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Every Day a Different Journey - New Zealand | photo by: Dean Nelson (GayWhistler) shot on GoPro 4 Silver Surfer
Every day a different journey - Road Trip, Central North Island New Zealand

article by Dean Nelson @GayWhistler PART 2 OF 2

Every day a Different Journey

There is one thing to be said about jet leg it allows you to get up and going first thing in the morning. In my case, I knew I would wake up early so the night prior I had stopped at the local grocery store (which is always one of my favorite places to check out!) and picked up a few breakfast items I could enjoy while hitting the road in the wee hours of the morning.

I had gone to bed fairly early after a big travel day and having an “Unexpected Adventure” the previous day (click here to read that story). I sprang awake at 5AM, grabbed my day pack, jumped in the car and started racing (sort of speak) towards New Zealand’s most Eastern seaborne city of Gisborne approximately 4-hours from Rotorua.

Gisborne was one of the first cities in the world to usher in the new Millennium sunrise and therefore had created a special wall along the Midway Beach looking over the bay towards the iconic Young Nick’s Head and the Kaiti Beach. My mom had given me for Christmas 1999 my name to be included among the original 32,000 names. Now that I had a destination and mission for the day – I was on my quest to find the Millennium Wall of Gisborne and see what other interesting things I would find along the way.

Sunrise at Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand. Photo by GayWhistlerThe drive was exhilarating as I navigated in near darkness the twisty mountain highway as the aura of daylight started to reveal the exotic fern forest. It was almost 7AM the sun was just starting to rise from the depths of the Bay of Plenty near the tiny village of Opotiki. It was time to pull over, run around and enjoy the first rays of sunshine on this crisp autumn day. I really enjoyed the tranquility of the surf crashing, the birds singing and just bare witness to the majesty of this pristine beach scape. It was the perfect place to enjoy my breakfast snack after doing a couple sun salutations.

Re-energized I continue down the highway to Gisborne. As I entered the city I eagerly looked for any signage to help me find the Millennium Wall. I drove around for a bit and finally stopped and asked a couple guys at a local store. LGisborne Tuia 2000 painted tiles in Gisborne, New Zealandittle did I realize that I would set off an exciting debate as to where this landmark would be. In all fairness, the first guy I asked, was most likely in his twenties so the hype of this monument may not be as interesting than I and some of the older customers may have thought. I was off an my quest to find this wall. My first stop was to a painted wall from school kids in 1999 to celebrate the coming millennium. Colorful hand-painted tiles adorn an otherwise industrial elevated Wainui road in front of the Wharf Cafe. Clearly this is not what I was looking for, but it was one of those pleasant surprises that I am sure I would have missed.Millennium Wall Gisborne New Zealand

Next stop, I was off to Centennial Marine Drive on Midway Beach near the Olympic Pool Complex. Alas I found the Millennium Wall as well as my name. It wasn’t as grand as I had imagined but nonetheless, exciting to see that it really does exist and my name had been itched in granite for all to see (if they can find it!). It may have been a different journey than what I had imagined however I did discover that the Millennium Wall stood guard over Poverty Bay, and the Midway Surf club, a popular spot for surfers to come and ride the surf. Just down the road is a great eatery right on the water’s edge, Peppers Beach Cafe. Here I enjoyed a late breakfast while watching the surfers. Both the service and food was good.

Spade Oak vineyard with Steve VoyseyGisborne is also known for some of their wines and it looked like they had a handful of wineries nearby. On route home was the Spade Oak vineyard with Steve Voysey as their head wine maker. The award winning vineyard situated on the family-owned estate on the flats of Gisborne’s sun-washed central valley. These wines, from the flagship Spade Oak Reserve through Heart of Gold to the V Series, capture the soils, sunshine and passion of Gisborne’s central valley region, in a mixture of exciting varieties and styles. If you plan on popping in, please note, you must make an advance appointment to tour the winery and tasting.

As the central valley fades in my rear view mirror I am in awe of the ever changing landscape before me. I wind my way through the mountain passes and along the majestic shorelines I arrive at my next destination, Hells Gate. Click here to read my TripAdvisor review on Hells Gate, 50 acres of rumbling and steaming geothermal features was once sacred ground for Maori warriors to heal their wounds and remove the “tapu” of war. This would be my treat after a long day of driving, to spend a few hours taking in this natural wonder and then retreating to the comforts of the healing waters. The Hells Gate Mud Spa, in stark contrast to the Polynesian Spa the night before, was more of a rustic and authentic Maori experience.

Hells Gate Geothermal Park and Mud Spa Rotorua New Zealand

The changing facilities were all outdoors with a thatched roof. You are given a plastic bin to place your belongings and acted as your portable locker. Besides the lack of luxurious changing rooms and being exposed to the night air, I really enjoyed the experience. The night sky was vibrant and you could see Venus, Mars and the Southern Cross quite well. You are surrounded by the gurgling and bubbling of the nearby geothermal park which just added to the rawness of this sacred space.Okoroire Hot Spring Hotel New Zealand

After a full day I finally made my way to the Okoroire Hot Spring Hotel. The hotel was completed and opened in 1889 and still has that old world charm. Located just outside of Rotorua on an acreage in the village of Tirau. The hotel reminded me of an old country club that wealthy families in the day would come to vacation. Besides the obvious, private hot spring, the hotel also has their own 9-hole golf course, volleyball, tennis court, nearby hiking and biking trails and of course their own restaurant. It was time to call it a day.

Travel Resources:

– There are many rest stops and camping areas just off the side of the highways. The government of New Zealand Park and Recreation has some great travel tips. Visit

– Things to see and do in Gisborne

– Millennium Wall in Gisborne, New Zealand

– Gisborne Wineries

– Hells Gate Geothermal Park & Mud Spa

– Okoroie Hot Spring Hotel

Travel Tip

Do a bit of research ahead of your trip and get a sense of some of the things you may want to see and do. I like to schedule one or two “must see/do” to help create my purpose for the day, and then allow the day to unfold as things pop up. Stopping in at a tourists shop and looking at the Post Cards will give you an idea of the most iconic things to see, but do make the extra effort and ask some of the locals for things to see and do. You would be surprised what you may discover.

Follow me on Social Media

You can follow Dean Nelson on Social Media at @GayWhistler on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest

Be sure to follow @WeSaidGoTravel for other great travel tips and ideas

GayWhistler at Hobbiton

article by Dean Nelson @GayWhistler PART 1 OF 2

An Unexpected Journey to Middle Earth

I really enjoyed my flight with Air New Zealand from Vancouver to Auckland, non stop on their Boeing 777-200. I arrived in plenty of time to YVR – Vancouver International and was greeted by a friendly smiling face behind the Air New Zealand premium checkin counter. The agent said, “Mr. Nelson, we had been expecting you!” I had been upgraded from economy to premium economy. I was really excited as I thought I would be able to try out the airline’s “cuddle class” known as their skycouch however on the 777 that seat category is unavailable (sky couch will be in service starting in October 2015 from Vancouver to Auckland).

I was able to use the electronic boarding pass on my apple watch which made going through security really easy, however checking in to the Air Canada (Code-shared with Air New Zealand) Maple Leaf Lounge, I had to remove the watch so it could pass under the scanner. Not very practical, but the novelty was fun. Boarding the flight to Auckland, the gate agents only wanted to see the paper boarding pass that had been stamped proving your international travel documents had been verified, so could not use the Apple travel feature for this international flight.
GayWhistler with Air New Zealand and Apple Watch

I had a good seat, 24A, for the outbound flight I did not see the sunset (a K seat would have been better) even though I had the whole row to myself I could not lay across the seats as the arms of the chairs are permanent, though had a lot of leg room and managed to get a good night sleep.

I suspect the Airline’s safety video must have played in and out of my subconscious with their captivating tale of Middle Earth and flying safe.

When I arrived into Auckland I was greeted by maori warriors and of course by the massive Weta Workshop dwarf sculpture. I had an idea of what my trip to New Zealand was about, but when I jumped into my rental car and zoomed my way down the highway towards Rotorua I began my unexpected adventure! I was really taken with the beautiful green rolling hills, the highway was easy to drive (once I wrapped my brain around I needed to be on the right side) and made excellent time. Since I had arrived so early in the morning I was able to make Hobbiton my first stop.
GayWhistler visits Hobbiton
I really had not planned to take in the sites of the film set of the epic “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” blockbuster movie franchise, but since I was here I thought I should check it out. It was, after all, on my way to my destination. There was something really special stepping onto this farm in the middle of nowhere that suddenly you are swept into the movie magic and could imagine seeing Bilbo and his cohorts mingling about the Hobbit village. We learned how Peter Jackson was able to make the actors appear smaller or bigger depending on the shot. It was all very fascinating and really glad I made the stop.

Next up was to take in the adrenaline roll down the hill with a Zorb. Imagine what it would be like to be like “Ant Man” and get shrunk down and get swept up in a ball racing down a hill… well, no shrinkage needed with Zorb… just dive in and enjoy the roll down the hill.

After being tossed about it was time to continue my journey towards Rotorua. I had been traveling now for some 26-hours and thought it would be best to check in to my hotel.

After checking in and relaxing for a bit, aka a quick 30-min power nap, I found my second wind and was off to explore this wonderful Geo-Theromal city. The scent of sulfur became quite nostalgic for me as I had been here some 14-years prior and had many good memories. The city had grown a lot since my first adventure and really did not recall too many familiar places other than Whakarewarewa – the living Maori Village.

After wondering the village and taking in the Maori culture I headed to my “perfect cure” forGayWhistler at Polynesian Spa jet leg… a night at the spa! As the sun faded behind the hills across Lake Rotorua I checked in for my hot springs experience under the starry sky.

The Polynesian Spa is one of the oldest commercial hot springs in the Southern Hemisphere dating back to 1878. The alkaline pool Whangapipiro (now known as Rachel Spring) and the acidic pool Te Pupunitanga (referred to as Priest Spring) have both been used by the Maori for generations for their therapeutic, healing and curative properties.  The spa experience was wonderful.  It reminded me of the Onsens in Japan.  The primary difference is in New Zealand all the thermal pools are co-ed and bathing suits are required.  It was wonderful to just relax in the warm waters and stare up into the night sky. The night I was there the facility was fairly quiet so it was like I had the whole place to myself.  Had a great night sleep after.

Travel Resources

– Air New Zealand flies non stop from both San Francisco and Vancouver to Auckland. Visit:
– Car Rentals – I use to see what is out there and then will check the car company direct. In this case I used and rented directly with they had great rates. The only down side was their office did not open until 7AM, so I had to wait at the Airport for 2-hours (5AM arrival) however weighing the extra $70 to have the car 2-hours earlier by using Avis really did not seem like such a good use of my budget (both time and money).
Hobbiton Movie Set Tour – was actually quite interesting. It was expensive at $75 but that did included a guided tour and some great Hobbit Lager or non-alcoholic Ginger Beer after the tour.
Zorb Rotorua – just down the road from Hobbiton are a variety of adventure tours to be had including Zorb!
– Need to unwind from an active day? I suggest the Polynesian Spa. It is a full service geothermal spa but if you want any body work done, I do recommend booking well in advance as they do book up quickly.

Follow me on Social Media

You can follow Dean Nelson on Social Media at @GayWhistler on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest

Be sure to follow @WeSaidGoTravel for other great travel tips and ideas

Above the ground are some of the world’s most deadliest animals; below the ground and in the water are some of the world’s most deadliest animals – why would anyone want to go to Australia? Simply: it is awesome.

Australia is a country and continent unlike any other. For the adventurous traveler, it can be paradise. For the not so adventurous type, it can still be paradise. The entire country has ecosystems to explore by jumping in car, hiking through forest and mountains or diving into an underwater world – all of which I find myself to pause and question if I am still on planet earth.

My time in Australia was filled with endless curiosity for the diverse number of animals creating a life in the extreme weather conditions down under. Here’s a look at some amazing underwater animals one can see around Australia:

With its blue spots shimmering in the sun rays, we saw this blue spotted ray cruising by on the Nigaloo Reef.

  Wary of swimmers, and anything bigger than themselves, we were lucky to get a photo of this school of squid at  Lady Elliot Island.

Port Hedland has one of the few documented beaches in the world where the flat back turtle is known to nest. Until fairly recent times scientist did not even recognize or think of flat back turtles as their own species (it is now agreed there are seven species of sea turtles in the world). The nesting female population estimated at about 20,000 and the species is listed as endangered.

The first time I saw a reef shark while snorkeling, I was startled and sure a scene from Jaws was going to be re-enacted. I had all these images of sharp, giant teeth gnawing into my skin. As my knowledge and exposure to sharks grew, I became more comfortable and realized most encounters are the exact opposite from my initial irrational fears. Many sharks are shy creatures, easily scared off by swimmers and I was lucky to be seeing them before they swam away.

Above is a black tip reef shark we saw in Nigaloo Marine Park.

Full of bumps and a rougher texture, this cow ray was resting on the ocean floor near Lady Elliot Island.

Ever watching with skeptical eyes, this ‘freshie’  or fresh water crocodile was resting in the waters in the town of Kununurra.

Here are two male humpback whales on their annual Northern migration seen off the western coast of Australia in June. You can often see whales in pull off spots driving along in Western Australia.

Managed for over forty years, Indo Pacific Dolphins have been coming almost every day to Monkey Mia in Western Australia. Indo Pacific Dolphins are  distinguished by their splotchy undersides.

Hardly able to be detected with it’s camouflaged features, this octopus above started  moving around in a few inches of water. We took every chance we had to slowly wander through tide pools, you never know what you might find there.

With side fins that never seem to stop moving, puffer fish remind me of mini helicopters moving through the ocean. We saw these on both the Nigaloo Reef and Great Barrier Reef.

Gliding through the water like a fast moving shadow, these big rays went back and forth along the shore line in a feeding frenzie. We admired these guys around Merimbula in New South Wales.

In June, we completed one of our life time goals to swim with whale sharks. Swimming with these gentle giants is a must do. They are filter feeders and glide along the surface of the water eating small plankton’s. We went with Nigaloo Blue, which upheld a high standard of environmental practices and we were happy in our experience with them.

The world is big and the animals are many. If you would like to see two more additional animal related post, check out  Austrlian Animals and Lady Elliot Island. As a traveler, I go to new regions of the world to experience the culture, food and environment. By viewing the animals that inhabit other parts of the earth, I embrace the fact I get to dive deeper into how other living creatures strive to create a life on this planet can thrive live on this planet. I hope to never loose the fascination, empathy and understanding that all of us have a desire to create a home on this earth.

Australia has been one of our favorite countries, continents and cultures to visit. From snow capped mountains, ancient rain forest, red deserts and ever crashing oceans all around it, Australia is a top spot for exploring and finding wildlife.

My husband Chris and I lived in Australia for about two years and the ability to buy a vehicle and head out into their amazing parks and look for wildlife is at your fingertips. If viewing wildlife is one of your passions, book your trip down under today.

Here is a sampling of some of the incredible Australian animals we saw around the continent.

The iconic koala, a must see for Australian wildlife. All the koala’s we observed in the wild were so much more active than any I have ever observed in zoos or wildlife parks. They were alert and keenly aware of our presence. I just loved watching them selectively choose each eucalyptus leaf they would eat. A great place to see wild koala’s is French Island, in Victoria.

This is an Eastern Grey Kangaroo with her joey, or baby. Female kangaroos are almost always pregnant and if food sources become scarce she can essentially pause the growth of her developing young. In New South Wales, there is a handful of amazing parks for viewing wild life and enjoying the beach and we camped at Pebbly Beach.

This inquisitive, endangered female is a black footed rock wallaby. You can easily view these guys and gals at Heavitree Gap campground and resort in Alice Springs.

This is a native bush turkey and are quite common to see around New South Wales.

On the coat of arms for Australia, the emu have big, wary eyes. When they run their back feathers fluff up and down. We spent a week in Cape Range National Park in Western Australia and that is a great park for viewing wildlife. We also enjoyed camping at Yardie Creek Caravan Park.

Not to be confused the emu, the critically endangered cassowary is an animal from the Jurassic period.  There is an estimated 1000 or fewer cassowaries left in the wild. So get to the Daintree area in Queensland and drive really slow. (Most cassowary deaths are caused by vehicles.) This is an amazing bird to see in the wild.


 With it’s vibrant red body and green wings, the King Parrot adds a striking splash of color to the forest. Look for them in New South Wales national parks.


My favorite characteristic of the spinifex pigeon is how they tilted their head to the side to study me and then quickly scurry away into the brush with their head bobbing back and forth the entire time. We saw lots of these guys around the red center in Alice Springs and around Uluru.

Different from the North American fox, the Australia flying fox is a bat. Visitors can view hundreds of them hanging out in down town Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens.

Thriving on Rottnest Island, the quokka is a small marsupial that has adapted helping to keep it’s numbers strong on the island. Visitors usually access the island by ferry from either Perth or Fremantle.

We spent a few nights backpacking on the Larapinta Trail in Central Australia, which is quickly emerging as one of Australia’s most popular long distance hikes. Upon waking one morning, curled in a nook of Chris’ back pack was this knob tailed gecko. He seemed utterly perturbed that we were asking him to move, especially because the morning was cold and I do not think he appreciated being removed from his warm spot. We set him to the side, packed up camp and were on our way.

This Mertens water monitor we saw in Litchfield National Park in the Northern Territory. If you ever have a reason to stop in at Darwin, rent a car and get yourself to Litchfield and Kakadu National Parks.

Australia is one of the 17 countries listed as ‘megadiverse’ with over 80% of the mammals, reptiles and flowering plants being endemic, or native, to Australia. Look for the next photo post to show case animals found in the waters surrounding Australia.

Uoleva, Tonga

Smiles are the currency of Tonga.

The man with the battered boom box wore one as he swayed to a steel drum beat.  Grinning at nothing in particular, one hand held the portable machine while the other slapped out a rhythm on his thigh.

“Hey prince, hey princess,” he called out to us, “welcome to paradise!”

The shop keeper across the street thought he was crazy.  While my boyfriend and I payed for dusty supplies – bottled water and batteries from China – she smirked bemusedly.  “Every day the same…”

Still grooving, he shouted again as we stepped back into the harsh sun.  “We got the beach, we got the sea, we got everything we need.  This is the real paradise.”

Though Tonga has a high unemployment rate, basic necessities are limited, and the country doesn’t even appear on most world maps, sour faces are a rarity.  Once called ‘The Friendly Isles’, this is the only South Pacific country to escape colonization.  So while it seems under-developed on the surface, Tonga is rich in less tangible qualities: history, environment, morale.

To capture the wealth of this remote country, here are six more moments you must experience in Tonga:

 Tongan umu, 'Eua, Tonga

7.   Eat an umu.  Prepared across the South Pacific, from New Zealand to Hawaii, this Polynesian meal is cooked in the ground.  Basic ingredients – fish, chicken or pork, the starchy taro root, sweet potatoes – are laid over taro leaves (or foil, in the modern version).  Next, the raw mixture is drenched with coconut milk.  The package of food is then placed in a pit with hot coals and covered up for an hour or two.  Most Tongans prepare an umu on Sundays, so it can slowly roast while they attend church.  Ask your hostel or guesthouse if they can show you how this traditional meal is created.


8.  Try ota ika.

Trevally and the sword-nosed Marlin are prize fish caught off Tonga’s shores.  While anglers come for the chance to reel in one of these giants, the daily fish markets showcase a plethora of smaller ocean creatures.  A national dish, called ota ika – literally, “raw fish” – features diced fresh seafood, mixed with finely-chopped tomato, onion, coconut and lime juice.


9.   Ponder the Trilithon.

Little is known about the ancient stone Trithalon that towers vigilantly from a lonely square of grass on Tongatapu’s northern coast.  Though the Stonehenge-like structure has been dated to the 13th century, the facts of its existence are few and hypothetical.  Common myth holds that the three stones are too large for human movement and can only have been placed by the Polynesian demigod, Maui.

  Uoleva, Tonga

 10.   Cut down a coconut. 

The local boys make it look easy, shimmying up a narrow palm tree as if they were climbing stairs.  While the ascent requires a bit of upper-arm strength and dexterity, it’s a worthy effort for the fruit clustered at the top.  The smaller, green coconuts are young and better for milk; older, tougher nuts provide the best flesh.  To open, find something sharp, like a rock or strong stick, and poke through one of the nut’s three natural ‘eyes’.  In this conservative country, it’s one of the few things you’re allowed to drink in excess.


11.   Take the ferry. 

Don’t Google it first: news of the 2009 disaster, when the MV Princess Ashika sank and 74 persons were lost at sea, will worry even the bravest travelers.  But sailing conditions have improved with foreign investment, and the ferry remains the most authentic way to move between islands.  An airplane might be faster – the boat ride between Tonga’tapu and its outer chains can take anywhere from three days to a week – but it doesn’t involve a hundred crates of carefully stacked brown eggs, irate piglets and squabbling hens, bunches of cassava, and locals napping with their bare toes in your lap.  Besides, isn’t the journey  more important than the destination?

 Uoleva, Tonga

 12.   Find your own tropical paradise.

 With over 170 islands – less than half of them populated – strung like an unclasped pearl necklace from the northern Niuas down to ‘Eua, you don’t have to go far to find an unoccupied stretch of sand.  In most instances of accommodation, the title ‘remote resort’ has less to do with starred amenities and more to do with the utter relaxation you’ll receive.  No electricity, no running water.  Palm-thatched shacks and sea-side hammocks.  Fresh coconuts for breakfast, the sunrise as your only alarm.  Most importantly, spending time in a place where the only footprints on the beach are your own.

Ticked off all these opportunities on your To-Do Tonga list?  Check out even more Must-Experience Moments in Part 1


Uoleva, Tonga

Brass notes hit us before the heat, rushing loudly through the opened airplane door.

“Who called out the band?” I asked my boyfriend.  Polished tubas and trumpet bells glinted under the airport floodlights.  Above the instruments, locals cheered and waved frantically from a second-story deck.

Smiling graciously, I felt like a celebrity, not a tourist.

The authenticity of this gesture was distinctly Tongan.  It didn’t matter that, three weeks later, we discovered the ceremony was not a personal welcome; instead, the crowd had gathered to receive King Topou VI, who had flown first class on our flight from New Zealand.

Here, hospitality is extreme.  Big meals and good music are genuine acts of appreciation.  Rugby matches and church services are community celebrations.    Though the airport’s Tourist Information kiosk is empty and the capital of Nuku’alofa feels like a ghost town, a guidebook is unnecessary in this under-developed nation.  In Tonga, it is the simplest opportunities that bring the greatest pleasure.

To become a part of this South Pacific kingdom, these are the moments you must experience:

'Eua, Tonga

1.   Spot a green streak at sunset.

Strung along the International Dateline, Tonga claims to be the first country to witness each new sunrise.  While waking up at dawn gives you a rare feeling of survival, watching a sunset is equally special.  You are the first person to say goodbye to the moment, staring fixedly across the ocean’s flat horizon.  With the national beer, Mata Maka, in one hand and a camera in the other, watch carefully for that illusive green streak, the stuff of sailors’ tales, as the sun disappears over the Pacific.

Humpback whales, Uoleva, Tonga

2.   Swim with humpback whales.

The Dominican Republic is the only other country that allows and encourages visitors to enter the water with these giant sea creatures.  From July to October, they migrate through Tonga’s rich coastal waters to give birth and raise their young.  Most professional operations are run by expats and can cost a bit of pa’anga, the national currency.  A cheaper alternative is simply to barter a trip with one of the local fisherman.  Tongans tend to know the ocean like a brother, and many seem wary of the international outfits that are luring tourists to their shores.  Do your research before you hop into the waves; and remember, sightings are just as common from shore.  As one shopkeeper explained, “If you can see the ocean, you can see the whales.”


3.   Befriend a spider. 

It’s impossible to imagine that these bulbous, bright yellow arachnids are harmless.  Waiting ominously in webs strung between electricity wires and low tree branches, their opulent bodies and nimble legs seem to imply something dark and dastardly.  But they are, locals assured us, non-venomous.  And if one should deign to creep down upon your shoulder?  Well, that’s just plain good luck.


4.   Drink the coffee.

What began as a 1900s government demand for all landholders to grow coffee plants is now a privatized industry with some of the smallest – but most flavorful – bean harvests in the world.  Just as good in a French press or an espresso shot, the distinctive taste is said to come from the nearby salt water of the Pacific Ocean.  This coffee is so good, rumor has it that when the King visits other foreign dignitaries, the only gift he shares is a bag of roasted beans.


5.   Listen to a church choir.

No hymn books, no instruments, no visible choir director; only one softly played pitch, and the sudden eruption of an entire congregation into eight-part heavenly accord.  Decades of Christian missionary influence have created a strongly religious population.  Many families attend two or three mass services on Sundays, and refrain from drinking or swimming.  If you express an interest in the music, most will be pleased to seat you in a front row pew for a church choir performance.

 Uoleva, Tonga

6.   Go snorkeling. 

Perhaps a safer alternative to swimming with whales, snorkeling off any of Tonga’s islands is like diving into The Little Mermaid.  The country has yet to devastate a majority of its vibrant coral reefs with dynamite fishing or water pollution.  So, while environmental experts wonder how increased development will affect its natural underwater kingdoms, there are still pristine coral gardens to explore.

Ticked off all these opportunities on your To-Do Tonga list?  Check out even more Must-Experience Moments in Part 2. View all of my posts on We Said Go Travel here.


Lost Ring in Oahu!

The day just started off on a bad note.  My father in law let the dogs out in the front yard by accident…again.  Leina, my fiancé, dragged herself out of bed early to watch the dogs.  Sasha, our oldest dog, was not the problem.  It was Pa’a, the one year old puppy, who was trouble.  He had a history of chasing anything he could hump.

By the time I woke up to greet my future wife, she looked like a crab surrounded by a tornado of hormones and moodiness.  There was only one way to reclaim the day at this point.  “We’re going out for breakfast,” I said.

2013-08-01_13_57_33 We took the high energy dogs with us, being sure to give them a long walk before going to the diner.  Then we planned to go  hike to the Lighthouse at Makapu’u. But we only made it ¾ around the block before she turned around and gasped.  Her look of panic hit me like a flash flood.  It only took half a second for me to read her mind.  I sprung into action, retracing our steps as she muttered the dreaded words, “My ring!”

It was gone. Leina walked like a stunned zombie, bare finger in tow.  Before I turned the corner, I said, “I have a feeling that it’s back at the house, but I’m going to circle back just in case”.  My heart pounded as I knew we only had a matter of minutes before someone else could pick up the ring.

Thoughts pounded in my head.  “What do we do if it’s not at home?  Does this mean I need to buy her a new ring?  I can’t afford a new ring.  My poor baby…I hope she’s OK.”  Through the high speed flow of mental notes, an image of the chestnut dresser next to our bed floated into my mind.  A wave of calm came over me as the feeling in my gut told me that the ring is by that dresser.  But there was only one way to find out for sure.

Thoughts pounded in her head.  “How did this happen?  What is he going to think of me?  Is he mad at me? The thought of going to work without my ring makes me feel ashamed.  Where is it?!” I felt her fear all the way around the block.

By the time we reconnected, I had already sprinted around the block with Pa’a.  No luck. I ushered the family back to the car.  “We’re going home to look for the ring,” I said with urgency.  Once Leina hit the passenger seat, the tears poured down her face.  “I’m so sorry!” she sobbed.

“Don’t apologize.  I think I know where it is.”

Believe it or not, this is not the first time I have recovered a wedding ring.  My mom lost her ring once in our garden.  The acrobatic ring jack knifed into the 3 inches of fresh soil she had just laid down.  I have the distinct memory of my deceased great grandmother over my shoulder, guiding my hand to the pin point location of the ring’s burial ground.  My mom smiled at the news that Great Grandma Kennedy was watching over us.  The presence of my deceased Grandma Kennedy continues to be a comfort to me, something that many people experience in our Bloodline Healing workshop, where I put my intuition to work to help others feel their ancestors.  Great Grandma helped us recover my mom’s ring.  I look forward to seeing how ancestors help the participants at our next workshop at Brandeis-Bardin (near LA, California) on October 10th-13th of this year.

But, Leina never took off her ring.  Her rude awakening this morning made her frazzled, so she lost track of the ring on her finger.  Damn her low-carb diet! Her fingers had obviously shrunk, making the ring easy to lose.

I barged through the door to our apartment, and stood in front of the chestnut dresser.  I tossed the top drawers like scrambled eggs.  Nothing.  Had I lost my mojo? Despite the calming vision, another surge of anxiety surfaced when the ring didn’t immediately turn up.  The zombie arrived in the room, fussing with the little corners where she stored jewelry.  Nothing.

“I keep seeing this corner of the room, babe.”  She helped me toss the pile of laundry at the foot of the dresser.  Our comforter had oozed off our bed during the night to attack the laundry pile, making it a huge lump of cloth.  3 layers later, Leina’s hand retrieved the hiding engagement ring.  She held the ring in a waterfall of tears.  The shock, the pent up drama, and her gratitude poured through her eyes.  I held her, feeling relieved that my intuition had helped me in another heart wrenching situation.  It turns out that sleeping with a psychic has its benefits.  “I’m so glad that you have ninja skills, babe,” she said.  “You were so confident that we would find it here. I’m so lucky to have you.”

Relief! We found it!

Leina looked at me with relief.  “You know, there must be a lesson in all this,” she said.  “Yea.  Life is telling us to do the laundry,” I replied.


  For more information about the Upcoming Bloodline Healing Workshop at Brandeis-Bardin on Oct. 10th-13th, please go to

Huge Natural Warm Springs meet the Ocean
Private Pond connected to greater pond

Big Island, Hawaii

We stopped at the hard, black lava rock road in my 4 wheel drive Tucson. While technically, my car was four wheel drive, it’s suspension was not high enough to handle most 4 wheel drive jobs on Big Island. After a few chunky clanks to the chassis, I backed out of the rough road. Our car was not going to make it.

“Well, we can always park in front of the gated community and walk in!” That was plan B. You see, there are only 2 ways into the Champagne Ponds in Puna District. The first way we tried was to go four wheeling through an unpaved road. Your standard Jeep rental will do the trick just in case you plan to visit. I don’t recommend your standard SUV’s for the job. The other way was through a gated community where you either need to be a guest of a community member or you need to park outside and walk ¾ of a mile through the town.

As my partner and I walked our 2 dogs through the neighborhood, we were amazed by how many houses had their very own lava rock ponds. The water table was so high that you could dig down 10-20 feet and discover a well spring filling your private pond. It looked like a scene out of Lord of the Rings, where elves had taken over the land and built pools for rejuvenation near their ornate houses. We didn’t mind the walk through the secluded village, and neither did the dogs.



Our puppy Pa’a bounced with each step, a sure sign that he was 7 months old. Our other dog Sasha, arrived a few days earlier after having knee surgery 2 months ago. She flew from New York back to Hawaii, drained from the travel and still recovering from her rebuilt knee. It had been a rough 5 months for our budding family as we sorted out Rabies boosters and orthopedic doctors from afar. But now, the turmoil was over. Sasha was home and our family felt complete.

We all needed to refresh our mana (life force), so the brackish water, a blending of cool spring water meeting the tides of the ocean, was the perfect day trip. There was a lava rock platform where you can put your stuff before diving into the 2 smaller ponds connected with the very large pond which opens up to the ocean. Some people camped out in tents for the day on the beach side of the ponds. Other just grab their snorkel gear and swim through the pristine water that feels even cleaner than the ocean. The sea waves at the mouth of the pond become slight currents by the time they reach the body of the ponds, making it safe for kids to swim. Another couple brought two Pomeranian mixed dogs named Snookie and Poki who swam freely back and forth to their owners. Even Snookie (no relation to the Jersey Shore) felt safe in the pools. As we fussed over how to best transport our recovering doggie into the healing waters with minimal strain to her knee, our conversation was interrupted by the splash of a meaty cur-plunk! Sasha had found her own way into the water and she peddled around like an expert seal. It was her way of saying, “Stop worrying already. I’m fine!”

I took it as a reminder to cut loose and enjoy! As I swam through the ponds towards the ocean, I had the unique experience of the saltier water pulling away the residual stress that I had felt from the difficult task of caring for Sasha from afar. I decompressed the worry and angst, like a thick cloud escaping from my body. These feelings had been contained in my chest and guts, a necessary containment so that my brain could handle all the moving pieces without the floods of emotions. But now it was time to let it all go. As I released the emotional clouds into the salt water, there was more room to breathe, more space inside. A merciful bliss took over me. How often to we allow ourselves to dump out the stress so completely?

As I turned around and swam back towards the connected ponds, the cool streams from the fresh water jets tickled my belly. The rush of cool brought an invigoration to my body, as if the new space inside was filling up again with life giving mana. I felt renewed, quenched, and at ease. Most of all, I felt grateful to this natural spot for being an oasis of healing in my backyard. Luckily, you can come visit.

To set up a customized personal retreat in Hawaii, send a friend request to my Facebook page and message me.  Aloha

Enjoying the beach in Kailua, Hawaii
Enjoying the beach in Kailua, Hawaii

Thank you to Johnny Jet for posting my article about Kailua Beach. George and I really enjoyed our time there. Here is how the article starts:

Should you visit the Hawaiian island of Oahu, don’t miss meeting Carol, the wonderful owner at Mani Mele Bed and Breakfast, a tropical oasis steps from the beach on Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii. You may remember hearing about this beach as this was the Presidential respite and winter break in December 2011 for the First Family.

The locals love when President Obama is in town, as the road is shut down and the area, often populated with tourists, becomes quieter. Also nearby is the Marine Corps Base of Hawaii with 10,000 residents, directly connected to Pearl Harbor by Highway 3. We found the nearby white-sand beach to be perfectly presidential with its sand so perfect it seems that the secret service carefully selected each grain.


Recently my article about our visit to Waikiki posted on the site, Thank you to Johnny Jet for sharing my post! It starts like this:

The area around Waikiki’s famous two mile-long white sand crescent beach is a mecca for tourists. Waikiki means “spouting waters” and is located on Oahu, the third largest of the Hawaiian islands. Oahu means “gathering place” and many tourists gather here to enjoy the sand, shopping, and attractions of this incredible paradise.

We stayed at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, in a room on the 27th floor with an incredible view. After taking in the newly-rebuilt 17 acre Pearl Harbor visitor center, hiking at Diamond Head, and snorkeling at Hanuma Bay, we were ready to go to Kailua Beach, which was voted the number one beach in the USA.
Read more:

Video: Wandering in Waikiki