Archive for Travelogues

Pu’uhonua o Honaunau – A Place of Refuge

A God looks out over the Place of Refuge on the Big Island of Hawaii

A Watchful God On the Big Island

Pu’uhonua o Honaunau – A Place of Refuge

The Traveler in Hawaii

It is where sinners come to find refuge from the consequences of their sin, and a new life.

That’s the watered-down Haule (white man) version of Pu’uhonua o Honaunau on Honaunau Bay South of Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. Back in the day, Hawaiian society was based on the Kapu – or laws from the Gods. Commoners were subject to a brutal system of laws: men and woman shall not eat together; a commoner shall not let his shadow fall across the path of the royals (nor even look in their general direction).

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Backroads of New Zealand Part 4: Life and the Zen of Gliding

A Travel Series by Diane Covington

Follow along with Diane as she explores the northern end of the South Island of New Zealand for adventures along the back roads…

Part 4: Catching the updraft above Nelson Lakes National Park, New Zealand

While we were staying at the Alpine Lodge in St. Arnaud, I had the chance to go up in a glider above Nelson Lakes National Park. What an unforgettable experience! Here are my thoughts on that amazing journey through the sky. If you want more information on taking a ride in a glider, check out the online home of the New Zealand gliding clubs.


The fat brown Jersey cows munched the thick grass, flicking their tails against flies, then moseyed along. They never even glanced over at the light planes that zoomed past on the grassy runway, recently reclaimed from their pasture. The slender gliders raced up and down, landing and taking off, like birds in flight.

To go up in a glider, you get strapped into your seat, then the glider, attached by a cable to a wench, gets towed down the runway till it takes to the air, sort of like launching a kite. You’re taxiing down the runway, then whoosh, up, into the sky. No motor, no sound, just the feel of lifting up fast, carried by the wind. The wench releases, attached to a tiny parachute and billows down to the ground.

Up in the air, the sound of the wind rushing past the wings, a thin Plexiglas cover is all you have between you and the open sky. 1,000 feet above the ground, catching updrafts, lift as they call it, up, then down, circling, just like the ospreys, hawks and vultures, I’ve watched soaring, drifting, circling- -amazing.

I was stunned by the beauty of the perspective, thrilled by the closeness of the treetops, awed by the sensibility of literally “casting our fate to the winds” and depending on the whims of Mother Nature to carry us along.

The sheep and cows below looked like little dots of white cotton or brown fuzz. The sun sparkled off the Plexiglas cover, the clouds danced along the ridges, almost eye level to us now.
It must be one of the most direct experiences of flying that a person could have, except maybe hang gliding. I was reminded of the myth of Icarus who fulfilled his dream of flying but soared too close to the sun and melted the wax holding his wings together and fell to his death.

I’ve had dreams of flying and this felt pretty close. I can see why my friend who was piloting the glider has logged over 600 hours, feeling out the air currents, riding them and soaring through the sky.

How could I have missed this for all these years? Where was I that I didn’t know this wonder?

It felt gentle somehow, like we were riding Mother Nature, in some sync with her moods and fancies, flowing, natural like a bird. It felt like she smiled at us in a playful way, played with us a bit, a game of hide and seek, hiding the currents—catch me if you can—down, down, down, then up, up, up, over, always gliding, soaring, falling, then soaring again.

I thought about life–where are the updrafts, the places where I can soar with ease and grace, the wind beneath my wings, carried by something larger than myself, but which I am a part of?
And saw that gliding and life both require that you pay close attention to what is happening, moment by moment. Looking for the gifts, like the updrafts, the lift, which will carry you on.

Diane Covington 2010

Backroads of New Zealand: Part 3 – Nelson Lakes National Park

A Travel Series by Diane Covington

Follow along with Diane as she explores the northern end of the south island of New Zealand for adventures along the back roads…

Part 3: Nelson Lakes National Park

It was a three-hour drive from the ocean at Golden Bay to Nelson Lakes National Park, up in the mountains.

We chose the small village of St. Arnaud, right on the shore of the sparkling waters of Lake Rotoiti. There is so much outdoor fun available here, it’s hard to know what to do first.

On the lake, you can kayak, windsurf, water-ski, canoe and swim. Or try your hand at fly-fishing in the nearby rivers, for some of the best brown and rainbow trout fishing in New Zealand. Or kayak or raft down the river.

There are hiking trails all over the park, with an extensive network of tracks and huts for overnight stays for backpackers.

I spent my days bike riding and then jumping in the lake to cool off.

We found a gem of a lodge, the Alpine Lodge, a five-minute walk from the lake.

The lodge is a perfect place if you want to be outside and active all day, then come back to a clean and comfortable room, shower and have a gourmet dinner. We enjoyed delicious entrees such as Chicken Curry, a Vegetarian Burrito and an amazing Burger in their bar at the Lodge.

Just next door, their café serves breakfast and lunch. I had a delectable chocolate and berry muffin for breakfast and for lunch, a bacon, cheese and vegetable quiche. All their breads and baked goods are made from scratch. They buy local produce and support local businesses, including serving beers brewed in nearby Nelson and of course, New Zealand wines.

Owner Alexandra Unterberger, who runs the lodge with her fiancée Leighton Marshall, comes from a family with over 300 years history in the hotel and restaurant business. They really go out of their way to make guests feel welcome.

“We’re here every night with the guests. We enjoy having that personal touch,” Alexandra said.

The Alpine Lodge and St Arnaud are centrally located for sightseeing day trips. It’s one hour to Nelson, for arts and crafts and Blenheim for wine tasting. Or the West coast for dramatic coastal scenery, including blowholes.

We had a two-story studio with a view of the creek and felt at home during our three-day stay.

“We want to provide clean rooms, good service and good food,” Alexandra said.

And they did. We’ll go back for sure.


Diane Covington 2010

Backroads of New Zealand – Part Two: Golden Bay

A Travel Series by Diane Covington

Follow along with Diane as she explores the northern end of the south island of New Zealand for adventures along the back roads…

Part 2: Golden Bay

I’m visiting a friend who lives in Golden Bay, known for its beautiful and remote beaches. It’s at the north end of the south island and there’s only one two-lane road in and out, so the quiet is palpable. The ocean sparkles on one side of the road and the sheep and cows graze on the other. The skies at night are amazing—you’re gazing up at the Milky Way and a different sky from the northern hemisphere.

The back roads are perfect for biking, fairly flat and not too many cars. For Americans, we just have to remember to drive on the left!
Here are some must see stops in this area:

Farewell Spit Bird Sanctuary

Farewell Spit nature reserve, a bird sanctuary particularly important for migratory shorebirds and including over 90 species of birds, juts out into the ocean at the northern most tip of the south island of New Zealand. The 35km long peninsula looks like a fish hook as it curves around. Public access is restricted so you have to go on an organized tour to see it.
We took a long and relaxing bike ride along Golden Bay. Feeling the fresh salt air on my face and the freedom of pedaling along on a bicycle, followed by a jump in the cool ocean waves were great tonics for jet lag!

Wharariki Beach

It’s a hike (20-30 minutes) from the parking lot, but well worth it. Very dramatic landscape, views, sand dunes, caves and ocean. The day we went it was very windy, so go when it is calm if you can. It would be a great spot to spend the day with a picnic and for sure, bring your camera.

We’re off the Nelson Lakes National Park next so stay tuned!


Diane Covington 2010

Backroads of New Zealand: Part One – Stunt Pilot

A Travel Series by Diane Covington

Follow along with Diane as she explores the northern end of the south island of New Zealand for adventures along the back roads…

Part 1 – From jet lag to stunt pilot:
First day in New Zealand and I become a stunt pilot—even with jet lag! Read on and catch the two videos for more fun. Photos too. Enjoy!

If you’ve ever dreamed of being a stunt pilot, soaring high among the clouds and doing rolls and loops, this is your chance!

Want to be a stunt pilot—at least for a day? Well now you can. New Zealand is living up to its reputation of the “land of wild and crazy adventures” and this one leaves bunjee jumping in the dust, literally.

In the little town of Motueka , at the north end of New Zealand’s south island, near Nelson and Golden Bay, there’s a small grassy airstrip where a very brave pilot lets you pay him to take you up in his open air bi-plane, and not only fly it, but do turns, rolls and loops.

You’re soaring through the air, snoopy style, goggles, hair flying, looking down on the green hills and valleys of New Zealand, the ocean sparkling below, farms with sheep and cows grazing. In the distance, there’s Farewell Spit, the narrow peninsula that extends out like a fish hook at the top of the island, then the curving shore and white sands of Golden Bay and the wilderness of Abel Tasman National Park.

You take the plane up to 7,000 feet, feeling the air temperature cool as you climb higher and the wind rushes by. The pilot, Vince, sitting right behind you, gives you instructions—‘nose up, nose down, now move the stick to the left, that’s good…’
When it’s time to roll, he says simply ‘hard left, hard left, hard left’ and over you roll!

It was terrifyingly wonderful and that was with jet-lag—I’d just gotten off the plane from California a few hours before. Don’t miss this chance to be a stunt pilot. Vince is an amazing coach and you can do it!


Diane Convington 2010