Tuesday, December 30
After cruising on the Mekong River from Saigon to Siem Reap last July*, we flew to Hanoi for a week. We'd never been to North Vietnam so this was a good opportunity.
Hanoi has quite a different feel to it compared to Saigon (oops! I mean Ho Chi Minh City). Seemed to be less frenetic with not so many young people with tablets and laptops.
We'd heard that the traffic was worse in Hanoi than HCMC but actually found there weren't so many motor bikes so crossing the smaller roads was easier. The main roads were a different matter.
We took a couple of days out from our time in Hanoi to go to Halong Bay. Definitely worthwhile. That'll be the next video.
*Videos of the Mekong cruise are here:
Wednesday, December 10
I love trains but there's not a lot of chance on Rarotonga to ride them.
There is a steam engine here, in the upper Tupapa valley but sadly it no longer operates.
However, whenever the opportunity arises I'll take the train.
In 2013 we had to get from Raro to Boston to visit family so after travelling by Air New Zealand to Los Angeles (on a 777-300R - one of Air NZ's premium quality planes and very nice too) I decided that if we were going to cross America from one side to the other I wanted to see something of it. My husband wan't quite so keen but he came along for the ride anyway.
Amtrak operates some interesting long distance routes and one of these is the Southwest Chief from Los Angeles to Chicago. It travels through eight states; California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Iowa and Illinois. That's almost 3600km (2200 miles). The train left Union Station LA in the late afternoon and arrived at Union Station Chicago in the early afternoon two days later.
That's a long journey but we were in a two-person cabin with a shower and toilet, cramped but comfortable. The dining car provided breakfast, lunch and dinner; and coffee, water and juice were available all day at one end of the sleeping car.
So here's a very much condensed video of the trip - 2 days in 2 minutes.
Sunday, December 7
The eleventh Vaka Eiva festival recently took place on Raro with about 600 paddlers from all over the world heading for the water.
There were many regulars from New Zealand, Hawaii (paddling legend Nappy Napoleon's Anuenue) and Australia (especially Rogz for Dogz who always come loaded up with supplies for the Esther Honey animal clinic). This year we alos had teams from Canada, England and Tahiti.
The weather was, shal we say, variable. No problems with Friday's canoe blessing and Saturday's V1 and OC1 races, but some of Monday's V6 iron races (12km or 18km six-person, no changeovers) had to be postponed because high winds made things dangerous. It rained fairly solidly for the juniors' Muri lagoon sprints and marathons but that apparently didn't dampen the enthusiasm; rain stopped for the senior sprints on Wednesday and although it started off dull for Thursday and Friday's V6 round the island relays the sun came out later on and some of the postponed V6 iron races were held on Friday afternoon.
A great innovation this year was DotVision's live view of the races - each vaka was fitted with a GPS gizmo so you could see online where the boats were.
This video is a brief look at Vaka Eiva as viewed from the shore. The VE Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/vakaeiva?fref=ts) has some neat videos including footage from the air and the water. I think there may be more of these coming but they weren't online last time I looked. The videos will probably also end up on the VE website but again they weren't there last time I looked. However, all the results are there (V1 and OC1: http://vakaeiva.com/index.php/information/race-results/race-results-2014-singles
For more stories on the biggest soprting event in the Cook Islands check out Cook Islands News (http://www.cookislandsnews.com/sport/paddling)