerque
  • Route 66 Diner, Albuquerque
  • Triangle Substation, Albuquerque
  •  Kimo Theatre, Albuquerque
  • Dog House Drive In Signn, Albuquerque
  • Old Town, Albuquerque
  • San Felipe Church, Albuquerque
  • Monterey Non Smokers Motel, Albuquerque
  • El Vado Motel, Albuquerque
  • Westward Ho Hotel Sign, Albuquerque
  • Dead Mans Curve, Laguna
  • Cemetery, Budville
  • Old Town, Cubero
  • Gas Station, Cibola
  • Santa Maria Mission, San Fidel

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Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

This weekend I ended up visiting the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary with my friend Hadrian. Check out some of his amazing photos on Instagram. His handle is “hadrianrobinson”. He has taken some of my favorite photo’s that I have ever seen.

I had the opportunity to see owls, deer, ducks, geese, and even a skunk. In the morning I even got to see a half moon in perfect clarity. I’ll just jump straight to the chase and you can see some of my photos.

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Thailand – Day 7 & 8 – Koh Samui

My flight was at 8:10am so I had to wake up quite early (5:30am). I had breakfast at the hotel buffet, which was a delicious omelette, lots of bacon, roasted tomatoes, some nice cheese, and some coffee (real coffee, none of that instant stuff I’ve been having at most hotels).

I proceeded to walk to my gate, which was about a 20 minute walk from the hotel. Security is very quick and well organized at the airport. On my way to the gate I decided to use the washroom and then something funny happened… you know how we take it for granted that there is toilet paper in every stall in the bathrooms in North America… yeah my luck ran out for the first time here… I was looking around and couldn’t find any and I thought to myself what the heck am I going to do. I then left my stall and was about to leave when I noticed a single roll with a sign above it near the sink. The sign says it’s to limit consumption of toilet paper… I wouldn’t agree because I took 4 times as much as I needed because I didn’t want to have to go back for seconds.

The flight to Koh Samui was on time and was very smooth. I took a time lapse video of the takeoff and landing of the flight. During the flight I was even served a real meal, even though the flight was only 45 minutes long; similar and just as impressive as my experience with Qantas in 2016 when I was in Australia.

After landing in Koh Samui I rented a Nissan Micra from National Car Rental for about $200 for the three days. I did this over renting a motorcycle for a variety of reasons; it was supposed to rain, and I didn’t want to die. The fatality rate on the roads in Thailand, and the rest of Southeast Asia is phenomenally high!

I drove around the entire island and stopped numerous times to see a bunch of temples, two mummified monks, a hike to a waterfall, and to eat some delicious Pad Thai.

One important thing that I have to mention that completely makes me sick to my stomach is the animal trekking that occurs all over Thailand, as well as the rest of Southeast Asia from what I’ve read. Today I saw a baby elephant chained up next to its mother doing a circuit at a trekking place called Na Mueang Safari Park. The elephants were miserable. Please don’t support any of these trekking places if you end up visiting Thailand. Even Bangkok Airways announced prior to landing I Koh Samui that they don’t support it and recommend to not partake in the activities.

i then drove to the resort I was going to be staying at for the next two nights; Bandara Resort & Spa, an Asian themed boutique resort. The check in procedure was amazing; I was greeted with a cool refreshing towel soaked in essential oils, and presented a delicious drink.

In the evening I had some Tom Yum soup, and was still hungry so I walked across the street to a pizza shop, which was delicious!

I ended the evening watching a fire show at CoCo Tams, which is known for its night life on the beach, which was an incredible experience especially with the great music!

The next day was a day of relaxation by the pool and on the beach. I even went for a traditional Thai oil aromatherapy massaged for 450 baht ($18)

In the evening I walked to the night market near CoCo Tams to check out what was for sale. You could purchase almost anything you could think of; $0.25 socks, $1 underwear, $50 knockoff Bose speakers, knickknacks, etc.

I then relaxed at CoCo Tams listening to the music before calling it a night at around midnight.

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September 3rd 2016 – New Zealand Day 14

Today I had a nice lazy start to the day. I woke up around 8:00am without an alarm clock. I had turkeys “gobbling” to wake me up instead. I worked on my blog, made breakfast, and had coffee, before driving about one kilometre to the Waitomo glow worms.

Having rented my camper through a company called THL I was given free entry to any of the glow worm caves. I had lots of time so I decided to visit all three of them.
The first one, Ruakuri Cave, or “den of dogs” was first discovered around 400-500 years ago when the Maori discovered wild dogs and followed them to the cave entrance, where the wild dogs were trying to make their home.
The cave entrance was used by the Maori as a burial site, and is thus a sacred area that has now been protected. The cave was originally open to the public from 1904 until 1988, when it was closed due to a legal and financial dispute. It was reopened in 2005. A man-made entrance was built between 2003 and 2005 with an impressive spiral drum entrance, so that the sacred original entrance would not be used. This also make it the only wheelchair accessible cave in the Southern Hemisphere.
The cave tour started the amazing decent down this engineering marvel of a spiral entrance. I believe the height was approximately 20 metres tall, but don’t quote me on that.
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The tour then took the group through a maze of caves that had heights between 2 metres to nearly 20 metres tall. It was absolutely amazing. There were glow worms spread out in different areas of the caves.
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The limestone formations in the caves occurred when the region was still under the ocean, approximately 30 million years ago. The caves began forming when earth movement caused the limestone bend and nickel under the ocean and rise above the sea floor. As the limestone was exposed to the air it cracked and weakened allowing for water to flow through, slowly dissolving the limestone over millions of years, forming the huge caves.
The cave formations; stalactites (grow on the top) and stalagmites (grow on the ground) grew from water dripping from the ceiling or flowing over the walls leaving behind limestone deposits.
Glow worms are various groups of insect larvae and adult larviform females that glow through bioluminescence.
I then visited the Aranui cave, opened in 1911, which had more cave formations, some even more grand than the ones in the Raukuri caves! The Aranui cave didn’t have any glow worms though.
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The last cave was the original Waitomo cave, opened in 1889! This cave tour was really special. It felt like something out of a movie. The tour takes you through the caves, which people over the last 125 years have unfortuneatly ruined most of the cave formations. The tour gets very special after about 200 metres, because you then board a boat in the dark, which the guide uses guide wires to guide the boat through this most amazing array of glow worms. There was thousands upon thousands of glow worms and the reflection of them on the water below was out of this world. Sadly no photography is allowed in this cave out of respect of the Maori’s.
After the glow worm caves I decided to drive about a half hour away to Mangapohue Bridge, and Marakopa Waterfalls. Managapohue is the remains of what was formerly a cave, but mostly fell down.
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I decided to camp at the same spot as last night because it was nice, and close by. When I parked my camper the campsite manager Shelly came over and we talked for about an hour and she said to come over tomorrow morning and she’ll show me how the boat and the plane history and how they came to be at this site.
I had a fairly early night and ended up going to sleep at around 8:30pm.
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August 26th 2016 – New Zealand Day 6

Today I woke up at 8:00am. I was very tired because of having to move my camper in the middle of the night, and the constant wind. I prepared a smoked salmon with egg sandwich for breakfast before getting on the road.

My journey today took me along a nice and slow route along the Coromandel coast. The views were spectacular! I stopped in the town of Thames at a McDonald’s to download some more podcasts and to catch up with a few people, before slowly meandering my way along the coastline.
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I arrived at the town of Hahei, where I parked my camper and went on an hour return trip to Cathedral Cove. I ran into my friend Anne, who I’ve been hanging out with for the past few days, who was on the Kiwi Adventures tour of New Zealand! The archway at Cathedral Cove was amazing!
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I spent quite some time at Cathedral Cove before heading my way back to my camper. I then headed to Hot Water Beach, which is a naturally occurring geothermal area on a beach. Hot steam rises up through the sand and brings the water to a temperature of 45-60 degrees Celsius! I met a randomly family there with a shovel and helped them out. Within a half hour we had a pretty decent sized pool where we could all sit in and relax in the hot water. It was pretty amazing!
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The man of the family, Richard, invited me for some beers at his house at 8:30pm, and gave me the address. I had a shower, and worked on my blog until around 8:00pm and then went looking for his house, but was unable to find it. I kind of felt bad, but it was time to find a place to sleep. I drove a half hour south to a small little sleepy town called  Tairua. There was three other campers where I was, and I found a good spot and parked for the night.
BAM!!! My camper was hit by another vehicle at around 10:30pm when I was trying to sleep. By the time I had come to my senses the vehicle had taken off. My left rear  reflector was broken and the bumper pushed in a bit. I pushed the bumper back out, but the reflector will need to be replaced. I’ll look into this tomorrow because I don’t want the rental company to know about this.
Tomorrow I’m off to Rotorua, which is what I’ve been looking forward to for the whole New Zealand portion of my trip.

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August 12th 2016 – Outback Tour Day 3 of 10

Today we got to wake up a bit later than usual; this time we had to be on the road by 8:00am. I woke up at around 6:00am, and did my blog on my laptop, and then took photo’s of the sunrise. Alex asked me if I had vegemite before and I said yes but I thought it was disgusting. She said most people do it incorrectly, and that I should try it the way that she does it. She said the trick is butter, and way less than you think you need. I tried some and I liked it quite a bit actually.
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We got on the road a bit late today because of some arguments over who wanted window seats, and who wanted the front seats. Finally we got on the road around 8:15am. Our first stop was Adelaide River to refuel and get some coffee. Adelaide River had a lot of people flee to it from Darwin in 1942 when Darwin was attacked.
After refueling we headed towards Buley Rockhole and Florence Falls, with a few stops along the way. We also learned a lot of pretty interesting facts from Alex. To get to Buley Rockhole and Florence Falls we had to drive on Rum Jungle Road. Rum Jungle Road received its name from the nickname that a group of men received when they failed to show up for one of their rum deliveries. Rum deliveries were frequent nature during the gold rush, and a group of gentlemen were doing rum runs in the area, but failed to show up one day for one of their deliveries. Turns out they drank all the rum and went on a three day binger, and were have said to be caught in the rum jungle, and thus the road they frequently travelled received that name.
Along the way to Buley Rockhole we also passed some purple Turkey Bush, which can actually be used as a natural insect repellant by rubbing the leaf your skin. Some people even use the plant as a hallucinogen. Next we passed some magnetic termite pounds. They point north and south, with flat sides to the east and west. The sun shines on them in the morning and afternoon, and keeps the mound at an almost constant temperature of 30 degrees Celsius. The termites that build these mounds eat grass and dirt, and use their poop, grass, dirt, and saliva to build their mounds. We also learned that authentic Didgeridoo’s are made from wood that termites have eaten the inside out. Eventually we came to Buley Rockhole, where we swam for a white, and then we went onto Florence Falls, where we swam for a while, and took a short walk through a heavily treed and plants area.
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After that we went to Wangi Falls for lunch, where we had wraps made from leftovers, as well as some tuna, corn, and bean mix. I made my wrap out of leftover sausages. After lunch I helped wash dishes, and pack up the truck. We then went swimming in the lake underneath the falls. The water was actually quite warm compared to the other places that we stopped at, as well as quite shallow. A few of us then got coffee, and treats for the journey back to Darwin.
Alex dropped us off at the Youth Shack, where we are going to stay the night until the next leg of the journey. Five of our group of 16 will not be joining us on the next leg. I checked in and got the key to my private room, which I’m very glad I upgraded to because some of my tour travel mates showed me their rooms and they were really bad. Alex phoned ahead and got us some seats for dinner at a place called Monsoons, where for $15 I purchased a rump steak with beer, which was delicious. Ten of us ended up showing up for dinner, which was nice. We had dinner, had some drinks, and I said bye to the people that had to leave for the airport to go elsewhere. I also ended up doing some laundry, because I doubt I will have time or the capability to do it on the next two legs of the outback tour.
Check back tomorrow for the next part of my adventure!

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