Thursday, 31 December 2009

The Marlborough Sounds

When in New Zealand celebrate Christmas as the New Zealanders do! Christmas morning dawned a beautiful warm day with the temperature in the mid-twenties. We found a very welcoming Anglican church on the outskirts of Blenheim to celebrate Christmas morning. Then it was off to the beach! A walk over the cliffs where we enjoyed a picnic lunch overlooking the Marlborough Sounds, then down to the beach for a paddle in the sea. Christmas Dinner - barbecue lamb followed by locally grown summer fruits which are in abundance. It was a Christmas different to any other we have known, but no less special, and one we shall always remember.

We're now on South Island in the beautiful area of the Marlborough Sounds. Water Taxis run between the coves and drop you off, then after a walk along the Queen Charlotte Track they come and meet you and take you back to your starting point. We had a lovely 14 km walk along the cliff through woodland with marvellous views.

This area is also the place for vineyards and wineries. Many wines from Marlborough are available at home so it was interesting to see the vines growing and sample a few different wines.

Saturday, 19 December 2009


Happy Christmas

Hope that your Christmas is a joyful and happy time with family and friends.

"When the time came for Mary's baby to be born she gave birth to a son. She wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn".

These pictures are from Old St Paul's Church in Wellington which was beautifully decorated for Christmas

Wednesday, 16 December 2009


We have spent a week at Tongariro National Park. The highlight was walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a 19km hike across volcanic terrain with wonderful views of Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Tongariro. Mt Ngauruhoe featured as Mt Doom in the film the Lord of the Rings. The crossing is considered New Zealand's top one day tramp and it was great. Although it rained a lot during our stay the sun shone for the walk. It's a 'tramp' we will always remember!

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Gisborne to Hastings

Highlights of this week:
  • Staying with friends in their 130 year old kauri home. It really is something quite special with a wooden staircase and floors. It reminds me of the house in Gone with the Wind! It's great to catch up with Ian and Karola. We also have access to a good internet connection which helps a lot!
  • Becoming interested in Art Deco at Napier and Hastings. In 1933 there was an earthquake which destroyed the towns. Rebuilding took the interesting form of Art Deco and now these towns are renowned for this style of building.

    Coming to Hastings is like going back in time. The shops all close at 5pm and 2pm on Saturdays. Needless to say we didn't get to town until too late to do any productive shopping!
  • A walk to a 2000 year old puriri tree
  • A heatwave of 29 degrees on Sunday dropping to 12 degrees by Friday and loads of rain
  • A visit to a small vineyard - a personal tour on the back of a quad bike through vines; wine tasting sitting under the trees planted by the great grandfather of the owner who arrived from Ireland in the 1860's and started up the vineyard. We leave with a large bag of juicy oranges grown in the orchard alongside the vineyard and a true taste of New Zealand hospitality and generosity.
Sunrise on the beach at Gisborne. Gisborne is the first city in the world to greet the sunrise so we couldn't leave without seeing it. It's getting towards the longest day so the sun gets up early and we did too - at 4:30am!

Friday, 4 December 2009

Rotorua and The Coromandel Peninsula

A couple of weeks ago we visited cousins who live in Hamilton. We hadn't seen them for over 20 years so there was a lot of catching up. They took us to the delightful Hamilton Gardens and the glow worm caves of Waitomo followed by a long, windy scenic drive in the mist back up the west coast - thanks Stuart!

We spent a few days near Rotorua, a town of steaming thermal springs, geysers and bubbling mud pools. The smell of rotten eggs lingers over the town - it's the sulphur from the ground - and it brings back memories of the science lab at school! The place conjured up pictures of hell to George Bernard Shaw who visited and he named one of the areas 'Hells Gate'! It's an area where the Maori culture is thriving; they are friendly and keen to share their history and traditions with visitors. There is lots to see and do here!

This is the beautiful picturesque Coromandel Peninsula with its sandy bays and emerald seas. We rented a holiday home built into the cliffs with wonderful sea views. We had many lovely coastal walks discovering bays bathed in sunshine and with no-one on them. These are some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen and it was a great relaxing week!

The Coromandel also has lovely walks through native forests where young kauri have been planted and the New Zealand silver fern grows. The silver fern is well known as an emblem of the country.

Thursday, 12 November 2009


Spring is on its way and the days are beginning to get warmer and longer.
It is still very strange to me that the further north we travel the warmer it becomes and a north wind is warm, but a south-west wind is cold! We came across a sun-dial with the clock numbers going around anti-clockwise to read the right time of day!

We are now in the Northland staying at Paihia. There are lots of interesting things to see and do in this area. We have visited a forest of giant kauri trees. Giant kauris, many over 1000 years old used to cover this area of New Zealand but were cut down at the end of the 1800's and early 1900's and the wood used for furniture, houses and boats. The amber coloured kauri gum was also much sought after for ornaments and jewellery.

We have come across a lot of Maori culture in this area. We went on a wonderful bus tour along 90 Mile Beach. The bus driver was Maori and entertained us all in Maori songs, stories and history along the way. There is an official highway that goes along the beach, tides permitting. It was a great day, miles of golden sand and blue sea stretching as far as the eye can see and further. Then it was on to Cape Reinga, one of the northern points of New Zealand and especially interesting because it is the meeting point of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific, and it's possible to see where they meet! Our last stop was at a Gumdiggers Park and we learnt that gumboots came by that name by the gumdiggers who wore them daily for work!

Monday, 9 November 2009

A couple of weeks spent in Auckland. Time to get ourselves set up, buy a second hand car and see a few of the sights.
Auckland is a city built on volcanoes! The last one erupted 6oo years ago, so we reckoned we would be safe! A short steep climb to the top of some of these give wonderful views over the city.

The city skyline is dominated by Sky Tower, it's impossible to miss it! It was built in the 1990's and boasts to be the tallest structure of the southern hemisphere. It has an excellent revolving restaurant and an observation deck which has glass flooring in places - quite scary to look down to ground level from this height!

A short ferry ride away from the city is Waiheke Island, an escape from city life, with beautiful sandy beaches, rolling hills and country lanes.

To the west lie the Waitakere Ranges with walks and trails through the bush and black sandy beaches renowned for great surfing. The day we visited the tide was out and no-one was riding the waves!

It has been great to explore the city and surrounding areas, now we are heading north for a few days.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

South Australia

I have spent a few days with Ann, a friend I met whilst we were on assignment in Raleigh, North Carolina way back in 1983. She and her husband were also wanderers in a foreign land at the time. We hadn't seen each other for 25 years! It was very special to meet up with her and re-kindle our friendship. Ann lives an hours drive from Adelaide, at Victor Harbor. It was wonderful to spend time with her, to see her home and to sample some of the local delights. For the first time I had kangaroo which was very tasty!

We caught the Cockle Train to Goolwa complete with bikes. We cycled 22 kms back to Victor Harbor along the Encounter Bikeway and enjoyed spectacular coastal scenery, colourful spring flowers and were entertained by a southern right whale and her
calf as we ate our lunch overlooking the sea. It was amazing!

Another day we stroked koalas and fed kangaroos.The kangaroos were very inquisitive and especially delightful, and it was a wonderful experience to
have them come up to us in their gentle way.

We had a wonderful time catching up together! Thank you Ann!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The Outback

A 3 ½ hour plane ride brings us to Alice Springs and we’re in the heart of the outback. We journey to Kings Canyon. The distances are huge along roads that stretch into the distance as far as the eye can see. Occasionally we see another vehicle and many drivers give us a wave to relieve the boredom, but we travel hundreds of kms with no sign of civilisation. The space is vast, the landscape red soil, desert scrub and outcrops of rock. The sky is deep blue and the temperature hovers around 30 degrees.

Kings Canyon. A 6km walk around the rim reveals the magnificence of the rock formations.

340 kms down the road we come to Kata Tjuta and aboriginal word meaning 'many heads' because of the rock formation.

Our next stop is Uluru. Ayers Rock rises from the desert floor in all its magnificence. A spiritual place of great significance and treasured by the aborigines. We walk around the base of the rock and admire its splendour.

Then it's back to Alice Springs and we leave the Outback covered with the red dust of the desert.

Friday, 9 October 2009

We have arrived in Sydney! It's a great city and we are enjoying exploring some of the wonderful sights the city has to offer.

Sydney Harbour Bridge. We walked across the bridge and climbed up the pylon for some spectacular views.

Some people opt to walk over the top!

On our first night we went to a concert in the Concert Hall of the Opera House. We came all this way to listen to a concert given by the London Philharmonic Orchestra! It was conducted by Vladimir Jurowski and was an excellent concert. The orchestra are giving a series of concerts here all this week.