Where two oceans meet… New Zealand

We decided to stop at Paihia despite a disparaging opinion in the Lonely Planet NZ book. It suggests going to Russell, because it is prettier. Although it is pretty, we found Paihia pretty too and more vibrant. Plus it had a good craft beer pub. (Haha)

Paihia is a bustling village and significant, due to being the gateway of the Bay of Islands. It is an attractive and well set out village with an array of shops, cafes, restaurants and a barbers that is not open when it says it is! Yes, hubby is desperate for a haircut.

However, on the plus side, the village has, according to the sign, the most scrumptious ice scream establishment for the last 18 years. As I discovered, if you ask for a one scoop cornet, you are given a two scoop cornet and it is huge although considered ‘small’. Oh dear, I only wanted a small ice cream. Nevermind haha. Crikey, it was tasty.

A splendid sea view from the craft beer pub called Thirty30 Craft Beer bar is always very much appreciated. We both devoured the most delicious seafood chowder with thick brown bread. After this bowl of deliciousness, and a long day touring, I had an early night.

Before our road trip, the next day, we popped along to Waitangi Treaty Grounds to view the giant Maori sea faring vessel. The vessel signifies the founding of modern New Zealand. It is a certainly an interesting experience to explore this part of New Zealand.

We then drove towards the famous (top of New Zealand) Cape Reinga. This is where two oceans meet; the Tasman sea and Pacific.

As we were travelling to Cape Reginga, I booked a room at Awanui about 50km away. Must mention that our traveller mobile has been a great success for booking last minute accommodation as we tour around NZ. This village turned out to be a quiet place which looked a bit wild west but the motel was great, Large room with bed, lounge area and kitchen. The owner left a box of chocolate almonds for us. They didn’t last very long. Of course, I fell for the ‘last room available’ note on the internet. Only three other lots of residents were staying and they turned up late. My panic to book turned out to be unnecessary although it was a Saturday so you can’t be too careful.

The drive to Cape Reinga took about 80 minutes and was worth the trip. Great scenery, little traffic and not a cloud in the sky. Always helps when you have sunny weather, don’t you think?

Cape Reinga is an important area because according to Maori legend, this is where a person’s spirit comes after death and departs for their eternal home. We found many wooden boards explaining historic facts relating to Cape Reinga, as you explore the site, which makes the climbing and walking even more worthwhile. As you walk around this magnificent area it is compelling to look at the panoramic views where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean come crashing together.

The solitary iconic lighthouse is also a serene and spectacular vision and is said to be where the point of the colliding oceans swirl together. Amazing!

Well worth a visit and the historical details are interesting. Also, the area is a recognised home to many threatened plants and animals such as the tiny orchids and endangered flax snail.

Thanks for stopping by 🤗 .

 

Auckland, New Zealand

As soon as we arrived in New Zealand, I knew I was going to love the place. As we travelled from the airport, I noticed the neat and clean streets evoking a mindful ambiance.

The 3 night stay in this city was immensely enjoyable. Auckland is in the north island, has two harbours, an iconic Sky Tower and surrounded by islands. The harbour is full of grandiose yachts and lined with busy and bustling  bars and restaurants.

Auckland is inviting with the wonderful shopping area. We devoured a delicious tapas sharing lunch in the local quirky, plant filled old Turkish restaurant consisting of hummus, olives, roasted vegetables and lamb balls. Yummy and fairly healthy too. Continuing our wander we bought a new SIM card for the useful ‘traveller’ phone, as we’ve christened it, and finished the day with a stroll around the harbour area. It is a vibrant city which isn’t too busy and chaotic. They even have an electric scooter system for folks who wish to go a little faster than a walking pace.

During the evening we visited two brilliant pubs. The first is called Dr Rudi’s Rooftop Brewing Co., Quay Street, Viaduct and the other Danny Doolan’s. Both had an excellent choice of beers and the first one has the brewing vessels behind the bar. You can see the steam coming out of them!

Danny Dooland’s has live music, seven nights a week. This was an incredible introduction to Auckland nightlife. Music playing classic covers (everything from The Eagles to Foo Fighters), and hubby getting animated about a Benskins Brewery mirror adorning the wall. Benskins was an old established brewery in Watford, England, where we grew up. Everyone was talking to us and one, lovely Irish girl, took our photo in front of the mirror. She questioned why hubby was so amazed by the mirror. This was one of the best nights ever. Flipping amazing.

Next day we visited Waiheke Island by the restful and, you long term readers will be pleased to note, calm ferry and had a good go at…zip wiring!!! Another sublime experience. The views are spectacular on Waiheke and gliding over the forest canopy of NZ bush, huge fun. There are three zip lines and you glide with a friend. Each zipline is longer, steeper and, of course faster. Views of Hauriki Gulf are magnificent and they do dissipate rapidly as you wizz above the vineyards and forest areas. Afterwards we walked back through the native forest and saw some nature and lush, green bush and learnt about the history of Waiheke Island and habitat. We also managed not to trip over the tree roots that are prolific along the path but only just.

The Village of Oneroa is glorious with smart boutiques, gift shops, cafes and restaurants.  We devoured a late breakfast of bacon and eggs and during the evening treated ourselves to a rather posh dinner of roasted lamb and a glass of local wine. Scrumptious and with commanding views too.

When we arrived at the island we walked from the ferry into town and explored the beach area. It was there, as we walked along the flower and blossom filled path, by the sea, I realised people hadn’t exaggerated about the transcendental beauty of the New Zealand landscape.

On the day of leaving Auckland, we organised a rental car and walked into town to venture up the Sky Tower. We enjoyed panoramic views of Waitemata Harbour, Waiheke Island, and Auckland. Lunch was in the cafe overlooking the islands surrounding Auckland. Yes, I managed to walk on the glass bottom floor and take photos. Did feel a bit ill doing it though haha. Ridiculous really, as it as tough as any other part of the floor but the brain refuses to believe this.

Anyway, we walked back to a newly rented car and set off up north. The travelling continues…

 

Thanks for reading my blog post about our adventures, it is much appreciated. Can’t believe how lucky I am to see all of these fabulous places. Do feel free to comment.

Andy xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

Melbourne – Arriving and Exploring…

Arriving

After many hours of driving our arrival at Melbourne city centre, got off to an inauspicious start. We decided to return our car and use public transportation whilst in Melbourne. Thus started the real life nightmare. We’ve had a few instances with this car and frankly, was keen to see the back of it. Also, personally prefer to get about by bus, tram and train in cities. Can’t really understand why everyone doesn’t feel that way but by the amount of traffic in Melbourne, this clearly isn’t everyone’s opinion.

I located the office and car park on Google maps and we drove there. Simple. Unfortunately, we forgot to fill the stupid car up with petrol so I located a petrol station on G maps. Except it wasn’t one. It was a shop selling lots of lovely food. Also, during this time, I’d taken over driving, had a meltdown because of the trams, and was on navigation duties again. The mobile signal and or g maps continued to also have a meltdown so I attempted to evaluate the situation, and turn off the phone. Ho hum.

Another go at finding petrol failed miserably and we realised we would have to drive until we find one. Are you feeling panicked yet? Because I was giving up hope.

Two hours later we still hadn’t found one and the gauge was dropping. Eventually, we stopped outside the city and asked someone. Something my father used to do. Yes, it has been confirmed, google maps seems to go haywire in Melbourne. The man informed hubby of directions and we found a petrol station. Hooray.

The panic had set in and it was like one of those reaccuring nightmares where you can’t quite get to where you want to be. Except it is real life. On the way back to the car park we saw many petrol stations. Of course we did. When we took the car to the drop off rental place, the official asked if we’d filled up, started the car and said we could go. This meant that we didn’t have to visit the car rental office. The relief was profound. Hooray.

Not a great start to the wonders of Melbourne but onwards and upwards…

 

First day exploring – Arcades and Lanes

A good way of becoming accustomed to an area is to do a walk. We decided on Arcades and Lanes Walk to integrate ourselves with Melbourne.

The Tourist Office in Melbourne, similar to others in Australia, appropriates useful information in a friendly way. You can pick up all sorts of useful information including leaflets, walks, transport, maps and tips about the area. Think most of the staff are volunteers and they are incredibly good at what they do.

We set off with our leaflet on this particular walk through cobbled streets, arcades and lanes. It is fascinating to view the old buildings juxtaposed with new.

Degraves Street and along to Centre Place are known to be meccas for café society, juice bars, healthy foods, fresh coffee and the like. Some of the cafes are tiny, chic hotspots with recycled cinema seats and even benches from a former court of law. Very quaint, cool and fun.

Then to the famous Block Arcade which is named after the fashionable Collins Street where people flocked to ‘do The Block’. This area was built between 1891 and 1893 and retains the heritage shopping experience with mosaic-tile flooring and carved stone decorative interior. This is said to be one of the finest examples of a 19th century shopping arcade.

Continuing through the trendy areas of Melbourne and elegant, old shopping arcades we could see why people like Melbourne so much.

Unique expressions of art and music appear throughout the city and make the walking experience exciting. The independent shops, cosy cafes and laneways threading through the city are wonderful to behold.

One of the most distinctive places, for me, on this walk is the Capitol Arcade which opened in 1924. Was this one of the first shopping malls? It is beautiful and designed by Walter Burley Griffin (architect of Canberra) and Marion Mahony Griffin. It is a truly magnificent area with a great book shop to peruse in the basement.

The historical buildings, warehouses are also full of charm. In fact, this walk is charming as you see the shabby chic and quirky places mingling with glamourous, historical architecture. The graceful arches of Cathedral Arcade are extraordinarily exquisite, retaining original features and linking Swanston Street and Flinders Lane in the Central Business District of Melbourne. The arcade is covered with stained glass and lead lights which creates an amazing dome. The shop fronts feature wooden panels and the building is listed on the Victorian heritage Register.

How do you think we ended this walk? Yes, a pub. Well, the walk instructed us to. We had a quick drink in Young and Jackson where beer has flowed for over a hundred years. Drinking our beers, we sat in the bar pondering the nude portrait Cloe which shocked conservative Melbourne and made the hotel famous. The place is devine with photographs of old Melbourne adorning the walls. The public house is beautifully restored and blends a boutique bar and classic pub perfectly. A perfect end to our first day.

 

Mornington Peninsula

We arrived here and couldn’t find anywhere to stay and had a half an hour drive to a hotel. This is a lesson learnt. Check the area has copeous accommodation, especially if your visit falls on a weekend (Friday/Saturday).

We’ve bought a spare, cheap phone for local internet use. You buy a SIM card, pop it in the mobile and it is a useful tool, whilst travelling. It proved invaluable on this occasion. The panic was real, I can tell you when all the local places are fully booked.

Anyway, we spent the following day in this glorious area. Just an hour from Melbourne, you can enjoy an array of quirky shops, cafes, galleries, etc. in Mornington plus explore the harbour, park and walk along the coast. We soaked up the sea air before heading to Melbourne the next day. The alfresco lifestyle is abundant in the town and parks as people enjoy the innovative cuisine in the many cafes. I enjoyed a dish called ‘nearly vegan’ and the waitress looked disappointed as I confirmed my choice saying unnecessarily “even though I’m not nearly a vegan”… It was delicious and I didn’t regret my choice.

This reminds me. The following day we both had a Cornish Pasty for lunch. This may seem an odd choice, in Australia, but they are known for excellent pie making so we decided to devour one for an early lunch before leaving for Melbourne.

The Cornish miners came to Australia but I don’t think they passed the recipe down. Flipping heck it was bland. Wondered if I’d lost my taste buds. Both hubby and I sat and chewed and chewed in silence. A lady nearby, ordered the same because mine looked so delicious. She took one mouthful, jumped up towards the counter, disappointment palpable and asked for Ketchup. Oops.

Back to the Mornington Peninsula landscape we enjoyed meandering along the beach and endless coast. My hubby noticed Melbourne on the horizon, shimmering in the distance. It is quite surreal spotting the city on the horizon as you look directly out to sea. Do have a close look.

 

Bondi Beach…

Today, we had a bus ride and ended up at Bondi Beach. This is another iconic place I’ve always wanted to visit. It was a Sunday, so the place was buzzing and very busy.

People everywhere looked like they were thoroughly enjoying life, as I am on this amazing trip. This crescent shaped beach is breathtaking and full of people surfing, wandering, sunbathing or relaxing. Yes, of course the sun was shining. What a great way to enjoy your free time. Chilling, eating and chatting with friends and family.

The beach is one of the most famous in the world and when you arrive, you can understand why. It is so vibrant and seems such a happy place to be. There’s even the grassy knoll if you don’t like sand. Campbell Parade  consists of shops selling surf gear, t shirts, swimwear, food and drink or even hire a surfboard.

Bondi Beach 1875

 

Bondi Beach 1930

 

It is famous because of the surfing and kite flying competitions. The name Bondi is an aboriginal word and means water breaking over rocks or noise of water breaking over rocks. Francis O’Brien of the Bondi Estate started it all by making the land available to the public for picnics during 1855 and 1877. It wasn’t until 1882 that the government became involved, and made Bondi a public pleasure resort.

Good job they did. Anyway, we loved the experience and next Stop is Manly which is the beach the locals prefer. Which is best?

Source: Bondistories.com

 

The Great Barrier Reef (Never again…!)

So we rocked up half an hour before sailing and waited to be summoned to the relevant vessel. Eventually, a steward appeared and we went on the boat leaving most of the customers behind. She had to bellow again and they woke up, and moved. Well it was 7am in the morning, so you can’t expect people to be sharp.

We settled in our nice seats ready for our cruise to the Great Barrier Reef. Kindle ready, and looking forward to morning tea and a cake. This should be a good day.

As soon as the boat started we started to rock fiercely. It’s a fast catamaran that goes at about 22 knots, riding the tips of some big waves. We sat there while they went through the obligatory safety procedures and already I was feeling rough. A steward came round and advised me to go to the top deck and sit in the front of the boat, in the fresh air which I endeavoured to do.

Walking, legs wide, pouncing from hand rail to hand rail, I somehow got to the relevant place with all the other sickies. Sat in the middle of the bench, wind howling, waves rolling, clutching fiercely wondering how I was going to survive for two, long hours. Couldn’t move because of the violent rocking of the boat. Lots of young chaps were joking around about how ill they were feeling and whether they could stand or not and the steward explained how ‘you get used to it’ and demonstrated his skill of ‘sea legs’ by walking round without looking paralytically drunk (like the rest of us).

Of course, eventually one man went down and we all followed suit. Mr ‘Sea Legs’ promptly got the hose out and I went down stairs and sat at the back of the boat desperately wondering if we were ever going to get there.

We did. It was a wonderful day.

The water became calm, vivid blue and we went over to the Lady Musgrave Island for a walk. The sand is almost white with the most beautiful shells, faurna and trees. Lady Musgrave Island is the only coral cay navigable lagoon on the entire Grea Barrier Reef.

The Island is a 35 acres coral cay with surrounding reef and named after the wife of Anthony Musgrave, a Governor of Queensland. Apparently, Lady Musgrave held tea parties on the island.

We explored the island with our guide and learnt about how the female birds, noddy-terns, sit on a branch whilst waiting for the male bird to bring them yellow leaves, to build a nest. They sit, like princesses, only accepting one in ten leaves. When the leaf is accepted, they poop on it, to build the nest and the male bird goes off to look for more suitable leaves.

On the way back to our vessel, we had a glass bottom boat tour and observed sea creatures including fish, turtles and stingrays, with educational and informal commentary. Back to the boat for lunch and snorkelling.

The lunch was superb. Lots of salads with cold cuts, bread rolls and all the food was fresh and yummy. The most amazing aspect of the day is the snorkelling. I was a little unsure about this as you snorkel off the vessel but put the gear on and just went for it. Can’t tell you how stunningly beautiful the Reef is. Having all the colourful fish, float past you is a most surreal and special experience. I swam around looking at the Reef for a long time. The vibrant colours are extraordinary and I’m so pleased I experienced this part of the day because it is magical.

So after this we dried off, took photos and enjoyed the views and then eventually set off home. I grabbed an afternoon tea and cake because I’d missed out on the morning refreshments. The trip back started off calmer.

It didn’t last. I sat still this time, drifting in and out of sleep. Then the banging started, the waves rolled violently and I kept my eyes shut, trying to ignore the rolling waves.

“Are you ok?”The concerned steward asked.

Staggered to the facilities…

This time, I returned to my seat, helped by Miss Concerned Steward, and hubby is still there, sitting, reading his Kindle.

I would like to mention the staff on this vessel were extremely helpful, concerned and very aware of your personal safety. As I came out of the facilities, I think I could have easily had an accident, if it wasn’t for the support of the staff. The boat was rolling up and down and it was difficult to hang on!

For all that, I wouldn’t have missed this trip for the world. Never thought I’d go snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef and it was certainly one of life’s great experiences.

No more boat trips though. Never again. NEVER. By the way, hubby wants to go whale watching.

Why I missed the plane and benefits of travel…

The unexpected dramatic situation…
Before we left Dubai, we experienced a situation which although dramatic, wasnt the end of mankind, so all fine. Just inconvenient.

After a sleepless night worrying whether the alarm would work in the right time zone, we rushed down for breakfast and then collected our luggage. A nice man took us on the hotel buggy and informed us he had phoned our taxi and it was on the way. Very efficient.

Well, we waited…and waited.

The helpful man made an agitated phone call.

Apparenty, the Dubai Tourist Board, in their joyful wisdom, had shut the road for a bike race.

“We will miss our plane.”

We declared growing anxious.
The helpful man consulted the hotel Manager, who contacted various officials, including the police. My hubby was taken into the hotel office and came out to inform me, we are now on tonight’s flight at 9.15pm instead of the 9.35am.

Off we went to our room, for our extended stay, to download new boarding passes and consult family about the drama.

In my wisdom, during this unexpected extra time, I decided to write a blog post about the benefits of travel and how to overcome small disasters, such as the above.

Benefits of Travel

One of the benefits of travel is realising these things happen. A lot. Certainly in my world. What is important is communication, not to panic (which is challenging) and find ways to resolve the problem (which can also be challenging). Thankfully, the hotel staff seemed genuinely concerned and very helpful. Also, when we emailed our forwarding hotel, they responded sympathetically too.

Travelling helps you become independent and motivates you to speak to people of various countries, cultures and even folks from your own country. Organising yourself is also a prerequisite. All the accommodation, car hire, flights, etc and deciding what to see and visit, when you do finally arrive.

I’ve wanted to travel since I was young. Life just gets in the way. Now I’m older, I can take the time and go where I fancy.

To be honest, I like going out to explore my local vicinity too and enjoy the fresh air. You really don’t have to go far. In my humble opinion, just go out and explore, even if it is your local area where you live. It is a great way to gain unforgettable experiences and become tolerant of others.
 Something I struggle with especially when people talk loudly and endlessly on their phones.

Yes, it teaches you about yourself as well and makes you analyse your behaviour. Why do I moan when I’ve walked miles and miles at the end of the day? Pointless and unnecessary. Especially, when you consider all those special moments, local food, history and culture. If you are home and/or abroad it teaches you about the cultural differences and what makes your area and culture unique.
Different situations arise and you really do have to keep calm and carry on.

Onwards and upwards…and don’t forget all those mementos and memories you are collecting.

Main benefits of travel to help you on your way (hopefully)…

– Communicate and convey any challenging problems, with a smile

– Travel encourages you to become independent and motivates you to speak to people, doesn’t it?

– Organising yourself (accommodation, car hire, flights)

– If you want to explore just do it even if it’s your local surroundings

– It is a great way to gain unforgettable experiences and become tolerant of others

– Teaches you about yourself
- Keep calm and carry on (try anyway)
- You acquire some great memories and stories