After all the excitement and worry of last night we ended up having a great flight. The plane was only about a third full and we had the space to completely lie down. I subsequently took a sleeping tablet and zonked out for the night only waking up about 6 hours later. We have our breakfast, I swap my hot stuff for yogurt and fresh fruit and before much longer we’re due to land. Coming in over LA I can’t believe how flat, brown, heavily populated and massive it looks. I start crying a bit with the relief and excitement of finally arriving here. It feels like a dream really.

We clear immigration and collect our gear before setting of on the free shuttle bus to Thrifty car rental. We have booked a salon type car but when we go towards the car park Simon steers us towards some big beast of a car. Oh my god – how cool!! I’m shrieking at this point! For the next 10 days we will be driving a Ford Mustang Convertible! It is awesome!

We head out kind of North West towards Santa Monica, on the way passing legends such as UCLA, The Getty Museum, Sunset Blvd and Beverley Hills. We will be spending some time in LA when we come back here prior to our flight to New York but for now our plan is to get out and drive up the coast towards San Francisco where we will be spending the next few days.

Its just awesome- driving along the freeway with the roof down and some hip hop music blasting out I feel like we’ve been thrown into a scene of a film and everything feels very familiar and comfortable. We drive for a about 3hours passing Ventura and Santa Barbara on the way. This is Californian Wine country and we are tempted to stop at one of the vineyards and buy a couple of bottles but keep going. Due to time restraints we know we will have some heavy driving ahead over the next few days and are going to have to concentrate on seeing the places we want to see the most.

We stop off at a Best Western Motel for the night and pay 115 dollars for a big room. Its luxury to have a bath and although we don’t want to watch any TV whilst we’re here the kids are pleased to see about a million different channels.

Well we’re fairly exhausted now its 11pm and we’ve so far managed to eat McDonalds and Taco Bell. Tomorrow we are going to be driving the rest of the way to San Francisco- about another 4 hours; we have booked accommodation there and also 2 nights at Circus Circus in Las Vegas later on in the week.

Arriving in the Cook Islands

Saturday 18th August 2007-My first thought is that I want to phone someone at home this morning just to say “I’ll speak to you again yesterday” and as I have 5 minutes calling credit left on a phone card I give mum a quick ring before breakfast. Peterina comes and sits with us until we leave at 10.I’m impressed she made it to say goodbye as she tells us she was out partying until 5am with some guests from the hotel.

We wave our goodbyes and get in a taxi for the airport. We sit reading and before long board our flight to The Cook Islands. The flight time is just over 3 hours and the time when we arrive is around 5pm. (Friday 17th August 2007) – Weird!!

We have booked a hostel within walking distance of the airport but I’m a bit upset when we look out of the plane window to see heavy rain. Anyway by the time we have been through immigration it’s stopped but it isn’t that warm and I’m definitely going to need to change into warmer clothes.

The hostel looks ok, right on the beach, we have a big room to share and the view out of the window is great. The fella tells us that the humpback whales are migrating past Rarotonga at the moment and to keep an eye out for them. We shower and change quickly and head to the bar to see if we can get some food. It is going to cost us a lot of money here for the next few weeks and it’s a bit of a shock when they tell us its 25 New Zealand Dollars (NZD) each for dinner, the hostel is 120 NZD and I can feel the cash draining away already.

We have our meal, a BBQ buffet and chocolate cake and ice-cream for pudding and watch the band. There is a wedding party going on and I feel sorry for the bride and groom. I guess when you go all that that way for a tropical wedding you hope the weather will be fantastic. As it is, it’s pissing down with rain and looks like a cyclone has struck outside. Not quite the photos they had hoped for!

We head back to our room, I go to sleep and Simon and the kids watch some film on the laptop. Tomorrow we are thinking of hiring a car for the day so we can drive around the island and try and get some decent accommodation that won’t completely break the bank. Hmmm! Could be difficult!

The Wet Tropics

Sadly we are leaving today. I’ve loved it here and I think Simon has been very surprised how much I have warmed to the camping lifestyle. (The wine helped) We say our goodbyes, buy a few postcards and set off once more. We drive back to Daintree River and across on the ferry. On the way we pass lots of creeks including Devil Devil Creek.

The kids love this type of travelling and are so happy sat in the back of the Vee Dub chatting away, listening to music, playing their PSP’s and staring out of the window. The landscape is quite flat and very green and the mountains in the distance are constantly being engulfed by thick clouds. Although it’s not really isolated you can drive for miles without seeing much traffic and the “towns” are very spaced out.

We get to Mount Malloy and head for the pie shop. The pies have been recommended by a number of people and we’re keen to try them. They go down well but that’s more to with our hunger than the pie quality I think. Mount Malloy is a tiny place and the pie shop lady although friendly looks slightly on the scary side. The kids’ start singing the banjo song from Deliverance and Simon wonders out loud if the pies are made from lone travellers who get lost in this area. Whatever, I’m glad to get some fuel and be on our way!

We follow signs for a winery. The wine is made from mangos that are grown locally and we have to have a bottle. We have a taste first and settle on the dry version Yum! before setting off again. It so cool in the combi and we listen to The Dixie Chicks and Fleetwood Mac on the way. We are heading for Atherton and Lake Tinaroo and haven’t got much further to go now. On the way we pass huge termite mounds standing around 3-4 feet high and the same again in width. I’m tempted to get out and poke them with a stick to see what happens.

Its 6.30 now and we’re in the VW preparing dinner. We stopped at a butcher on the way and got some BBQ food. For 28 dollars we have got enough lamb, sausages, fresh homemade burgers and steaks to last us about 6 days. The campsite is lovely, right on the edge of Lake Tinaroo and we have a quiet and secluded spot. Simon and Ali cook the meat and me and Maisie make some packet pasta thing to go with it. When they come back Ali tells me he has given up wearing shoes. I can remember one of the doctors I used to work with telling me the kids would go feral on this trip and it seems like they’re almost there.

We have decided to spend a couple of nights here and tomorrow will be exploring the area a bit more.