Archive for November, 2012

Day 29 – Rotorua/Wellington

Posted: November 30, 2012 in Travel

An all day trip by road from Rotorua to Wellington turned out to be pleasant and relaxing. The scenery is getting better and better, but I will probably remember the day most for an ice cream to die for (chocolate, chilli and raspberry). First impressions of Wellington are quite favourable (much nicer than Auckland) and we have all tomorrow to explore it.

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Day 28 – Rotorua

Posted: November 30, 2012 in Travel

After yesterday’s spectacular experience, today was a massive disappointment, comprising largely of artificial events staged just for tourists. We started at a workshop for Maori arts and crafts, proceeded to a geyser which promised to gush but didn’t, then onto a “sheep show” in which all the animals were clearly trained to perform. I even had my photo taken with a kiwi, but anyone who realises that the bird is nocturnal will know that the photo is fake. Worst of all, in the evening we were led into a dinner snd “Maori Show” at which the food was close to inedible and the show’s content was almost an insult to Maori culture. I had not realised how many 50s and 60s pop songs used tunes of Maori origin! To be fair the music was tolerable, but the audience participation segments were utterly unbearable. I came here to see the country and experience its authentic culture, not to see something that would be more suited to Butlins. The only enjoyable part of the day was two hours in the afternoon when two of us walked from the lakeside back to the hotel and got hopelessly lost.


Day 27 – Auckland/Rotorua

Posted: November 28, 2012 in Travel

Auckland seemed rather ordinary, but it needed to be seen. We left there at 8-00am and proceeded south to Waitomo to see the labyrinth of underground caves and the spectacular glowworm grotto. After lunch we went further south to Rotorua and, in the late afternoon in perfect weather, I took a helicopter ride for over 1 hour across the volcanos Tarawera and Okareka, including a landing on an area of volcanic activity. This was a unique experience, truly memorable.

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Day 26 – Auckland

Posted: November 27, 2012 in Travel

Wow! Good news – the hotel here has free wifi. Bad news – I’m moving on first thing in the morning. After a day of waiting around airports, flying and eating airline food, it’s rather a relief to be settled, if only briefly. 16 new people have joined us, making 26 in total. So far, we are very unimpressed with the new tour manager, but the previous one set the bar high. One day is not enough time here, but we had our city tour this morning, followed by an amble around in the afternoon. I went to the nationsl museum and the highlight of the dsy was being given a personal tour of the section devoted to World War I, by an elderly lady who works there as a voluntary guide; she was full of fascinating information and she turned out to be New Zealand’s equivalent of Michael Morpurgo, as she has written a book for children about a dog caught up in the War. Her name is Patricia Stroud, the book is called “Caesar” and it is being considered for a film by Peter Jackson. I bought a copy of the version expanded for adults in the museum shop and she signed it.

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Day 25 – Cairns/Auckland

Posted: November 26, 2012 in Travel

21 of the party of 31 left the hotel at 8.00am and the rest of us who are going on to New Zealand left 2 hours later. A new tour manager and group of people (numbers not yet known) will be joining us in Auckland. At the moment, I am in Sydney airport en route. We are scheduled to arrive just before midnight

Day 24 – Cairns

Posted: November 25, 2012 in Travel

Leaving at 8-00am, we took a leisurely drive northwards along the Queensland coast, the ocean to the right and the lush rain forest to the left. Our first stop was Port Douglas, a quaint little town much nicer than Cairns, to mingle with the locals at the Sunday morning market. We then proceeded further north to Daintree for a river cruise and some crocodile spotting (none seen). We had an excellent lunch of barramundi and locally grown fruits and vegetables. During the drive back, we stopped at several scenic points for photos, arriving in Cairns at 5-00pm to prepare for our farewell to Australia dinner.
For some reason, I was chosen to make the presentation speech to the tour manager, a lovely lady named Sarah. I have bonded well with a few of the people who are returning to the UK tomorrow, so it was an evening tinged with sadness.

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Day 23 – Cairns

Posted: November 24, 2012 in Travel

After yesterday, anything would seem a let down, but this was quite a pleasant day with some quite stunning scenery to take in. We took the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway over the trees and mountain to Kuranda. This village was not to my taste, a mixture of small zoos, touristy shops and down market eating places. However, I found some very pleasant walks through the forest and down to the river, got lost and almost missed the the train back on the Kuranda Scenic Railway.

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Day 22 – The Great Barrier Reef

Posted: November 23, 2012 in Travel

Days like this don’t come round very often. It took well over an hour on a fast boat for us to reach a pontoon at the Reef, which served as our base for the day. Various options such as a flat bottom boat and scuba diving were available but I chose just to snorkel and did so extensively. It came as a very pleasant surprise that I can still swim after so many year, but being able to see the beautiful tropical fish and the coral was an experience never to be forgotten and I did not want to emerge from the water when it was time. However, someone in the group claimed to have seen a shark, so it is just as well that I did emerge. Needless to say, I am beetroot red, but it doesn’t matter, it was a simply wonderful day!

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Day 21 – Sydney/Cairns

Posted: November 21, 2012 in Travel

Up at 5.30am to catch an early flight to Cairns. Had the afternoon free to explore Cairns but found very little worth exploring. I walked along the Boardwalk, but there is no beach as such, just a mud flat. Everything of interest here lies far out to sea, the town is just a base for tourists, a bit of a dump really, like the Gulf coast of Florida.

Day 20 – Sydney

Posted: November 21, 2012 in Travel

Having had a completely free day to roam anywhere and everywhere, in the evening, I had a very pleasant dinner on Circular key followed by a concert of Rachmaninov/Tchaikovsky in the Concert Hall of Sydney Opera House, Vladimir Ashkenazy conducting the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.