Friday, September 16, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: Strange Shopping in Amsterdam...

Forever A Hillbilly: Strange Shopping in Amsterdam...:  We worked our way back to the ferry where we could rent a car.  We rented the car for the next 26 days, vowing to never remove the monster...

Strange Shopping in Amsterdam...

 We worked our way back to the ferry where we could rent a car.  We rented the car for the next 26 days, vowing to never remove the monster bag from the car again until we flew out. We would just pull out what we needed each day.
      Although we could not read labels on food at the grocery store, we bought mystery food and ate it anyway, and spent much of the night watching the one English channel on TV, BBC.

      After mastering the car in my broken-back state, we found our way out of Calais into Belgium. We wandered around awhile, tried to find our way into two towns, but not being able to read the signs proved a big problem.
     Having trouble finding a motel at the end of the day, we finally found something that could be one after several dead ends. It was. We ate out of a gas station.
     We called home. The kids said Hurricane Rita was about to hit Texas.
      Heading out the next day, the girl at the desk spoke some English, and lined us out some on this day's travel. We headed out for Amsterdam.

      Belgium looked a lot like a strange version of Iowa, corn and cows. We stayed at a hotel at the airport, and rode a train into Amsterdam.
      As we walked through the Red Light District, prostitutes displayed themselves like merchandise in little windows. Barbara mentioned, "Did you see how pretty that last one was?" Naturally, I had to walk back for a second look.  She smiled, started opening the door to welcome me in, and I quickly fled back to Barbara.


When we reached the other side of town, Barbara toured the Anne Frank House while I sat down and rested my back some. I've never seen a town where so many people rode bikes and walked. Amsterdam had a neat patchwork of canals, beautiful buildings and was very interesting, but the smell of pot filled the air and one side of it was just generally a sleazy place.
     Back at the hotel, Barb "mastered" the Internet. She always does, no matter what the language.
     We wandered on through Holland. We finally stopped at a grocery store, having to have help to even unlock the shopping cart. Everyone recycled everything there. A good thing. With a little help from an occasional English speaker, we stocked up. Late that afternoon, we finally located a B&B after several failures. A stressful day.

     The next day, we drove on into Germany and got on the Autobahn. We were a little shocked with the speed. I hung in the truck lane, and soon learned that if a car was in sight behind us in the fast lane, I didn't have time to pass before it was all over me.
     After entering Koblenz, we then managed to get directions to the Visitor's Center from a real, live, English speaking lady. She helped us out a lot in planning out our trip down the Rhine river Valley. We walked around a lot, with me still moving pretty slow. We negotiated the 53 steps up to our room, and dined on bread, peanut butter, and cake thingies.
     After a good breakfast at our motel, we found a laundromat. Everything we do is a challenge, but luckily, an English speaking lady helped us master the automated laundromat.
     Now, I know I have been running on a lot about how hard everything was to do, and it was hard. But in between frustrations, we were seeing a lot of great new places, and we were having fun. No, really, I mean it. I'm going to really make an effort to lay off some of the "It was just so hard" complaining, because we really were enjoying everything.

     Koblenz had a lot of beautiful buildings. I remember my Dad telling me a lot about his days in Koblenz, during the occupation immediately after WWI. He got to Germany aboard a very crowded troop ship, with no room to lay down. They slept sitting up.
     During our days in Koblenz, we would learn an occasional German word, and I was proud of mine. We also began to realize (I know I made a firm promise to not to whine any more, but I've just got to tell you this, then no more!) that Europe, at least this part, was set up for train travel, not car travel.  The trains were totally wonderful, totally quiet, and like riding on a cloud. All the inexpensive hotels were grouped around the train station, and there were no spaces to park a car within a mile, even if we could recognize one of the strange assortment of German words "hotels” were known by. But my back just ruled out train travel. I couldn't be moving that giant bag around.

     The next day, we headed down the Rhine River Valley. We moved down the Autobahn through an assortment of quaint small towns, past beautiful vineyards on the sloping hills, past many castles on the mountain tops.
     On arriving at Heidelberg, early in the afternoon, we drove around through that beautiful city for a while. We have never seen so many bicycles as we saw parked on the city center.
     The hotels seemed a little full, and a little pricy, so we moved on down. We started noticing that we saw one exit after another for Ausfarte. What a huge city Ausfarte must be. Only later did we realize that was the German word for exit.
     Coming upon another small town, we got off to look for a hotel. That turned out to be a really large city, and I got hung up in the middle of a "bus only" area. When the buses all stopped, the streets were filled with people like ants from an anthill. We worked our way out of that mess, finally, and seeing no hotels or anything that looked like it could be one, we went on south.

     It was getting late in the day, and we needed a place to lay our heads. The next small town advertised two hotels, so we got off. One was filled, another closed. So, we just wandered about, looking. Stopping at a likely prospect, it turned out to be a bar. But a child that had learned some English in school interpreted for his dad. The man said, "Follow me. I will lead you to a place to stay." He headed across town, we followed, and our young interpreter followed on his bicycle.
     The man stopped at a house, got out and talked to some people. They glanced at us, shook their head no, and he headed back to his car, just as the youngster arrived on his bicycle. "Follow me. I know another place." Well, the bicycler headed home, the leader sped up, and we lost him. Getting out by the Autobahn, we caught a glimpse of his car entering the Autobahn headed back north. Determined not to lose him this time, I sped up. When I got up to 110 MPH, he was still pulling away. Three exits back, I lost him, just as we decided we were following the wrong car anyway..       
     We turned back. When we exited again, it was close to dark. We wandered aimlessly. We had never had to sleep in our car, but it was beginning to look likely. Seeing the words "Zimmer Frei," we shouted with glee. One of the words for "A place to lay our head." Well, it was closed for the season, and darkness was upon us.
     A lady was just finishing up working in her yard, 3 doors down. Barbara put on her best friendly face, but the lady couldn't understand a thing she said. However, she headed down the street, motioning us to follow.

     Stopping at a house, 2 doors the other side of the Zimmer Frei, we began to realize it was her son's house. She talked to him, motioning to us, and we both put on our very best friendly, yet desperate and pitiful faces. Turned out, he owned the Zimmer Frei, and he could understand a few English words, if we talked real slow. He gave up on me, talking too fast, and turned to Barbara. He took us to the Zimmer Frei, explained they were closed for the season. But he let us in, told us to find us a room, fix our own supper, and lock up when we leave tomorrow. He charged a fair price, gave us the run of the place. Barbara's smile, her "stay clean and look good" mentality, and her gift with people had saved us again!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: Blood Pudding

Forever A Hillbilly: Blood Pudding:      The weather was good that day, so we spent most of the day driving the Ring of Kerry. The scenery was so good,so we just kept stopping...

Blood Pudding

     The weather was good that day, so we spent most of the day driving the Ring of Kerry. The scenery was so good,so we just kept stopping and picturing.
     We came to Killarny, and booked a hostel. Plain, no frills, but $40. The desk girl just took a liking to Barbara, as everyone does, and brought us extra bedding and such.
     Lodging the next night was a bit strange. A restaurant, B&B, and a bar. We had a huge breakfast included, and Barbara fairly chowed down on "Black Pudding."  I  waited until later to define that as "Blood Pudding." She almost threw up.

     We went to the poor house the next day. Now, don't be alarmed. Not to live, but for a visit. Dad had strongly instilled in all us Gillum's a fear of the "Pore' house," but I had never seen one. It looked like a prison, was established in the mid 1800's  when people were starving in droves from the Great Potato Famine. It was designed to be so bad, that only starving people would go there. Hard work, no family contact, a bowl of thin soup daily. A lady at a B&B we stayed at told us about her father. He broke his leg, badly, but he refused to go to a doctor, fearing the poor house would be his next stop. He lived out his life with his leg broken instead.

     Looking for lodging in the next town proved impossible, (paying their prices would have sent us back to the pore' house) so we went on down the road, and ran into our best lodging yet. I didn't say that to Barbara, because we had stayed with so many of her kin folk she might have gotten her feelings hurt.
     Breakfast the next day started off with the "Full Irish Breakfast," Yogurt, fruit, cereal, then toast and strong coffee and milk with jam, topped off with eggs, bacon, and sausage, along with scones. That breakfast kept us full all day.

     Barbara met a man while we were walking. He could have been a twin of her Dad, who had died recently. She spoke to him, told him it was a pretty day, and he said "Yup." Just like her dad. She kept him talking, and noticed he said "dom" instead of "damn," also just like her dad. She  followed him around awhile, just could not let him go. We always thought "dom" was her dad's invention, a way of keeping wife Verla Mae off his back. That old man was really getting leery of this strange woman.

     Lodging the next night was sorta weird, but only 30 minutes from the airport. We finished off our last "Full Irish Breakfast" on Barbara's birthday. Funny, but it always seems that we split her birthday between two countries. She does not get to have many birthday parties, though.
     We drove to the airport, turned in our little red car, (Our friend Skeet swears red is the natural color for a car, anything else is fake. He has three little red cars) and we headed for London.

   The next day, we toured London on a big red double decker bus. We were on and off all day, and saw the sights. We got a free boat tour on the Thames that was thrown in on the deal. We got off at the wrong place, and wound up in Greenwich, and ate lunch sitting smack dab on the Prime Meridian, kinda neat. We caught a bus the next day for Dover, free with yesterday's ticket. We saw Canterbury and a lot of the English countryside. Barbara talked a lot with the locals. They do not tend to be very outgoing, by Barbara can get them out of that mindset really quick. Before you know it, they are telling her their innermost secrets, and laughing and carrying on.

     We caught the Sea France, the ferry to Calais, France. We would have taken the tunnel, but we wanted to see the White Cliffs of Dover.
     I talked to an old man, who was a former Royal Guard. He said he was on guard duty at   Buckingham Palace one day.  Prince Charles, a little boy then, kept rolling his ball toward him. When a royal comes close, he was required to present arms. Well, he had presented arms 27 times that day, and finally, the ball rolled over against his foot again, he nudged it back with his foot, and he was fired.

     When we arrived in France, it was late in the afternoon, and we were the only tourist types aboard. We  were funneled into the emigration area, and it was empty except for one man asleep at a desk. Now, I guess I have always been sort of a "do the right thing" kind of a guy, and I was not about to sneak into a country past a sleeping customs man. So, we pulled our passports and I nudged him and woke him up. He finally raised his head, looked at me hard  in a bleary eyed sort of way, and said with a very angry twang in his voice, "just go on!" and laid his head back down. We went on.

    When We found a hotel, It had no elevator. It seems common in Europe, at least in the kind of places we tend to deal with. Barbara was able to get a room on the second floor.
     Now, we had replaced our torn up bag, our Walmart special, with a very large one, big enough to hold all our "always look good and stay clean" sort of stuff, and it was heavy. I started dragging it up to the second floor, which as it turned out, was five floors up. Several of those first floors had names, not numbers. I was worn completely out when I got there, and my back was getting questionable.

     The next day, we walked around a lot, looking over Calais. It was not as clean as towns we had seen so far, and we began to see many, many middle eastern young men, just hanging around, killing time, often in phone booths. We asked about all these young men.  Seems they had worked their way from Iraq and Sudan, through Europe, trying to get to England. They were stuck there, unable to go farther.
    Wednesday, the 21st, we packed up our bag to head out. Bending over to fasten the strap, my back went out. Bad. I could barely move. How was I going to get Barb home? Or, more accurately, how was she going to get me home?

      Then we decided to stay another day to allow me to re-coup. Finally we managed to get out and walk slowly a little, bought breakfast at a pastry shop, found coffee at a gas station. Barbara  will find coffee, every morning, It matters not what other emergencies we might be dealing with. But she's not addicted to it. Don't be getting that idea.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: The Insane Asylum

Forever A Hillbilly: The Insane Asylum: After getting home from Australia and letting our credit card bonus miles build up, we headed to Ireland for a few weeks in Southern Europe...

The Insane Asylum

After getting home from Australia and letting our credit card bonus miles build up, we headed to Ireland for a few weeks in Southern Europe.


     The ocean was frozen solid. As far as I could see. Not a sight an old Arkansas boy sees every day.
     The flight was long, an hour waiting on the tarmac and seven in the air. We lost six hours coming over, so it was well up into the morning when we passed over the coast of Ireland. It was a beautiful sight, bright green rolling hills blocked off into little squares by dark green hedge rows.
     Barbara was returning to the land of her forefathers, and her eyes were fairly shining with excitement.

     The good kind of excitement eased off a bit when we arrived at Dublin, and we learned that our bag was lost. Our only bag for the next six weeks. The nice lady at the desk was very sympathetic. Didn't help much. She gave us each a small bag with a t-shirt and underwear, a tooth brush and toothpaste. Come back in a day or two and maybe it will show up. The city bus took us close to the Paramont Hotel. The room is small, fairly clean, but didn't look like 90 bucks.
     We finally found a fairly inexpensive lunch counter in the back of a grocery store. Huge savings, and we carried out enough for supper, too.

     Dublin was fairly bustling with people. Loud, rowdy, fighting people. All there for The National Hurling Championship. Now, in Arkansas, hurling is something like throwing up. In Ireland, it's something like Soccer with a stick.
     Barbara, maiden name Dunnahoe, keeps hearing names like Donahue, Donohoe, O'Donahue, on TV, so she is excited to be in the middle of family. All in all, a frustrating day. Maybe a better day tomorrow.
     The next day, we spend a goodly amount of time calling the airport over luggage issues. Not much help. We walked into the city center to look for clothes. We see people with what appears to be the result of that Irish fighting spirit, black eyes, bruises and such. Seems they take their Hurling seriously. We find a clothing store, a TK Max. Underwear for me came in two styles. One with a playboy bunny silhouette, one with a tiger. Now, I really was not either type, but I finally went for the tiger. Barbara's type underwear was generic, didn't have a silhouette at all, and we walked out fifty dollars poorer.

     All right, time to go back to the airport and talk to a human face to face. No luck yet, they said. Barbara is not one to be so easily put off, in such a situation, so she just kept ragging the man until he finally agreed to escort her back to the luggage room, to see for herself. She must go alone, I couldn’t go. He showed her the bags that came in that morning.
    "See, I told you so."
 Tears were coming. Then, through her tears, she recognized a strap. The very one she had put on our bag. It was in a pile on the other side of the room. Looked like a bunch of torn-up bags. She started running.

     He was shouting. "Oh, ma'am, you can't go over there!"

     "That's my bag!”

     "It can't be"! He said. She was not about to be put off at this point. "OK," he said, "Tell me what's in THIS pocket!" Barbara had packed, repacked, and repacked again, every part, to get it all into one big bag. Barbara listed every item in that pocket. It was busted up pretty bad, a few things were missing, but it was OUR bag, our salvation. Things started looking up for us immediately.

     We rented a red Toyota Corolla and headed out of Dublin. Dooblin, they call it. We drive into Carlow, found a motel, and the desk clerk quoted $140. Seeing the shock in our eyes, she said, "I can go one tirty." They just cannot say "th" in Ireland.
     We hauled out of there and wandered around aimlessly awhile, then spotted a B&B. It said "No vacancy," but the name told us she was kinfolk. Not to be put off, Barbara told her she was a Dunnahoe, and the nice lady, a O'Donaghue, let us stay anyway, for $65, with a man sized breakfast included.

     She gave us walking directions to a bar for supper, which included a stroll across an Insane Asylum's grounds. Should be a good place to make encounters worth writing about, but no luck. Now, if this was just a part fictional story, I could have made some hay with this place! As it was, everyone we saw was just far too normal.
     As it turned out, the bar was in the "one tirty" place, so we sneaked in past the front desk.

     Driving the next day took some adjustment, because we not only drove on the left, but we drove on very narrow roads with high hedges sticking right out into the road. What was that I was feeling? Could it be the early stages of a panic attack?
     The scenery was beautiful, and we soon came to our first castle, at Kilkenny. We didn't tour it, not in the budget. But we did walk the grounds and pictured away. We drove on being pushed up against the hedges, Barbara making little soothing sounds to settle me down. We went through many small towns where we stopped and walked around. We're like that. We spend our money eating and lodging, and the attractions have to be really spectacular before we spend money on  touristy attractions.  We're pore' folks, ya' know? Gas is high here, but their cars have really good gas gauges, that go down really slow. Why can't they make gauges like that in the good ole' USA? Oh, well. At lease, we have rich oil companies, and rich car builders, and  we are all happy about their success.

     We booked a night's stay at Donaghue Castle Farms. Barbara loves to stay with relatives. The castle remains were very old, neat to walk through. The bed was very old, too. It was not to Barbara's liking, so she tried putting her head at the other end, but jumped right back up. "Oh, no, bad foot odor!" Castle folks are not in the habit of washing sheets much, it seems. But breakfast was good, the $50 price was good, and those castle people were nice, except for the dirty sheets.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: Screaming all night Long

Forever A Hillbilly: Screaming all night Long:      We went to a farm show that day. We saw a man shear a sheep in two minutes and got to see expert sheep dogs work. Needless to say,...

Screaming all night Long

     We went to a farm show that day. We saw a man shear a sheep in two minutes and got to see expert sheep dogs work. Needless to say, the big selling items in stores were wool.
     The next day, we stopped at a motel an hour from Auckland. We had one more day to “see things,” and we made the most of it.      
     Beautiful bright green mountains sloped for miles down toward the sea, covered with cattle and  
sheep. We passed, then came back and photographed, a flock of a dozen or so (Since I may put that picture in later, maybe not quite a dozen) wild turkey gobblers in full strut, each trying to look more glorious than the others, for the benefit of the few hens around. Barb carefully stalked them at first, getting distance shots. As she gradually got closer, she realized they were not as wild as we expected,  and besides, the gobblers only had eyes for the ladies that day. She got a great photo.

     We went to Hot Water Beach. The area between high and low tide had many hot springs seeping and shooting up through the sand, and it was now low tide. Dozens upon dozens of people show up. They dig a hole in the sand, and lie in the very warm water. It was still cold weather, the sea water was very cold, and when a very large wave came in, it turned everyone's hot bath into ice water, sending us scurrying out screaming. In places, if you were not careful, the water coming up was almost scalding,  and we hit one of those occasionally.

     That night, we washed our clothes and Barbara packed the bags. She allows no help from me, and I'm fine with that. If I helped, we probably could not have gotten everything in. She's an expert packer. Now, I realize, from what I tell you about Barbara on our trips, you who do not know us may get the impression Barbara wears the pants in the family, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Barbara simply would not allow it.

     We again, on our last night, ate at a Chinese restaurant, and bought a meat pie at a pie shop. We had found these two places were always inexpensive. That's not a general rule world wide. We found Chinese restaurants were one of the higher places in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Every country has its places “Where the poor people eat,” if you just find them. If not, poor people would have just starved to death, or left, by now. Regular touristy restaurants would have sent us to the poor house, or sent us home way early. As it turned out, we traveled 40 days on about what a guided, ten day tour would have cost us, and we saw the same things and so much more. However, we sometimes didn't know exactly what we were seeing. But, they all spoke English, and Barbara could always find a local “tour guide.” As a rule, always try to travel with a well dressed, pretty, outgoing, nervy woman. As a bonus, we got to interact daily with interesting people from “down under,” and from all over the world. Traveling alone around the world is often stressful, But as long as I can carry “half of what we own” on my back, and Barbara can get us there and back again, and bonus flier miles and our meager funds hold out, that will we our MO.  The danger factor lessens as we get older. If we die in a foreign country, what have we lost? Six months, maybe a year at most:)  Our children began to realize, years ago, “Don't be expecting a big inheritance.” It sometimes looks like we plan to spend our last dime with our last breath, and I realize their inheritance will probably be boxes and boxes of pictures from all over the world. Which, no doubt, will be in the trash within the week. There will be time aplenty to enjoy our beautiful scenery at home, out our nursing home picture window.

     The large sign we passed under when loading on the plane said it all. “Every flier who ventures across oceans to distant lands is a potential explorer: In his or her breast burns the same fire that urged explorers of old to set forth in their sailing ships to foreign lands.”

     We again had an overnight layover in LA, and we noted a sign in the airport that advertised reasonable rates and shuttle services, so we went for it. We got settled in our room, then ventured out for supper. We soon realized we were in one of those places foreign tourists “Just don't know not to venture into,” as our British friend in Australia told us. All the businesses had guards, bars on all the windows, cashiers in a cage, and we were the only tourist types about. Being the only tourists around was a very bad sign, we had learned in Washington, DC and in Mexico. We ate quickly, got back to our room, locked all the locks, and stayed there. Welcome to Watts, California.

     There was a very large project of some sort right behind our motel, and people had to go through our motel lobby to get there from this side. Screams emanated from there starting before dark, and continued all night. Loud people ran up and down our hallways all night and tried to get in our door.    We were packed by daylight, and we, along with all the other tourist types, were lined up, waiting for the first shuttle out, early. Everyone had a horror story to tell on the way to the airport. One poor lady was so happy to see the airport, that she hopped off at the first stop, taking no suitcases, strangly enough. We were the last passangers off, and the driver had suitcases remaining, probably belonging to that first lady to get off, several stops back.

     Barbara gave the airport authorities fits about letting unsuspecting tourists venture into dangerous areas after reading enticing signs put up there, without fair warning. They were glad to see her leave.

     We spent most of the day in the airport, again, then headed toward familiar country. Good old Arkansas had never looked so good. As Dorothy says, “There's no place like home!”

Friday, September 2, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: Risking only one Eye

Forever A Hillbilly: Risking only one Eye:      The next day we moved on, making our turn back toward the North Island. We traveled through green stone country, where jade abounded. ...

Risking only one Eye

     The next day we moved on, making our turn back toward the North Island. We traveled through green stone country, where jade abounded. Pancaked rocks emerged from the sea. Most bridges were very conservative. Single lanes, honk before you start across, with a railroad track down the middle. No need to spend all that money on exotic bridges, just use it to buy more sheep. Many public facilities, gas pumps, etc. were antique-like. Like we had in America 40 years ago, or more.

     We found  a motel near the Franz Joseph Glacier, the only glacier in the world that close to the equator, and it reached down almost to the sea, but, like ours, it was receding fast. Barbara was tired, so I drove in to the glacier area alone, and walked the last mile or so. I picked up a young British hitch hiker who accompanied me. He was typical of hundreds of young people from around the world who, usually after graduating college, took a year or two and backpacked  around the world. Most backpacker facilities, and there were many, provided a bed in a large room filled with beds,  but we found that some had a few private rooms for old fogies like us, providing privacy at a little higher price. However, we almost never, or maybe never, ran into more old “backpackers.” They often grouped up and bought an old, old car to travel in, then when ready to leave, tried to sell it, then if not successful, often just drove it off into a quarry. Local newspapers complained about the the Quarries filling up.

     The next day, we arrived at Pincton, the jumping off place for the ferry back to the North Island.  We went to make arrangement for the ferry crossing the next day. The nice lady told us to “Just look for the big blue chicken sign.” When we could see no sign of a chicken, we had to come back and inquire further. Finally, we figured out we were looking for a “Check-in” sign. More than a month here, and the local accents were still giving us fits!

      We checked in at the Villa Backpacker's Motel, billed as the nicest one in New Zealand. Hundreds of young people. Once again, no other old people. Many of the European women walked around with almost nothing on. So, I had to apply what one of my pastor's had told me years ago. “If you look at immodest women, you risk going blind. So, if you must look, cover one eye. Only risk one.” We stayed up late and visited with many people from all over the world.  Most could speak English.

     We boarded the ferry at 7 AM, sure enough, right under the big, blue, “Check-in” sign. It was a long voyage, Hours. As always, Barb gathered crowds of New Zealanders around her, and we talked about lots of things, and learned much. We griped about their accents, they griped about ours. One man joked with Barbara for her pronunciation of  “bird.” He tried to say it like her and drug out the word into “buuurd”. She asked him how he says it. “Beard,” he said.  “Beard? That's not bird. You're talking about hair on your face!” They roared. Another asked her, “Let me get this straight. If you are drinking water in the middle of the winter, would you still put ice in it? “Yes, of course.” “Why?” “That's just what we do.” That went back and forth a long time. They enjoyed our “blue chicken” story. Barb's gift for gab is always a  major asset to our travels. She will just not let anyone be reserved around her. Quickly, they will be laughing and talking like best friends. One New Zealand lady helped her with a crossword puzzle.
     But we have been warned. Our international spy friend we  hung out with in Austria, a couple of years later, told Barb when we parted, “You travel too lightly about the world. People will entrap you.".

     We unloaded from the ferry at Wellington, the Capital, in a driving rain. We took in the Te Papa Museum, saw the Capital building, and as I hate strange city driving in the rain, we headed on up the island. We were getting into a very volcanic region. We drove for miles along a very large lake that we could barely see across, that was formed by a giant volcanic explosion. We knew this part of the country just had a very thin crust over unimaginable volcanic power potential. I just hope we get past it before it struts its stuff. We passed a bad but not fatal car wreck, and the country is so remote there it was 30 minutes before we met an ambulance coming to the scene. We almost passed a waterfall sign, but decided to go back and see it. We have came upon some amazing sights by accident in our travels, and this was no exception. Beautiful aqua blue water, covered with foam, poured over the huge cliff. The water came from the large volcanic lake we had been passing.

     After lunch we reached Rotoroua, listed in Fromer's Travel book as one of the top ten cities in the world to see. All over town, large pits of boiling mud, water and steam were on the surface. Even on the golf course. Talk about playing the rough -  Most of the people had used the hot water to heat their houses, until it was recently curtailed. Well, as one would suspect, this town had tons of motels, etc. But, just our luck, again, this was their “Labor Day,” our third Labor Day we had experienced that year. No lodging was to be found. Barb picked out a nice looking lady manning the Visitor's Center, and gave her sob story, “Here we are, on our trip of a lifetime, and - “ I had heard this all before, but, once again, it worked. The lady looked us over a long time, and made a call. She had judged us to be “safe,” well dressed and clean, and obtained a home stay for us. I have to admit, if we had been dirty and looked like bums, that would never have happened. We might have had to sneak out on the golf course, and slept beside one of the boiling mud pits that night to stay warm. I guess, its just my lot in life, carrying half the clothes we own, around on my back, all over the world. Actually, they were in our car, but sometimes one just has to extrapolate a little in the interest of being interesting.

     Our home stay turned out to be with a very nice lady, five years a widow, in a very nice house.
 She gave us a key, turned the whole bottom floor over to us, and left for the rest of the day. The exchange rate was better in New Zealand than in Australia, and our $105 cost converted to about $70 US.

     We had a long visit with her that night, after a great supper. Her son had gone on “walkabout” for a year, years ago, met a woman in Ireland, and never returned. Breakfast the next morning was no less good, and the coffee was almost too strong, even for Barbara. Barbara prides herself on being addiction free, but has walked  miles before, early morning, to find a cup of coffee.