Tag Archive | New Zealand

Road Trip #4 A Loo With A View!

When travelling, one of the niceties we all look forward to is easy access to rest rooms, as Mrs Carmichael recently mentioned in this post. Usually we’re grateful if they are clean and well-maintained. When they come with a great location, that’s a bonus. Here are some loos and their amazing views…

Richmond River, New South Wales, Australia

Richmond River, New South Wales, Australia

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Kroombit Tops National Park, Queensland, Australia

Kroombit Tops National Park, Queensland, Australia

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Lake Mungo National Park, New South Wales, Australia

Lake Mungo National Park, New South Wales, Australia

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 Mt Wellington Lookout, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

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Rob Roy Glacier, Mt Aspiring National Park, South Island, New Zealand

Rob Roy Glacier, Mt Aspiring National Park, South Island, New Zealand

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Mt Mackenzie Lookout, Tenterfield, New South Wales, Australia

Mt Mackenzie Lookout, Tenterfield, New South Wales, Australia

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And finally, a loo with a view of you…eeeew!

Puzzling World, Wanaka, New Zealand

Puzzling World, Wanaka, New Zealand

Weekly Photo Challenge – One Shot, Two Ways

The Rotorua Museum of Art and History is located in what was once the famous Bath House. The geothermal spas inside the building were known across the world for their therapeutic benefits. The viewing platform on the roof affords a panoramic outlook over the city of Rotorua and its lake, but it was the details in the Elizabethan style roof itself that captured my attention.

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The Wreck Of The SS Maheno

The ocean liner SS Maheno was built in Scotland and first set sail in June 1905. She could carry 420 passengers with 240 of those in 1st Class and was fitted out with all the latest luxuries including electricity.

English: Maheno, the steamship whose hull now ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From 1905 she operated on a trans-Tasman route between New Zealand and Australia until she became a hospital ship for the New Zealand Navy during World War One. After the war the Maheno returned to her original use. In 1935 she was sold to a Japanese shipping company for scrap metal. The fateful decision was made to remove and sell her brass propellers to fund the cost of towing her from Sydney to Osaka by the SS Oonah, a Bass Strait Ferry also destined for the scrap yard.

On 7 July 1935, off the coast of Fraser Island, an unseasonal cyclone struck both ships, the towline broke and without her propellers the Maheno disappeared in the rough seas. The ship was found on 10 July stranded on Seventy Five Mile Beach, with the crew safely camped on the shore.

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Unsuccessful attempts were made to refloat the ship and eventually she was put up for sale. No-one ever bought her and she was simply abandoned on the beach.

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Since then the Maheno has been left at the mercy of the ocean and today she is nothing more than a rusted hulk, so dangerous that access is forbidden.

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In this state it’s hard to imagine how grand she must have been in her glory days.

The 10 Best Things About New Zealand

Our holiday in New Zealand was wonderful and we enjoyed every day. There were some experiences, however, which were special and made our trip even more memorable. Here, in no particular order, are my 10 best things about New Zealand.

1. Best Meal  We celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary at Fox Glacier and asked the locals for a dinner recommendation. They sent us to the Matheson Café on the shores of Lake Matheson in the Westland National Park. The food was superb – New Zealand lamb and salmon with freshly steamed greens, followed by chocolate and Baileys cheesecake and homemade ice cream, and the service was excellent. It was the perfect way to end a lovely day.

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2. Best View  Our apartment at The Sunset Motel at Fox Glacier had a floor to ceiling glass wall facing on to the mountains and this was what we saw every morning! If you’re looking for a comfortable self-contained unit in Fox that’s not on the highway, this is the place to stay.

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3. Best Ride  We did a half day heli-hike with Fox Glacier Guiding. The helicopter ride up to into the remotest parts of the glacier wasn’t just a quick pick-up and drop-off, but a magnificent journey past the town and over the glacier to its highest reaches before swooping back past Victoria Falls and landing on the ice. The pilot made sure his six passengers all had plenty of camera time and he gave a running commentary during the flight. It was a fantastic way to start our day.

4. Best Experience  Our heli-hike experience was amazing and the absolute highlight was the time we spent in an ice cave. The entrance was tiny; we had to make our way down with only a knotted rope and our crampons for support. (My descent was more of an uncontrolled slide than a climb, and for a few seconds Mr ET thought my crampons were heading for his face!) Once inside the feeling was eerie and at the same time awe-inspiring. I felt like a true mountaineer, especially when I had to climb back out again.

5. Best Museum  The Lakes District Museum in Arrowtown is located in the old Bank of New Zealand on Buckingham St. It’s much more than a simple collection of local items and recollections; the history of the Māori, the first European settlers and the goldminers who came to Arrowtown is told in interactive displays, photographs and original texts which bring to life their colourful stories. There’s also an art gallery which presents beautiful local works and historical displays.

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6. Best Bed  We stayed one night in Picton before travelling on the Interislander Ferry to Wellington. This was one of only two nights for which we hadn’t booked accommodation and we were dismayed to find that almost every hotel and B&B had No Vacancy signs. Eventually we found the Mercure Picton Marlborough Sounds which still had vacancies. The price quoted was reasonable but the desk clerk was very apologetic because the room had a round bed! For us at this stage any bed would have done, so a round bed wasn’t a problem. It was colossal and comfortable – what more could we have asked for?

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7. Best Beach  Ohope Beach on the east coast of the North Island is an 11 kilometre stretch of pristine sand and clear water with views to White Island, a live volcano 48 kilometres off shore.  It has been voted “New Zealand’s Best Beach” so we’re not alone in recommending Ohope Beach as a must- see addition to your itinerary.

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8. Best Baguettes  I am not fond of baguettes – to me they are just long pieces of crust. This may seem sacrilegious to lovers of this French staple and for that I apologise. But at La Boucherie du Village in Akaroa I was converted. We bought baguettes freshly baked on the premises and hot out of the oven. They were truly spectacular! They also had a vast range of New Zealand meat and we bought our dinner there – delicious.

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9. Best Shower  And now we come to the most important best of the best: the shower. We stayed in six self-contained units in the three weeks we were in New Zealand and the showers in five of them were terrible. To be more specific the problem was with the shower heads. Some had so little water pressure that I had to run around the shower cubicle trying to catch the drops. A couple had difficulty maintaining a water temperature that was warm enough for long enough. The one shower that had great water pressure did not have a door which meant that the whole bathroom got wet, not just me. The 5 Diamond Belmont Lodge at Porirua had a faultless shower head – perfect pressure and temperature. The rest of our studio unit was really nice too but the shower was superb.

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10. Best Destination  We’ve had several overseas holidays and our trip to New Zealand ranks among our favourites. From Australia the flight to most other countries is very long and tiring, but it’s a just three hour flight to Christchurch. As usual, we spent a longer time in fewer places and saw everything we wanted to in each area. Even so, we’ve only been to a small part of this beautiful country and we will definitely be returning again soon. For us, New Zealand is the best destination of all!

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The Sign Says…Or Does It?

The picturesque little town of Tirau is known as the Corrugated Iron Capital of New Zealand. Visitors may think it’s an odd claim to fame until they take a closer look along the main street. The eye-catching artworks of Steve Clothier adorn each building and few words are needed to explain what’s inside. Each unique sign tells a story – can you guess what it is?

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Rotorua For Free

Rotorua is famous for its bubbling hot springs, steaming geysers and Māori culture and it would be easy to spend a small fortune seeing them all. It’s possible though to experience all that Rotorua has to offer without spending a cent.

At the back of the Government Gardens and the Tudor Bath House is a walking track which begins by meandering through a wetland wildlife sanctuary on the shores of Lake Rotorua. Beyond the wetlands the landscape takes on a lunar appearance with the hard-baked craters and crusted expanses of Sulphur Flat.

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The warning signs are clear – this area might look safe to walk on but that crusty surface could be just a few centimetres thick. It’s best to stay on the path! The most interesting of the bubbling hot pools is the Coffee Pot, where people used to pay to bathe in the hot, murky liquid. The information board shows old photos of this unique commercial venture.

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In 1899 another business scheme saw the planting of 170 different types of trees around Rotorua. The idea was to see which species would grow well enough to cultivate in timber plantations. Many trees either did not survive or grew so fast in the damp, cool conditions that they were unsuitable for use as cabinet timber. The legacy of this experiment is the six hectares of towering Californian Redwoods that now stand at the centre of the Whakarewarewa Forest. The loftiest trees are around 219 metres tall and beneath them is a 90 kilometre network of trails which starts from the Redwood Grove. The forest is a haven for walkers and runners and the mountain bike trails are renowned.

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On the opposite side of Lake Rotorua is a second redwood forest which grows on the banks of Hamurana Stream. The stream is fed by the crystal clear waters of the Hamurana Spring, which finally emerge from the earth after falling on the Mamaku Plateau as rain 70 years ago. A walking track loops through the forest to the spring and back along the stream. Stop on one of the timber bridges and watch the sand dancing on the river bed as the underground water rises to the surface.

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There’s more evidence of subterranean activity at the Māori village of Ohinemutu on the shores of Lake Rotorua, once a busy trading centre for the Māori and now a suburb of Rotorua. The area has an abundant supply of geothermal energy which was used for cooking and heating in the past. There are boiling pools of water in the back yards of the houses and steam rises from the grates in the roads.

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Here you can see the beautifully carved and decorated meeting house Tama-te-Kapua. Tourists are not able to enter the meeting house but the outside of the building is beautiful.

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Closer to the lake is St Faith’s Anglican Church which was built in 1901. Externally the building is Tudor in style and inside the Māori decorations are lavish. A window in the Galilee Chapel is etched with an image of Jesus Christ wearing a Māori cloak and placed so that he appears to be walking on the waters of Lake Rotorua.

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It’s free to visit Ohinemutu and visitors are welcome, although it’s obligatory to remember that it is a living village and homes and sacred areas should be treated with respect.

If, after all this walking, a rest is needed, head for Kuirau Park in the city centre. Here weary feet can soak for as long as necessary in a hot mineral foot pool. Further along there is a series of boardwalks for leisurely strolls. Steam hovers above the small lakes and boiling mud pools pop and belch as if the earth has indigestion.

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At the end of a long day dinner will be welcome and the best deal in town is found at Thursday’s Night Market on Tutanekai Street. There are stalls selling local produce and specialty goods, and a dizzying array of ethnic foods is for sale. And best of all – after spending nothing all day you can try one of everything!

An A+ for Effort

On 2 January this year a storm front bearing driving rain, gale force winds and even snowfalls passed over the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Walkers and car drivers were trapped by landslides and bridges and roads were washed away. On the east coast at Akaroa we were blissfully unaware of the dramas caused by this unseasonable weather. The first sign of the storm for us was the heavy rain which fell on our last night. The following day as we drove from Akaroa to Wanaka we were congratulating ourselves on our good fortune in seeing the Southern Alps blanketed by fresh snow.

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It was only on 5 January in Wanaka that we found out that the storm might have played havoc with our travel plans. At the Tourist Information Centre we saw a travel warning: State Highway 6 was closed north of Harihari. Several spans of a major bridge over the Wanganui River had been washed away and it was not known how long the road would be cut.

Our plan after leaving Wanaka on 7 January had been to travel west to Fox Glacier and spend a day there before a full day’s drive north east to Picton along that same highway. After receiving some local advice we decided that as much as we wanted to see the glacier it would be wiser to make our way up the east coast instead. Luckily we were just a few hours inside the full refund deadline for cancelling our accommodation at Fox Glacier.

We had almost convinced ourselves that our new itinerary would just as enjoyable when on 6 January we started hearing reports that the bridge would be repaired and reopened by 8 January. In Australia the words “roadwork” and “haste” are never heard in the same sentence so we were sceptical when we heard the bridge would be passable just six days after being so badly damaged. Those same locals whose first recommendation had been not to take the risk now said that if the New Zealand Transport Agency stated the bridge would be fixed, then that’s what would happen.

So it was with bated breath on the morning of 7 January that we phoned the owner of the holiday apartments in Fox Glacier to ask firstly if they’d heard any news about the bridge and secondly if we could re-book our unit if the road was open. She answered yes to both questions.  Not only was the bridge being repaired but it would be ready a day ahead of schedule. Our west coast adventure was back on track!

After an incredible visit to Fox Glacier we headed north along State Highway 6 on 9 January in pouring rain, passing roadwork which continued on regardless of the conditions.

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These photos were taken through the windscreen of the car.

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If it hadn’t been so wet and cold I would have stopped and thanked these workers and given gold stars all round. Their efforts were truly worthy.

A Certain Shade of Green

One of the best known icons of New Zealand is Pounamu, also known as nephrite jade or greenstone. It is found on the west coast of the South Island in the rivers and on the beaches, especially after wild weather. Māori people have used Pounamu for centuries in their tools, weapons and ornamentation and it is considered an honour to receive a worked piece as a gift.

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The little town of Hokitika, which means “place of return”, is the centre of Pounamu carving and sales on the west coast. There are several shops and Pounamu carving factories in the main shopping area of Hokitika. The Te Waipounamu Maori Heritage Centre has an excellent range of carvings and beautiful jewelry. In the workroom visitors can watch as artisan carvers shape the stone into traditional and modern designs.

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Further along the street the Bonz’n’Stonz Carving Studio is a hive of activity with students creating their own masterpieces under the watchful eye of their tutor.

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In another carving studio Des shares not only his work but his love of the stone through his stories. He tells how the Māori would come to the west coast to find Pounamu, take it back to their homes and carve it with sandstone. He is making several Tiki, good luck symbols associated with fertility.

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Away from the main street is the Traditional Jade Co, a family owned shop with a carving factory at the back and unique jewelry and other pieces for sale in the front. Almost all of their stone is local, unlike some of the other shops which stock more imported jade than New Zealand stone, and the jewelry is locally made and reasonably priced.

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The young woman behind the counter explains how her grandfather and father go fossicking for Pounamu after storms and heavy rain. They bring back the best pieces to add to their collection.

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One day these stones will be transformed into objects of wonder and beauty; prized possessions and honoured gifts.

Walking on Ice

In 2012 a guided hike on Fox Glacier with Fox Glacier Guiding was 64th on the AA Travel “101 Must-Do List for Kiwis”, but it was number one on my wish list when we visited the West Coast of New Zealand. Mr ET was surprised by the cost but I was adamant that I was going whether he did or not! Of course, he had no intention of missing out…

Fox Glacier and its twin Franz Josef are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Area of Te Wahipounamu. It is one of the few glaciers in the world that is advancing instead of retreating and its terminal ends in dense green rainforest only 300 metres above sea level.

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There are several ways of viewing Fox depending on budget, age and fitness levels. We decided to go on the guided helihike with Fox Glacier Guiding as it gave us the opportunity to hike on the ice in places that would be inaccessible on our own. The usual advice is that tours are dependent on weather conditions and although it was overcast and showery we made our booking the day before in the hope it would be fine the following day.

During the night we lay in bed listening to the rain pouring down and thinking that our chances weren’t good, but in the morning when we drew back the curtains in our room the view was glorious. Clear blue sky and a fresh dusting of snow on the highest peaks – it couldn’t have been better.

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Our tour started at the helipad but before we could take off we needed to be kitted out and instructed in the safety requirements of the day. We’d been told to wear layered warm clothing, while thick socks and heavy leather hiking boots were included in the cost of our tour. They weren’t exactly fashionable but I knew once we were on the ice I’d be grateful for the protection they provided. We learned how to board the helicopter safely, use our headsets while flying and climb down to a safe area once we arrived on the glacier. Most important was the instruction to squat with our arms over our heads facing away from the helicopter when it took off again, as ice chips go hurtling through the air in the updraft.

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It took only a few minutes to leave Fox Glacier township behind and fly up and over the glacier. We travelled along the length of the ice floe, over the mountains and the upper reaches of the glacier, and circled Victoria Falls before landing in the centre of the glacier.

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Once the helicopter left the only sound was that of water flowing under the ice and dripping from the tops of ice caves, until there was a low rumbling as rocks and soil tumbled down the slope on a nearby mountain. Dean, our guide, assured us that minor landslides like this happen frequently after rain and aren’t dangerous.

There was one more thing to do before we started hiking. Everyone was given a set of spiky metal crampons, which attached to our boots and gave us traction on the slippery surfaces, and a walking pole to aid our balance.

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Finally we were ready to go. We played follow the leader as Dean took us past deep blue crevasses, tiny sparkling waterfalls and blindingly white hillocks of hard-packed ice. Occasionally we waited as he searched for the best route and carved out steps with his pickaxe.

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The highlight of the day came when Dean discovered the entry to an ice cave hidden in the side of a frozen hill. He set up a knotted rope tethered to hooks which were hammered into the wall of the cave and showed us the best way to get into the cave. That was easier said than done and instead of an elegant and controlled entrance I simply slid from the top of the cave to the floor as if I was on a rollercoaster. Once there I was left breathless, as much by my surroundings as my helter skelter descent. The ice inside the cave glowed, luminous and blue, and a frosty silence wrapped itself around us.

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If entering the ice cave was tricky, climbing out again was even more difficult. Those crampons really earned their keep as I dug them into the walls of the cave and pushed with my legs, while pulling myself up by the rope, one knot at a time.

After 2 ½ hours on the ice it was time to make our way back to the helicopter landing site and return to the township.

We had one last birds-eye view of the glacier as we flew high and then swooped down its length, over the Fox River and the forest. As we landed, Mr ET turned to me with a glowing smile and said: “That was the best thing I have ever done.” Money well spent!

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Take the High Road Part 2

After descending the hair raising Zigzag there are more choices to be made. Continue on State Highway 6 and Queenstown will be your destination. Take a right hand turn off the highway and find yourself transported back to another time in Arrowtown.

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Situated on the banks of the Arrow River, Arrowtown was founded in 1862 during the Otago gold rush. The population reached more than 7000 at its peak and hotels, churches and homes were built to accommodate those who came looking for riches. The historic buildings along Buckingham Street are now protected by a covenant preserving the old time appearance of the town like a living museum.

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An avenue of trees was planted along Buckingham Street in 1867 in an effort to create the feeling of an English village. These same trees shelter the cottages along the street today.

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Five minutes’ walk from Buckingham Street is St Patrick’s Church. In the Church grounds stands a small miner’s cottage, unremarkable except for the fact that Mary MacKillop, now known as St Mary of the Cross – Australian’s first saint, lived there for several months in 1897 while The Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart established a school and convent.

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You can pan for gold in the swiftly flowing waters of the Arrow River just as 1500 miners did more than 100 years ago, or simply sit on the river bank and enjoy the serenity.

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Just remember, at the end of the day, you will need to drive up the Zigzag again!