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.