Wellington and South Island Highlights… New Zealand

Wellington

We spent the period on and around 25th December in Wellington. The time was taken up exploring the city, going around galleries, museums (Te Papa) and larking about on the beach. Yes, Wellington has a splendid beach.

It also has lots of craft beer pubs with quirky decorations. We endeavoured to check these out of course. The city is lively, although became rather quiet on Christmas Day because nothing opens which is understandable.

I did succumb to booking a Christmas dinner but apart from that did very little to celebrate it this year. Usually, I entertain the family and this year was certainly a change from that. Probably back to normal next year because I did miss the (grown up) children.

It is good to have a change from the usual routine though and I did enjoy the day but it was a little surreal. I might add that it has been quite easy to forget about Christmas because they just don’t seem to make such a fuss about it here in NZ.

We stayed in Cuba St which is near the main centre of Welly. It is also near the cool bars, cafes and indy shops. We passed many happy hours wandering around Wellington taking in the views, ornamental arty displays, local architecture and beaches. There is a bucket fountain in Cuba Street which, in my humble opinion, is too stupid and splashed water everywhere.

We had a look around the old St Paul’s Cathedral which was resplendent with Christmas decorations and wooden interiors. Afterwards we went up on the cable car and appreciated the fabulous views of the city. Loved looking at all the weather board cliff side properties and some have their own cable cars!

It turned out to be a successful holiday break and a useful stop for the ferry.

South Island

So we caught a ferry to the South Island to explore the quieter part of New Zealand. Because we’ve been having a road trip, I decided to have a break from blogging during the Christmas period. Also, I’ve had some troubling family news from home so wasn’t really in the mood for writing. However, things have improved, January beckons and I need to write so here are some very basic highlights..

The Ferry Crossing

Before we started exploring we caught the ferry across which goes along the Cook Strait, through the Marlborough Sounds and is so spectacular, many journalists have said it is one of the best scenic ferry rides in the world and I concur.

It takes three and half hours and is enjoyable. Also, when you arrive at Picton, the beautiful natural landscape continues.

Kahurangi National Park

Firstly, we explored the top of the South Island by driving to the Kahurangi National Park. This is the area for holiday makers and there are plenty of those in December/January onwards. The beaches are sublime, particularly the Kaiteriteri beach. Some are quite difficult to reach and some are just wild and unspoilt. Something you don’t really see much elsewhere and impressive.

Onwards down the west coast towards Nelson and the Ruby Coast. This takes in a landscape which is diverse. Large wild wind swept beaches, geological sea cliffs, earthquake shattered slopes, serene lakes and the occasional falls.

I drove through a tiny place called Charleston and hubby shouted out that we need to stop there. It is easy to drive, mindlessly because it is so rugged and quiet. Hardly any traffic in New Zealand and you can blink and miss places that are relevant to your journey.

Hokitika

We stopped at Hokitika and enjoyed an elevated walk, 20 metres above the forest floor. This area is fascinating because it contains plants related to some of the earliest species to colonise the Earth. The temperate lowland forest is dominiated by Podocarp trees, ferns, mosses, liverworts and hornworts. All have ancient origin.

During the walk we climbed a tower and had an even higher view. This included the mountains to the east, the Southern Alps, formed from the collision of the pacific Plate and a number of glaciations, which have helped form the landscape including lakes, valleys and hills.

Ross

During part of this road trip we often stopped the car for short walks towards falls and it is exciting to see the flora of the NZ forest on the way. We stopped at Ross and decided to do the Water Race Walkway. This walk takes you past Ross’ newest lake which was formally a gold mine and along the gold mining area to include the A & T Burt Sluice Nozzle which was used up to the 1900s, Jones Creek (the public paning area), and through regenerating native forest, passing numerous old gold workings, tunnels and dam sites. We also passed a miner’s hut before entering a historic cemetery with views of the Ross area. A great walk and very interesting too. Also, I might mention we passed a family panning for gold during the walk!

Pancake Rocks

The above area lies on the edge of Paparoa National Park and is a significant feature due to the indented coves, rock pillars and pancake rocks at Dolomite Point, near Punakaiki. Evenly layered stacks of limestone have been eroded to form surge pools and blowholes. They do look like pancakes and apparently have taken thirty million years to form! They are formed from fragments of dead marine creatures and plants. Water pressure caused them to solidify into layers of limestone. Gradually seismic action lifted the limestone above the seabed where water, wind and salt spray eroded the softer layers leaving a ‘pancake’ stack of harder limestone.

New Year’s Eve – Haast

We stopped at a place called Haast. A one horse town if ever there was one. After locating a hotel we were advised the local pub had a band on and the hotel were able to take us there and back.

Off we went to the pub. It was packed with locals and we got chatting to them. Apparently, they love our TV particularly the comedy. One lady told us how she had moved from Taunton (Somerset), nine years ago and how she loves New Zealand. I admitted it was a good job I didn’t come to NZ when I was young, because I’d have wanted to move to NZ. (No litter, traffic, tedious politics and shock horror, you can flipping park your car when visiting the local town.) It was a good evening with lots of reminiscing about England and the wonders of NZ. To be honest, I do prefer home and I actually love where I live with the fruit orchards, beautiful countryside, historical architecture, family and friends. Miss the dog walking and even the gym too.

Unfortunately, we made the mistake of leaving before midnight and the hotel bar closed at 11.30!!! Can you imagine our shock? Anyway, onwards and upwards. It is noticeable people in this part of the world don’t celebrate this time of year as in England haha. Little bit of a culture shock which doesn’t do me any harm.

Queenstown

I’ve not mentioned that during our time in the above area of Haast and surroundings the weather was pretty awful. We weren’t able to fly above the Westland National Park and famous glaciers (Franz Joseph/Fox), due to the inclement weather. We may try again later.

When we drove toward Queenstown we finally saw the clouds part and sun shine. The area is lovely and we’ve been to Wanaka and Arrowtown and on a magnificent steam boat ride along the Wakatipu lake. The lake is pretty and we’ve stayed in an apartment overlooking Lake Wakatipu which is quite a breath taking distraction as I’m typing this, I can tell you.

The water looks very blue and clean and that is because it is. Scientists have rated it 99.9% pure. You are better off dipping in your glass in the lake than buying bottled water. Can’t think why you’d want to buy bottled water anyway, especially if you live in the UK.

Queenstown is clearly the hipster place because it is full of them. Queenstown is as much a verb as a nown because it is the adventure capital and where bungy jumping was invented. No, I’m not going to attempt a jump, in case you are wondering. I’m happy wandering around the lake, town and surrounding area. It is a beautiful place.

Thanks for reading. The news from home is encouraging too.

Sources

https://www.westcoast.co.nz/plan-your-trip/punakaiki-pancake-rocks-and-blow-holes/

Lonely Planet New Zealand

Walking and meeting people we know! Taupo Lake, New Zealand

Taupo

This place is the centre of NZ’s North Island and so beautiful. People aren’t exaggerating about the stunning scenery here, it is truly incredible.

On the advice of the nice lady at the motel where we are staying, we went for a walk to see the Huka Falls. This was even more lovely than expected. Again, the main surprise is the crystal blue water. The photos on this blog post are not photoshopped. This is the colour of the water as we strolled towards the cascading falls. One of the best walks, I’ve ever done, if not the best one. Also, the colour of the foliage is incredible. The light of the sun, gleaming onto the leaves gives a magnificent, surreal glow.

The falls themselves consist of 200,000 litres of water plunging nine metres off the rock face every second! This amount of water could fill an Olympic pool every minute. It is not advised to attempt white water rafting here because the falls have claimed the craft of many river users.

The clear, reflective racing water before the falls is just as breathtaking. Although it is fun to see the tumbling bubbles, hear the noise and enjoy the natural beauty of Nature at work. Apparently the flow is so strong it prevents the migration of trout and eels which isn’t surprising.

The volcanic caldera that forms Lake Taupo drains into Huka Falls and it is quite magical to walk this trail. It is also great to see all the young people chilling out by and in the water too. Certainly more fruitful than staring at screens all day!

The next day we took a drive around the lake towards Tongariro National Park and enjoyed the close up vision of Mount Ruapehu and Mount TongarIro and surrounding area.

The landscapes are incredible. The massive waters of Lake Taupo and momentous panorama peaks of Tongariro National Park, ancient forests, rivers, falls does make this road trip memorable. Unfortunately, we were feeling a little delicate…

The evening before, we decided to explore the local restaurants and bars. After a rather strange meal of bread coated steak, vegetables and chips we admired the momentous sun sets and went in one of the lake front bars. As I was enjoying a drink, I couldn’t understand why everyone wasn’t gawping at the sun set over the mountains (mentioned above). Suppose if you live in NZ, you are used to the impressive sights.

Anyway, we went to another bar and I thought I recognised the chap buying a drink. Told hubby thought I’d spotted his friend’s son. My husband started randomly shouting his name and he turned around. He confirmed his identity and invited us to join them. Crikey. We had a great evening discussing NZ, etc. What are the chances of walking into a bar and recognising your friend’s son from our home town, in England? Small world or what? We couldn’t believe it! Has this ever happened to you? Another great evening.

 

Enjoy the break everyone and a Happy New Year to you all. Thanks to all those who’ve supported my blog and I look forward to writing some more posts soon. 

Cheers,

Andy 🙂

 

Rotorua, New Zealand

We came to Rotorua to visit the incredible earth forces so that’s what we did.

Te Puia

The first place, above, also has exhibitions about Maori culture, kiwi habitat, architecture and Maori arts.

Te Puia is an area of geothermal activity with bubbling mud pools and geysers shooting 30 metres, twice an hour. Mud from heated pools was used by Maori to treat ailments such as cuts and burns. The acidic mud contains minerals which rejuvenate the skin and is considered far more beneficial than bandages as they leave a scar. This encouraged Rotorua to become a spa town from the 1880s and today the mud is sold around the world.

The geysers are amazing too. As we came towards this park by car, we saw random steam billowing out of the ground amongst the natural landscape. They function from hot water deep beneath the earth. Narrow chambers where water becomes pressurised and heated up beyond boiling point. The mix of steam and boiling water is sprayed out as a geyser.

It is extraordinary to see this natural phenomenon. I quite like spotting the tiny, natural mud pool or small hole in a stream with tiny bubbles escaping.

Also, it is fascinating to see Maori folk carving greenstone, whale bones, wood, view art and weaving. Whalebone is highly valued because of the spiritual associations with the ocean. We watched a man intricately carve a whalebone and let us touch and admire his work.

Onwards, to observe the carved ornaments and adornments which are still worn today. These are considered a life force and not just decorative. They are physical representations of spiritual connections with the environment and their culture.

Seeing the carving is interesting because it is not only clever but different from anything you may have experienced before. Raga is a wood which is tough and durable so often used for weapons and tools. The totara tree is a pink/red wood and used for canoes, buildings and carving. The tree is found throughout New Zealand and when an important chief dies, they say ‘a mighty totara has fallen’.

This area is well worth visiting because it covers so much. Te Puia spans 70 hectares within the Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley and contains many historical facts regarding individual geysers, mud pools, hot springs and silica formulations. Also, you may see the native Kiwi bird, wood carving, weaving, stone and bone carving. The historical facts and stories are extremely interesting and we had a great day and learnt a lot of cultural and local information too.

Wai-O-Tapu

Another interesting place which consisted of three walks and a geyser demonstration.

As you explore the area you see an amazing selection of volcanic domes, craters, cold and boiling pools of mud, water and steaming fumaroles. You also get a bit of a workout because there  are quite a few hills and steps as well. All good fun and you won’t see such incredible sights anywhere else.

What fascinated me are the colours in the area which are natural and due to different mineral elements showing nature as a wonderful thing.

Green – Colloidal sulphur/ferrous salts

Orange – Antimony

Purple – Manganese oxide

White – Silica

Yellow-primrose – Sulphur

Red-brown – Iron oxide

Black – Sulphur and carbon

 

 

Next post is all about fun, fun and more fun…

 

 

 

 

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.