Last of the Puzzle Pieces – at least for now

In our ongoing saga of changes and rescheduling, I contacted our hotel in the Lake District and got their verification that, indeed, we will not make the last train from Oxenholme to Windermere, and also their recommendation for a taxi service.

After checking on TripAdvisor, it appears that, particularly on a Sunday evening that is also a Bank Holiday, it is wise to pre-book your taxi. I contacted the hotel’s recommended taxi service and we should be all set now, and will be met at the station. I’m now feeling better that the bits and pieces are coming back together and that we won’t be having to adjust on the fly to unforeseen circumstances. Now I can go back to worrying over weather, what to pack and the likelihood of strikes!

Yes, I do worry. A lot. However, I usually also have a series of backup plans in place for most situations that might possibly crop up, particularly those that we have encountered in the past that I HADN’T planned on or thought through ‘what to do if….” so I guess it is a good thing. One of the side benefits of having traveled a lot is that we have run into, and solved, a lot of travel challenges, so my confidence level is pretty good even when I haven’t completely pre-planned for a contingency and I usually have the resources available to figure out next steps when we do run into problems. Fingers crossed that this trip has already given me all the problems it is going to!

Trains and Bank Holidays

Well, it certainly pays to have friends all over the world to help you out with travel conundrums. After struggling with the route maps and notices of revisions and coach diversions and timetable changes on our upcoming final leg between London and the Lake District, my friend Fiona from Edinburgh gave me the clue needed to unravel the tangled mess that our schedule was threatening to become. She pointed out that the trains we needed were the ones ending up in Glasgow or Edinburgh, so I could stop looking at the ones that ended elsewhere and concentrate looking at those routes, cutting the routes down from five to two – a huge help. Unfortunately, the train we had intended to catch won’t be running due to the ‘works’ on the line, but we CAN get one of two later ones, and, although we will miss the last connecting train between Oxenholme and Windermere, it is only a 20 minute or so train ride, and about an equal time by taxi, so we just need to book a pick up at the Oxenholme station for our final bit to our Lake District hotel in Bowness.

I truly do know better than to travel on Bank Holidays, but with all the changes we’ve made to this trip between the original planning and now, I just simply forgot to check the dates as, for the most part, British Bank Holidays don’t correlate to anything in the US. I’m very careful about spring travel and try to avoid everyone’s spring break, as one the worst cruise experiences we ever had was at the tail end of quite a long cruise around South America, ending in San Francisco. It was lovely until the leg between Acapulco and San Francisco, when the ship was overrun by 500 or so kids on Spring Break in Mexico, so now, anytime we travel in the spring, I triple check every country we are passing through for when their schools are on Spring Break. The late summer, though, just doesn’t set off the same alarm bells in my head, and I just got caught out on this one, and stupidly scheduled not only Sunday travel, but Sunday on a Bank Holiday travel. Oh well. Next time I will do better! For this one, it is what it is and we will cope!

It is shaping up to be an interesting trip, in spite of the challenges, and we’re looking forward to getting away for a bit and also to some new experiences and adventures. It will be our first time doing a river cruise, and my first time in Amsterdam, as well as in Germany and Switzerland. Dennis was in both countries and in Amsterdam on his way home from his Peace Corps stint back in the ’60s, but not since then, so there should be enough that has changed that we will both find things of interest to see and do.

I’ll be doing a running commentary here, as I did on our last trip, so keep watching this space! With any luck, there won’t be too many misadventures!

Another complication

This is turning out to be a really challenging trip! I hope it goes better in reality than it has in the various stages of planning! Yesterday I got an email from Virgin Trains – the last bit of our Switzerland to the Lake District train journey – notifying us that there would be ‘works’ going on on the day of our planned trip. Problem is, I can’t understand the informaiton that they sent to me! I don’t know enough about the British rail system to know if we are taking the train from Euston Station or if we will be going by bus (or, as the Brits put it – by coach) It isn’t at all clear to me WHAT they are trying to tell me – could be that we start by coach then pick up the train somewhere along the way, could be that we start by train, then switch to coach and back to train. The timetable they attached was incomprehensible, at least to my American eyes.

I wrote them, though, and am awaiting a, hopefully, more straightforward explanation of what will be happening. Next I’ll need to let our hotel in Bowness know we may be REALLY late getting in – we were already scheduled for around a 9 PM arrival. I would be tempted to rent a car if it were anywhere but the UK. I just don’t want to try driving on the wrong side of the road, starting from London, at night. So, whatever it turns out to be, we will be at the mercy of Virgin Trains for the arrangements. I am so not good with conditions of uncertainty, particularly with my point to point plans. Once I arrive, I can deal more easily with spontaneity, but I want my ‘getting there’ ducks to stay lined up in a nice neat row and that just isn’t happening on this trip.

Traveling – it pays to check, then check again

We are embarking on a rather complicated journey in few weeks that will involve flights, a river cruise, a number of trains, a transatlantic ocean cruise, and a few point to point transfers, as well as an assortment of hotels. I’ve been putting these parts into place for well over a year now and it seems that every few weeks some part or piece get changed or some plan unravels, sometimes with no notice whatsoever from the vendor. So, my takeaway from this and many other trips we’ve planned and taken is check, double-check, then check again,

So far, on this trip, our air carrier has dropped a direct from Newark to Honolulu flight then rebooked us (without notification) to a totally unacceptable flight through LAX that would have had us missing our connecting flight from Honolulu to Kona and having to stay overnight in Honolulu. Our hotel wouldn’t (and still won’t) credit us for our stay because we booked through the credit card (THEIR affiliate!!) site rather than direct with them – that’s a battle I will fight on site at the hotel. Since I pre-paid, I also can’t cancel the booking and rebook directly so, so far, lose/lose with that one. Train schedules seem to be changing on the day we are making our way from Switzerland to London to the Lake District and what seemed, earlier on, like an easy, ‘oh well, if you miss this one there’s another in an hour’ connection is now a ‘do or die’ twenty minute connection with a ten minute walk between train stations in London and/or a fairly pricey taxi ride from the next nearest train station to Windermere if we have to take the next train. Plus, we are arriving on the middle day of a British Bank Holiday weekend which means that at least our first day in the Lake District is going to be a mob scene – but that was my fault for forgetting to check on British Bank Holidays before settling on which days we would be spending up there.

I’m now obsessing over the water levels in the Rhine River. Too little or too much water in the river means our ‘river cruise’ could rapidly become a bus tour. Add to that, the really vast range of territory we are covering and the ‘shoulder season’ travel from late August to mid-September and my other obsession is packing. We will be experiencing temperatures ranging from the 80s to the 40s – maybe even the 30s – as we are going to northern Iceland on the ocean cruise segment, and will need, among other things, formal wear for the ocean cruise, warm weather clothes for the river cruise, something suitable for a possibly wet Lake District and really warm clothes for Norway, Shetland, and Iceland, AND we want to keep the size and weight of the luggage down because of the multiple trains in between spots and packing is going to be, at best, a challenge.

I will be doing a trip journal here like I did for our Myanmar/Angkor Wat trip, so you will get to see how well (or poorly) we were able to plan and pack!

Meanwhile I’m off to pursue yet another ‘how to pack’ list and double-check all my reservations – AGAIN…

Big Island Independence Day

Fish pond on Mauna Lani Bay ground
Fish pond on Mauna Lani Bay ground

We have some fun traditions here on the Big Island for the 4th of July. One of my personal favorites is Turtle Independence Day. This event has been held at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel for the last 25 years and has gone from a fairly low key event when we first went to it to a major extravaganza now.

 

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Crowds watching turtle release at Mauna Lani Bay Hotel

From a few hundred folks who showed up to watch the turtle release back in 1998 when we moved here, the event has grown enormously, now covering two days, with educational events for kids on the 3rd, and rides, games, and a barbecue for 1,500 or so attendees, as well as the turtle release now.

 

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Lucky youngsters who get to release one of the turtles on Turtle Independence Day

In cooperation with Sea Life Park on Oahu, the Mauna Lani Bay ‘fosters’ baby sea turtles in one of the remaining traditional salt water fish ponds found on their grounds, until the turtles have achieved a size to be unlikely to fall prey to the various predators of baby turtle – usually around three to four years old and around 40 pounds in weight – and then they are removed from the pond and kids who are staying at the hotel get to release them into the bay in front of the hotel.

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Newly released honu headed for his new home

The turtles are checked for overall health and then blessed by a local kahu – traditional Hawaiian priest, prior to their release into the wild. It has been an enormously successful program over the years with over 200 turtles nurtured here and released back into Hawaiian waters, helping sustain this endangered species.

Another long time tradition is the Parker Ranch 4th of July Rodeo and Horse Race.  This year will mark the 53rd year of this venerable event.  Held near the town of Waimea at the Parker Ranch headquarters, the rodeo features a variety of roping events, horse racing at different distances, and a variety of activities for the children including roping practice and a petting zoo.

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Starting with a parade of the participating local paniolo, the event runs for half a day and also includes the unique to Hawaiian rodeos event called Poo wai U – a demonstration of skills developed by the early paniolo for handling wild cattle in wooded areas.  The paniolo would rope the wild cow around the horns and then tie it off to a tree to allow it to tire itself out and become more tractable before being herded to an enclosure.  Here’s a video of the Poo Wai U event from the 2013 Parker Ranch Labor Day Rodeo.