Wednesday, 28 May 2014

continuing on the thermal super highway

hot pool

OH ( other half) is now directing this blog. Given that I have been writing it for over 3 years before he started reading it, this could be bad news. The freedom to use my own ideas and thoughts is being intercepted with advice and requests.

This week he would like

  • the bizarre

  • something pretty and scenic as well

  • me to get something on line despite the lack of adequate wifi and the fact that he keeps me busy from dawn to dusk; up hills, down dales, on boats, in bars, in the hot tub and more.

So I will oblige, as this may be the last post where he sits beside me directing my activities on-line. In a week we will be back home doing our usual thing; me on the computer working on my photography in one room, and him in another not doing anything remotely connected to photography. 

So here goes……..

starting with the scenic.

………………. the Tongariro crossing. Allegedly the best one day hike in New Zealand. 

But first, were we prepared?

STOP sign, Tongariro crossing

Yes we were. I am proud to say that we met all criteria (just) and the weather was perfect. Torch in pocket, food in rucksack and lots of spare clothes too.

Mount Ngauruhoe
The views are spectacular.

path on the Tongariro crossing

The climb was steep.

rest rooms on the Tongariro crossing

the rest rooms / loo / toilets were seriously unpleasant, but much appreciated none the less

the top was freezing and all spare clothes were used.

mosses and alpine plants
the vegetation was tiny

and the people were too as they crossed the plateau

Tongariro crossing plateau

It was one of the highlights of my trip down under.

Next the bizarre.

One rainy day in Rotorua we stopped to look in a shop full of outdoor clothing.

This is New Zealand, and hunting is BIG. 

We resisted the temptation to buy boots, thermal underwear, fishing clothes, hunting clothes, guns and knives. 

But this magazine took us by surprise.

Not bad for a first pig

Girl Power takes on a whole new meaning.

I don't think I'll be subscribing though.

I have learnt this week that the Maori language only contains 20 letters. Which may help to explain why all the place names sound very similar.

This letterbox outside a farm wins the prize for the most challenging address.

Not an easy one to teach to a child.

The backpackers hotel in Rotorua was different from the bland buildings around it.

here is the bland


Here is the 'backpackers'

Cactus Jacks, Rotorua

and here is 'the spirit' of Rotorua not really being felt . Perhaps it was the rain.

Rotorua - feel the spirit

We were in Rotorua for a bit of culture, and we duly visited the museum and a Maori village.

The museum is really very good.

The village experience was busy and wet. Plastic macs at $2.50 were selling well.

tourists in Rotorua looking chic

Unfortunately for our village guide, most of our group didn't speak the best English. So the commentary went along like this…….

guide to group " this pool is very hot and we use the water to cook our food. It is 104 degrees centigrade"

group to guide " can we swim in there?"

But I was happy as I got to see some bubbling mud which can keep me amused for hours.

bubbling mud

Where was this?


Another that rolls off the tongue.

We continued north to Coromandel, where we experienced the incredibly ingenuity of Barry Brickell, one of New Zealand's most revered potters. He is a biologist, engineer, potter and writer. He built is own railway( mostly by his own hand)  up a hill through forest to enable clay collection from his land. Eventually his bank manager insisted that he allow tourists to ride in order to fund his activities, so we took the ride to his Eyefull tower at the top of the hill.

Eyeful Tower

The view is pretty scenic (OH please note; another request granted).

view from the Eyefull tower

I got to meet Barry as I mentioned that  had just seen his exhibition in Rotorua museum. He was suitably unimpressed with my banal comments about his work and wandered back to his studio fairly smartly.

Barry Brickell sculpture

Time to hit the road again.

does what it says on the tin

Luckily we are not camping as the nights are frosty now.

Coromandel shower block

I think that's enough bizarre for now.

Here's a bit of scenic to finish off.

majestic Kauri tree trunks

And to finish, a sunset

everybody loves a sunset - Russell - Bay of islands

Thursday, 22 May 2014

life on the thermal superhighway


We are moving our way steadily northwards.

Time to leave South island with its song of the Tui at dawn.

To say goodbye to the exotic colours and foliage of the temperate rain forest of the Abel Tasman and Golden Bay.

And to head onwards to North Island. New territories for OH (other half) and I.

Crossing the Cook Straight

From Picton, via Queen Charlotte Sound and the Cook Straight, to Wellington. Back where I started, over three months ago, but no longer sun kissed and summery.

The sound was calm and blue. It was cold and fresh. Some people had fewer clothes on that expected. This young man was returning from a motorcycle race, and was nursing a serious hangover. He informed me that it meant he didn't feel the cold. He managed to eat an ice cream, but it didn't stay down very long.

hangover man

leaving Picton

Queen Charlotte Sound

I was sad to leave South Island, home of the big scenery,  empty roads and many very happy memories. 

North Island is unchartered territory for OH and I, and we were not sure what to expect. 

We know that  there is wine here, and that must be good. 

Last stop in South island was  Blenheim, specifically for the wine tasting , for not much else happens there.

Blenheim vines

We found vines and cycled from one one tasting to another in the autumn sunshine. 

We heard the dawn song of the local thrushes which was almost as good as the Tui, if a little less exotic. 


So far our transition from south island to north has been punctuated by emergency stops for favoured refreshments.

green lipped mussels

 for OH we stopped for green lipped mussels, but the shop was closed so we stopped instead for black pudding.

black pudding and apples

We got a goodly supply of black pudding and apples. OH is now an expert on cooking bacon, egg and black pudding in a motel room microwave. He turns out a beautiful frisbee shaped egg thing. I won't show it to you, as you would be horrified by the size of his breakfast and start sending me messages full of advice about healthy diets……….

A shame then, that we left it ( the black pudding)  behind in a bag in a motel room.

black pudding

For myself I prefer high quality flat whites in fancy cups with pretty patterns on the top.

flat whites

We have wonderful merino thermal underwear in expectation of cold winds in the central volcanic region. OH has replaced the ancient white garments that we took skiing about 30 years ago after good advice from my friends who dropped a little hint that I was hoping he might update his wardrobe a little on the thermal front.

Only the best will do. He has taken out a mortgage to get kitted out by Icebreaker. You are basically paying for the privilege of being able to trace which farm your wool came from with the use of the baa code on the box. Luxury items for sure.

It was pleasing to note, therefore, that we today approached the Thermal Explorer Highway.

thermal explorer highway

On to Napier in Hawkes Bay. Home of Art Deco.

bank, Napier

Napier building, Napier

In 1931 an earthquake destroyed the whole town. It was raised up by 6 metres so that the large boating and fishing lagoon became dry land. There followed a two year building programme that has left a heritage of art deco architecture that the town are rightly proud of.

They also lay claim to Opossum World.

Opossum World

Which is odd given that the rest of the country are desperately trying to eradicate the possums  by fair means and foul ( traps everywhere we go) in order to allow the birds to live long and happy lives. Possums were brought over from Australia, and like many introduced species, have more down sides than ups.

A bit like the cane toads in Queensland.

I am not sure about the art deco Subway sign.

subway, Napier

But the bandstand is classic through and through.

detail from the bandstand

After a fill of history we got back on our bikes and headed off to try some more wine.

This time at Mission estate, started by missionaries who "needed " their own supply of wine. 

Mission estate 

Mission estate vines
And very good it is too.

I am thinking of being a retired missionary when I retire, so that I can go and live there.

Friday, 16 May 2014

on the road - part 1


So my man has arrived, and we are on the road.

He flew into Queenstown airport and while I waited to collect him I considered how much more I might enjoy going shopping if I had a view like this.

Specsavers -   a sight for sore eyes

The sun shone and the mountains have their first sprinkling of snow.


We have a vehicle and some cornflakes.

We have bacon and some eggs.

We have a long drive ahead.

From the south of South island, via Westland and the north of South island then on to North Island.

Via places with no wi-fi or central heating, and an outdoor bath, complete with gas lamp.

bath with log-fire-controlled water temperature

Hard to write when on the road, especially when OH is sitting behind me asking me why I haven't written my blog recently…………

I have advised him to read The Luminaries, in the hope that it will keep him busy for an hour or two so that I can put fingers to keyboard and sort out some photos. It is set on the west coast of New Zealand in gold mining times, and won the Booker Prize.

He checks the newspapers on his iPad and informs me that this weekend in the UK will be a 'sizzler' and that the number of sausages eaten will stretch three times around the M25.

I ask him what newspaper he is reading ……..

I'll let you guess that one

Later he asks me what sprig muslin is………  I admit my ignorance

and then what  phillumeny is 

and later a lucifer

My ignorance is being surely tested.

I am beginning to wish he wasn't reading The Luminaries .


We are enjoying the bird life in New Zealand.

as usual, they remain elusive

Wekas are more amenable to sightings

Pukeko are everywhere, and rather elegant

Pukeko ( swamp hens)  are everywhere but the only Kiwi we have seen is on a plate.


We have travelled from the autumn colours of central Otago and Queenstown to the lush temperate rainforest of Abel Tasman national park.

Autumn in Queenstown

Autumn in Genorchy

Via the greys of the west coast glaciers and the Tasman sea at Punakaiki.

danger of rock fall
Franz Josef Glacier

Punakaiki seascape

Today we had blue skies and frost. Perfect weather for tramping.

The water taxi dropped us off……..

Aqua taxi
and we strolled along the coast.

Abel Tasman national park
All in all, a perfect day.

Marahau, gateway to the Abel Tasman track

And just when we were least expecting it, we saw two penguins.