Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Day 32 – Blenheim/Christchurch

Posted: December 3, 2012 in Travel

A touring holiday inevitably means travelling days and this was one of them. Following the Pacific coastal road for part of the way but also cutting inland through some breathtaking mountain scenery, the journey took around 7 hours, including 3 stops for food/drinks. This was a major trunk road, but just a single lane in either direction, not exactly the M1, but it didn’t need to be as traffic was remarkably sparse. We did a short coach tour around the City, which was rather upsetting; I don’t think any of us had fully appreciated just how devastating the earthquake (or to be exact the second aftershock in Feb 2011) had been. The centre around Cathedral Square is still completely cordoned off and is known as “the red zone”, some buildings had just facades with nothing behind them, a church had its steeple removed and placed oddly in front of the rest of the building, there were many new car parks where buildings had once stood and, generally the place had the feel of a huge construction site. Very unsettling, but our stay here is cut short and we leave first thing in the morning.

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Day 31 – Wellington/Blenheim

Posted: December 2, 2012 in Travel

Fierce storms overnight and blustery winds throughout our stay in Wellington led us into fearing the worst as we headed for the 8.00am ferry to the South Island. In the event, the waters were as calm as a lily pond for all of the 3 hour crossing.
We are staying overnight in Blenheim at a very swish hotel that is part of the Mondrians chain and looks very Philipe Stark. This evening we had another group meal, which several of us had dreaded after the ghastly Maori evening. However, we had a superb evening. We cruised the river as the sun set over the most beautiful scenery in the heart of

the wine producing region. The food was also excellent



Day 30 – Wellington

Posted: December 1, 2012 in Travel

In common with Chicago, Wellington is known as “the windy city” and today demonstrated the reason for this. It is also quite cold for the start of Summer in the Southern Hemisphere. We started today with a 2 hour group city tour. After that, I spent the rest of the day with two really nice friends; we went to the museum, took the cable car to a city high point, walked back down through the botanic gardens, had a splendid lunch by th side of the rose garden, visited an art gallery and had a few drinks before retiring for sn esrly night. A highly enjoyable day! Tomorrow we set off early for the South Island.

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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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