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23 2017 Mar

Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail – Mar 2017

The Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail has got to be one of THE most stunning cycle trails around. Superlatives abound when describing the trail and they are well justified.  With its snowy mountain ranges, wide open grassy plains, shady tree lined streams, intensely blue canals and lakes……its beauty is all around everywhere, every day you cycle.  Needless to say, we all LOVED it.

The Wall of Remembrance in Christchurch.

Our adventure started in Christchurch.  We all arrived at our YHA accommodation at different times of the day depending on flights.  Some of us went off for a bus tour and then a walk around the CBD to see the effect of the earthquakes.  I was actually really shocked.  I hadn’t been to Christchurch since before the earthquakes and I didn’t expect it to still look so bad.  There seems to be endless road cones everywhere, crushed buildings with sheets of plastic and “keep out” tape flapping in the breeze.  Yes, there has been some building going on and there are some lovely little areas and lots of beautiful artistic ‘graffiti’ and the Botanic Gardens are looking great….but…..I really thought there would have been a lot more done in the CBD area.

Our arrival day ended with dinner out where we all officially met each other.  We were all feeling excited and really looking forward to the next 6 days together on the A2O.

Day One – Tekapo to Twizel – 54km (5.5 hrs)

We were all up and organised early for breakfast at the YHA then a short walk down the road to catch the 8am bus to Tekapo where our bikes were being delivered.  It was a lovely bus ride, the beautiful scenery all around us was certainly an indicator of what was to come.

Our bus dropped us off at the busy car parking space on the shores of the lake.  Camper vans and tourists were everywhere.  We had time to head to the local pub for some lunch before our bikes arrived.

And we’re off!

It takes a wee while to get 12 women all fitted out properly on their bikes, little adjustments here and there but soon enough after the obligatory “at the start” photos were taken we headed off…..only to find that it was a bit confusing actually getting out of Tekapo.  Finally we were on the right path and we just breezed along beside the incredible turquoise blue canal waters of the Tekapo Canal.

However, our ‘breezing’ along soon changed to ‘battling’ along against a vicious side wind that threatened to topple us off our bikes, some even had to get off and walk. It didn’t last too long though but it certainly tired us out.

Me, in my happy place.

Whizzing along the Pukaki Flats into Twizel was one of the main highlights of this whole adventure for me. I loved the huge wide open space, the purple shadows on the rolling hills, the vast blue sky with surreal cloud formations.  My soul soared, my heart sang, I was in heaven!

After a quick supermarket visit we biked around to our accommodation in 2 separate houses and settled in for the night, feeling like we’d biked 80 odd k’s instead of 54!

Day Two – Twizel to Lake Ohau – 38km (4 hrs)

This morning a few of our bikes needing “tweaking” so we stopped off at the bike depot and had adjustments made before heading off following the river trail out of Twizel.  There were a few big gusts as we cycled along the Ohau Canal but nothing like we had had the day before.  Lunch was at the Ohau Dam and then we were off again cycling a lovely trail around the edges of Lake Ohau.  Lots of twisting, turning, little ups and downs, through scrubby growth full of bright red rose-hip bushes and surrounded by massive hills and mountains, most of them with pockets of snow at the top.

Lake Ohau Lodge.

As beautiful as it was, by the time we reached the road into the little settlement of Lake Ohau we were ready to stop, though we had another 5km to go to go our accommodation at Lake Ohau Lodge.  And what a relief it was to get to such a stunning place.  We had very nice twin share rooms and soon we were showered, rested and enjoying our pre dinner drinks in the lounge overlooking the lake.  After an absolutely sumptuous dinner and lots of laughter and stories we each retired for a well earned sleep.  We were definitely going to need it for the day ahead!

Day Three – Lake Ohau to Omarama – 45km (6hrs)

Climbing up to the pass.

Today we were in for a long steady climb up to the pass and then pretty much downhill all the way to Omarama.  Sounds relatively easy…….  On our way up to the pass it started spitting with rain and getting bitterly cold.  At times the path was steep and rocky and right on the edge of a long drop down to the hills below.  Some of the group needed to get off and walk and we ended up in two separate groups.  There was no time to stop and regroup at the top of the pass as it was just too cold.  Despite the cold we all marvelled at the beauty that surrounded us and there were still lots of quick photo stops!

No, it’s not a mirage, it really is a coffee van!

It was a fast and furious ride down from the top on a stoney trail that wound its way down to the plains below.  We had heard that there was a coffee van at the old historic wool-shed but didn’t want to get our hopes up just in case it wasn’t there…..We still could hardly believe our eyes when there in the absolute middle of no-where, like a surreal mirage,  was the coffee van with lattes, flat whites, hot chocolates, the works!  We practically swooned with delight.

Enjoying our hot chocolates!

Sitting in a sheltered spot in the sun with our hot chocolate, eating our lunch was just heavenly.

And on we went….. Unfortunately there was no time for the side trip up to the Clay Cliffs but we managed to meet up with some of the first group who had made the one and a half hour detour to view this amazing sight.

Heavenly hot tub spa!

Our motel accommodation in Omarama was a very welcome sight and the long soak in hot tub spa over the road was absolutely divine!   Dinner was at the local pub just down the road and then it was off to bed for an early night.

 

Day Four – Omarama to Kurow – 80km (8hrs)

Today was an incredibly beautiful ride but just a bit too long as we had extra mileage added on to get to our farm stay accommodation out of Kurow.  It was a very chilly start to the day with frost on our bike seats and we were all bundled up in our thermals and gloves as we headed off on what was to be one of the most beautiful days on the cycle trail.

We sped along beside Lake Benmore, it’s deep blue waters sparkling in the sun, then up onto State Highway 83 where we carefully rode in single file as we climbed up to the Otematata saddle with big trucks roaring past.

Cafe stop at Otematata.

Our morning tea stop was at the Otematata café.  We stocked up on food for our lunch at the local Four Square before heading off on the next section.  It was a short but pretty steep climb up to the top of the Benmore Dam and what a stunning view from the top.

Our blissful lunch stop on the shores of Lake Aviemore.

We couldn’t have asked for better conditions as we cycled around Lake Aviemore, it was so sunny, still and calm that you could clearly see the reflection of the surrounding hills in the lake.  Golden leaves on the trees that fringed the lake, a flock of sheep being herded ahead of us, crab apples ripe (but still sour) for the picking, the warm sun on our back, our lunch stop sitting gazing at the lake, were just some of the delights.

A lovely flat riverside ride took us into the small town of Kurow where Richie McCaw stands proudly in his All Black splendour.  We rode on through and stopped at the Kurow Winery for much needed refreshments as we were all starting to feel the effects of our long day.    In hindsight, we should have all been picked up from the Kurow Winery and taken to our farm-stay accommodation as the extra k’s were just a bit too far for most.

After showers and a rest we gathered together for pre dinner drinks and then a wonderful huge home cooked meal before retiring.  All up, it had been a beautiful but huge day’s ride!

Day Five –  Kurow to Burnside Road – 55km (6hrs)

After a lovely big breakfast we were all packed and ready to go.  4 of us were taken to where we had stashed our bikes under some trees beside the road when we got a lift up to the farm the day before.  The rest (who had bravely rode their bikes) all the way, headed off from the farm to meet us at the crossroads…..except it didn’t quite happen that way.  Due to a misunderstanding we all missed each other but we eventually all met up together when a local stopped was able to courier the message to those of us who were waiting, (phone coverage wasn’t that good there.)

It was a lovely easy start to what was to be quite a hilly day.  We sped along the highway before getting back onto the trail, wending and weaving our way through pockets of shady trees, through paddocks and alongside the river and eventually into Duntroon.  We were looking forward to a coffee stop but there was no café.  However we found out there was a coffee machine at the Vanished World Museum so we a happy bunch of women sitting in the sun outside the museum sipping our coffees and eating our huge morning tea that was part of our farm stay packed lunch.

Elephant rocks.

There were a couple of historic sights for us to visit on our way.  We stopped at the Takiroa Maori rock art drawings and then started on one of the many climbs we were to do that day.  We stopped and admired the Elephant Rocks, and then it was another long and winding climb up to Island View, with fast and fun down-hills!  An abrupt turn took us off the road and onto the trail that goes through Rakis Tunnel.  Out came the torches as we walked our bikes through and out the other side where we cycled through lovely little pine forest glades carpeted with pine needles and then another long hot hill, cycling in the sun to the top of Peaks Rd.  Most of us found our way up to Burnside Rd but unfortunately a couple of the front riders continued on the cycle trail and ended up cycling into Enfield before being redirected back to our accommodation at Burnside Historic Homestead.

Burnside Homestead.

Our last night on the A2O was spent in THE most beautiful accommodation.  Practically all the women had their own rooms, all decorated in the old period style.  There were 4 poster beds, free standing claw foot baths; it was like we had stepped back in time. Even the couple that run the place are dressed in period costume.  We wined, dined and slept in absolute luxury and loved every minute of it.

Day Six – Burnside Rd to Oamaru – 20km (2hrs)

We all slept so well and woke feeling refreshed, most of us wanting to stay an extra day and just enjoy the place a bit more.  We had a beautiful big breakfast before we cycled off to Oamaru, literally just down the road, and the end of the trail.  Once again the sun was shining and the conditions were perfect as we sped along what used to be an old railway line.  I cycled along thinking of all the beautiful places we had seen on the last 6 days, it was almost overwhelming and I felt quite emotional as I cycled into Oamaru.  What a lovely way to end the trail, riding through the Oamaru Botanical Gardens and on through the Victorian Historic Precinct with its alleyway type streets leading to the Oamaru Harbour.

We made it!

We gathered together for the obligatory “end of the trail” photos, all feeling immensely happy and proud of what we’d achieved.

 

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23 2017 Mar

Art Deco Festival – Feb 2017

If you love dressing up, dancing, music, parades and all the style and fun of the 1930’s/40’s then you would love the Napier Art Deco festival.  Held over 4 days, this festival is absolutely jam packed full of fun things to do and see.  It was very hard to choose the ticketed events for our group to do!

Guided tour in Napier.

After arriving from our drive down from Auckland and meeting up the other two women of our group, we headed off for our Guided Tour of the Art Deco streets and buildings of central Napier.  This was a great introduction to our weekend as we learnt about the earthquake that pretty much destroyed Napier but at the same time reclaimed it so that what was under water rose up to became land, (which is now the airport area.)  Napier may have been destroyed but what was created to take its place was guided by the fashion, the era, the post war feeling of the time. It was one of hope, splendour, boldness, glamour and the positivity of what was ahead.  And it only took 2 years to completely rebuild!!

Enjoying our wine tasting at Clearview.

The itinerary I had planned went by the wayside a bit due to the very wet and rainy weather.  We couldn’t complain though as Napier had been in the clutches of a drought and desperately needed this rain.  So on Day 2 instead of cycling out to visit wineries we all hopped in my van and headed out on a “Tasting Trip.”  First stop was Clearview Winery, where we had a lovely wine tasting session (at 10 in the morning!)  Then it was off to Origin Earth, the home of Te Mata cheese for a very informative cheese tasting and delicious lunch at their café.  From here it was a short drive to Black Barn for yet another wine tasting at this beautiful winery.  As we drove through Havelock North on our way to the Silky Oaks chocolate factory, the women couldn’t resist stopping for a bit of shopping and a look around.  We finished our “Tasting Trip” trying out the different fudge flavours at Silky Oaks.

Dressed up and ready to party!

Back at our accommodation in Clive, we had a short rest, before dressing up in all our splendour and heading into Napier for dinner and then the Prohibition Party.  Practically everyone we saw was dressed up in the art deco era and we were constantly oohing and ahhing over the absolutely beautiful costumes we saw.  There was such an air of festivity everywhere, dancing exhibitions, jazz music, pipe bands, busking, spontaneous dancing and singing, people everywhere, like us, strutting their stuff and looking so cool! We all loved the Prohibition Party, a fun evening full of dancing, entertainment, gambling….and yes, we did get “raided by the cops!”

Our decadent breakfast at the County Hotel.

The next morning we were up relatively early for our seating for the champagne breakfast at the County Hotel.  There was such a feeling of decadence as we sipped at our champagne flutes, dressed in our finery, and were waited on for our gourmet breakfast, (and it wasn’t even 9am yet!)

 

Later that day we stood with many others in the rain, under our umbrellas, and watched the vintage car parade, which was actually more entertaining than I thought it would be.  From there we did some sightseeing and ended up in Ahururi for a late lunch before heading back to Clive for a bit of a rest before another night out.

That night was the Ukelele Beach Party except it wasn’t at the beach as their location got flooded out so we were at the Rugby Club.  This was a fun sing-along evening which would have been even better had we known how to play the ukulele and brought our own.  We managed pretty well with our percussion spoons though!

Enjoying the Great Gatsby picnic.

Finally, the next morning, the sun shone and boy, did it get hot!  We drove into Hastings to the Farmers Market and had a delightful time perusing and tasting at all the various stalls, choosing delicious foods for our Great Gatsby picnic.  And what a picnic it was.  We couldn’t believe all the amazing picnic settings that people had set up as part of the picnic competition; everything from the historic teddy bears picnic to the East India colonialism era.

Bubbly was sipped, delicacies were devoured as we again watched the festivity all around us, the dancers, the strollers, the musicians, and all the old cars…..it was like stepping backwards in time.  All too soon though we had to gather up our picnic things and head back to normality and the long drive back to Auckland.  It had been such an amazing weekend, despite the weather, and one that I’ll definitely being doing again (and again!)

 

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7 2017 Feb

Sunset Kayaking Adventure – Feb 2017

One definition of the word “adventure” is not ‘knowing what the outcome is going to be.’  That was certainly the case in this kayaking adventure!

Getting to know each other at the start of our adventure.

A group of 7 of us met up with our guides from Auckland Sea Kayaks at St Heliers beach .  It was a bright, sunshiney day.  The beach and the sea were full of people enjoying the summer afternoon.  We spent a good half an hour getting ourselves ready, spray skirts, life jackets, boat shoes, a thorough briefing on the how to’s of kayaking and sharing what experience (if any) that we all had of kayaking.

Gliding effortlessly along.

We buddied up in our double kayaks and carefully paddled off from the beach heading towards the big marker out in the channel.  There was a pretty strong south westerly blowing which made for a lot of sideways, slapping waves against our kayaks.  This was OK for going over to Rangitoto but as our guide pointed out, it would be very difficult for us to kayak into that strong wind on the way back.  So he made the call for us to paddle over to Browns Island, (Motukorea) instead.

It was so much calmer and easier.

It was quite a choppy paddle over and we were all relieved to get around to the back of the island, out of the wind, where it was much calmer.  But not for long!  As we headed around the front of the island to where we were going to beach our kayaks, the strong wind hit us full in the face. At times if felt as if you were just sitting still and paddling no-where!

Pulling our kayaks up onto the beach at Browns Island.

We made it in to shore and pulled our kayaks up high on the beach.  The wind was still gustily blowing and we were cooling down quickly so we added thermal layers and wind jackets.  Our guides soon had teas, coffees and  muffins set out for us which we consumed with much enjoyment and relief.

Our BBQ dinner, steak and salads.

While we sat and rested and chatted, our guides very efficiently cooked and served up our BBQ steaks and yummy salads.  The sun was by now slowly slipping towards the horizon so we set off for the highest point, a bare grassy hill with a stunning 360 degrees view, to watch the sunset.

Huddled together in the strong wind at the top of Browns Island waiting for the sunset.

We huddled together as the wind blasted us and Ian, our guide, gave us a very good history of the surrounding area and islands.  For an Irish guy, he certainly knew a lot more than us!

 

What a pretty sunset.

Although there was a bit too much cloud cover, it was still a very pretty sunset and I loved sitting there on top of an island in the middle of the Hauraki Gulf, with a bunch of great people, watching this beautiful sight.

Enjoying the sunset.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Armed and ready for our beautiful kayak back.

It slowly became darker as we walked back down, past the massive crater in the middle of the island, and to the beach.  Luckily, the wind had died down.  We loaded up the kayaks, turned on their little lights, buddied up again and silently paddled off through the dark waters, back to St Heliers, watching the lights of the city get closer and closer.

It is such a magical feeling, gliding along with just the sound of your paddle slicing through the water, darkness all around, just a little golden glow from the light at the end of the kayak and the moonlight shining on the water.

There really is no place I would rather have been at that moment.  Yes, it had been a bit of an adventure, we didn’t end up where we thought we were going, but once again, it was such a good adventure!

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7 2017 Feb

Nikau Cave Adventure – Jan 2017

Did you know we have our own spectacular cave pretty much right on our doorstep, (if you’re from Auckland or the Waikato)?  That’s right.  On the back road to Port Waikato is a wonderful hidden gem, called Nikau Cave.

A group of 10 of us travelled out west of Mercer, through beautiful rolling countryside and pretty little settlements and met up at the Nikau Cave Cafe, (worth a visit in itself.)

The intrepid explorers!

 

After meeting with our guide and getting ready with our helmets and torches, we set off through the paddocks and trees to the opening of this massive cave system hidden in the rolling hills.

A shallow stream runs through the cave so there was no option but to get our feet wet and even our knees when we crawled through a 12 metre very low part of the cave.

 

Although we were all feeling slightly nervous about this part of the adventure, it wasn’t as bad as we had anticipated and we were through it very quickly.

There were heaps of stalactites like these.

 

Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photos so I’ve had to copy some photos off the website to try and show just how amazing this cave is.   There was just so much to see and ooh and ahh over.  Huge stalagmites and stalactites  were everywhere, massive limestone formations that would have taken thousands of years to grow.  We walked through great caverns where glowworms glittered all around us.

 

 

 

It was just stunningly beautiful!

 

The walk through the cave takes and hour and a half and we were fascinated all the way through.  It really is well worth a visit.

 

 

Our delicious lunch stop at Sylvia’s Cafe at Port Waikato.

From here, we continued on along the road and into Port Waikato with it’s relaxed, laid back vibe.  We stopped at the very popular Sylvia’s Cafe for a delicious lunch before heading down to explore the seriously eroded beach.

 

Getting caught by a rogue wave.

This wild, windy west coast beach certainly lived up to expectations.  The waves crashed and surged aggressively up onto the beach as the wind blew the froth back out to sea.

 

 

Racing down the sand dunes!

We climbed the massive sand dunes and raced down their steep slopes to the bottom.  Strolling back along the beach, we hopped in our cars and headed back to Auckland.

And all of this is, as I said, right on our doorstep!

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7 2017 Feb

Tongariro Crossing – Jan 2017

What a perfect day we had for this adventure!  We certainly appreciated that fact when we found out that the day before had been unfavourable conditions and as it turned out, the day after was thick with fog!

We headed off from Auckland on a very hot, sunny afternoon and drove via Tirau to pick up the 4th member of our group.  Just a small group but the van was full of our chatter!

Walking in to the local pub with Mt Ruapehu to our left.

We arrived at our very comfortable, self-contained, holiday house and settled in before heading off to the local pub for dinner.  It was pretty much full of other trampers with very few kiwi accents that we could hear.  This was to be our experience on the crossing too, loads of other trampers and all seeming to be from different countries (and all much younger!) We all had an early night so that we could be up early and ready for our 6.45am shuttle van.

7.40am at the start of what turned out to be an almost 8 hr trek. (Lots of photo stops…)

We awoke to a lovely fine, clear day and joined the masses being transported to the start of the crossing.  Bus loads were being dropped off and we wondered what it was going to be like, all jostling for space on the track.  Luckily we did all span out and it was only at the toilets or the “slowly and carefully” parts of the track that we all ended up in queues.

 

On the boardwalk at the start.

 

The first part of the track is easy, boardwalks and pretty flat terrain.  From Soda Springs the track starts to climb up the long ascent known as the Devil’s Staircase, (I think there are a few walks in NZ with a Devil’s Staircase!)

 

 

On the climb up the Devil’s Staircase.

 

 

We were all very pleased to get to the top, have a rest, find somewhere out of the wind to have some food and then head up to the Red Crater. It was during this part that we all noticed a young man on a BMX bike trying to cycle the track!  Mind you, when we saw him he was carrying his bike and I’m sure he would have had to do that for a fair bit.

 

 

The awesome Red Crater! Photos just do not do it justice…

The red crater was absolutely stunning!  So dramatic, almost like something from another planet!  Deep, rich, dark blood red, rusty browns and ominous black walls steeply disappearing into this huge crater.  The fierce cold wind only added to it’s stark beauty.

The magnificent Emerald Pools.

Once again, we sheltered out of the wind whilst admiring the panoramic view.  From here it was a bit more of a climb and then below us was one of the most magical scenes of the whole trip,  the Emerald Lakes.  These honestly have to be seen to be believed.  All around us was this rocky, sparse terrain and in front of us was a huge scree slope heading down to where these 3 magical lakes sparkled and shone in turquoise splendour.  All around us people were taking advantage of the perfect conditions and taking photos and videos.

Slowly and carefully making our way down the scree slope.

We joined the long, slow procession carefully snaking down the crumbly, scree slope.  Many a slip was had but luckily no-one was seriously injured.

 

 

On our way down to Ketetahi car park with the Blue Lake ahead of us.

We walked across the vast Central Crater, the sun shining down, enjoying the ease of the track.  From here it was an easy walk to the Ketetahi Hut and it was about here that we realised that we didn’t have quite as much time left as we thought we did.  Despite starting to feel a little bit weary and foot sore, we needed to up the ante to make sure we were back by our pick up time of 3.30pm.

The track down through the alpine scrub and down into the forest is actually really lovely, especially with the pretty little river rushing alongside.  However, we didn’t get to really appreciate it due to the rush to get back in time! Needless to say, we made it back and thankfully settled in to the air-conditioned shuttle bus and drowsily nodded off on the ride back to National Park.

It had taken us almost 8hrs with lots of stops for rests and photos and we were all feeling very satisfied with ourselves.

Once we were showered and rested, we sat back with wine and nibbles and celebrated the day.  We ended up celebrating a bit too much, or maybe we were just too knackered, and decided to stay home instead of going down the road for dinner.  Yes, it was an early night that night too!

We woke the next morning to this!

And as I said at the start, look what we woke up to the next morning!  Thick fog that lasted all day, in fact, they closed down the track.  Were we feeling a little bit smug and pleased with ourselves that we had done the track YESTERDAY……..damn right we were!

 

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11 2016 Dec

Kayaking at Mahurangi – Dec 2016

Gliding through the grey still water, gentle misty rain caressing my face, a sense of calm and being at one with nature, I smiled as I thought, ‘there’s nowhere I’d rather be right now.’

Yes, the forecast wasn’t good at all.  Yes, we all were having second thoughts before we got there.  Yes, it rained off and on while we were out there.  No, we didn’t get to kayak over to Motuora Island…….but did we have a wonderful days kayak anyway…..? Damn right we did!

We met Logan, our guide, at 9am at the beautiful secluded little Sullivan’s Bay at Mahurangi West, which on a sunny summer’s day is the place to be,  and agreed with him that due to the forecast, we’d stick close to the shoreline and just explore the immediate area.

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Briefing on the beach.

By the time we got the kayaks unloaded, set them up on the beach and had been through our briefing it was almost 10am.  The water was calm, there was no breeze at all just a few spots of rain here and there as we set off, paddles silently slicing through the rain pocked water.

Morning tea on Te Haupa island.

Morning tea on Te Haupa island.

We soon kayaked round to Wenderholm and then over to Te Haupa island for tea, coffee and muffins.

From there we made our way over to Mahurangi East along the coastline and into the tranquil Dairy Bay where we stopped for lunch, sheltering under a huge pohutakawa tree.

The lovely Dairy Bay - lunch stop.

The lovely Dairy Bay – lunch stop.

Seeing these magnificent trees, clothed in their scarlet crimson brush-like blooms against the grey misty water was breath taking.

Feeling nicely well rested and well fed we pushed back out into the water and paddled round to Scott’s Landing before crossing back over with the intention of exploring more of the coastline.  However, the rain had started to get a bit heavier and black clouds were closing in so we headed back to Sullivan’s Bay  instead.

We hauled our kayaks up onto the beach and though we were feeling wet and weary we were also immensely pleased with ourselves and our day out.

Driving back I had this happy little chorus playing in my head, “da da de dah, da da de dee, there ain’t no place I’d rather be…”

 

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24 2016 Oct

Living Life On The Edge – Blokarting – Oct 2016

OK, I admit it, I was a bit nervous about doing this adventure.  I had visions of the blokart speeding uncontrollably along the beach, me hanging on for dear life or the blokart flipping over and me getting hurt or crashing into some poor beach walker……. I’ve never really sailed before and I didn’t know whether I’d “get” how to do this tacking thing I was told we had to do in order to get back.

Wheeling our blokarts down to the beach.

Wheeling our blokarts down to the beach.

Well, I needn’t have been nervous at all.  I loved it and had so much fun!  We wheeled the blokarts down to the beach, the wind was blowing in a nice brisk fashion, (that’s landlubbers language for 15 to 20 knots.)  We were given as much info as we could handle without going into information overload and not remembering any of it, then we climbed in, got down low, strapped ourselves in, wheeled ourselves around so the wind was behind us, held the rope to the sail in one hand, the steering wheel in the other and away we sped.  Just like that!

And they're off!

And they’re off!

I could see the others flying along the beach ahead of me and into the salty mist beyond.

Talk about exhilarating, it was amazing!

Me, whizzing through the wet sand!

Me, whizzing through the wet sand!

Watery wet sand flew up from the wheels and splattered me from head to toe, even in my ears, before I slightly turned the steering towards the dryer sand and continued zipping along.

I knew I’d better not go too far as I’d have to do this tacking thing to get all the way back.  Some of the other women were starting to come back and didn’t seem to be making much progress.

So, reluctantly I turned the kart around or tried to.  Pulling the sail in hard as I turned I suddenly flipped up onto 2 wheels and before I knew it I was over on the sand, my hand and foot out of the kart to brace myself, which is exactly what we were told NOT to do.  I felt like a cast sheep as I wriggled around trying to undo my seat belt so I could get out and right myself.

I noticed I wasn’t the only one either.  In fact, we were told at the start that everyone ends up flipping over.

A couple walking along the beach came to my rescue and the very kind gentleman not only righted my blokart but proceeded to help me master this tacking skill.

Getting some help to turn around.

Getting some help to turn around.

Every time I stalled, there he was, correcting the kart, running behind me, pushing me in the right direction until the wind got my sail and I was off again, only to stall when I tried to turn again.  Finally I got the hang of it, or should I say, the “feel” of it.  It seems to be very much a “feeling” thing.  Knowing just how much rope to let out, how tight to pull it back in, what speed to get up to before attempting a turn. Once I got it, I was away, joyfully shouting out thanks to my helper and his patient partner who had to walk by herself most of the way.

Had enough!

Had enough!

I noticed some of the other women were also confidently tacking back while a couple of others had problems with their karts and were trying to wheel them back.

Smooth tacking back to the start. I've got this!

Smooth tacking back to the start. I’ve got this!

I zig zagged back and forth across the beach, so proud of learning this new skill.  Just about every time I turned I was up on 2 wheels, zipping along, but now I knew how to control it.  Yep, no doubt about it, I was actually “living life on the edge” and loving it!

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30 2016 Aug

Bay of Islands – August 2016

Well, what a weekend that was!  We had perfect weather, a great group of women, a lovely place to stay, an absolutely beautiful walk on both days…..the Bay of Islands really turned it on for us and definitely lived up to its reputation as the “winter-less north.”

Poor Helen with her broken ankle being ferried across the little bay.

Poor Helen with her broken ankle being ferried across the little bay.

What we hadn’t expected to happen was a broken ankle!!

A slight hollow in the track, a misplaced foot, the ankle turned and down Helen went, painfully landing on her bent leg with the ankle underneath her and, to make matters worse, it was her previously broken ankle!!

There were lots of “luckily’s” that then followed.  Luckily, we were very near a road end so we could get transport, luckily she could be piggy backed out, luckily there was a guy in a little dinghy who could take her the short distance from the track across the water to the little bay with the road end, luckily our taxi driver who I rang, was an ex ambulance driver and chairman of the St John’s, (it was quicker to get him than to send for an ambulance), luckily she could be easily lifted into the back of the taxi van and taken to nearby Kawakawa for x rays etc.

Needless to say, despite all the “luckily’s” she was gutted to have had the accident and missed out on the rest of the day’s hike from Paihia around to Russell.  We were very near Opua when it happened so a good 2 hrs into the hike. One of the other women, her cousin, went with her to Kawakawa and the rest of us continued on, catching the 5 min ferry from Opua over to Okiato and from there we walked to Russell.

At the start of our walk in Paihia, pre the accident.

At the start of our walk in Paihia, pre the accident.

 

As I said earlier, we had perfect weather.  The sun was shining and one by one the thermal layers starting coming off.  We climbed up the bushy hillside, up and down along a ridge and back down lots of steps to the water’s edge.  We stopped for lunch at the end of a little jetty.  It was such a quiet and tranquil spot with a lovely little breeze that refreshed our sweaty brows.

Up and down the bushy path on our way to Russell.

Up and down the bushy path on our way to Russell.

 

 

We continued on, along the boardwalks, beside the road and finally into the streets of Russell.  We were a pretty tired out bunch of women but also very pleased with ourselves and what we had done.

 

 

 

 

A happy but tired bunch of women.

A happy but tired bunch of women.

We caught the next ferry, met up with the 3 other women, (one of whom had just done a shortened version of our walk), commiserated with Helen who was now hobbling around on crutches and hopped into our vehicles and headed back to Auckland.  what an adventuresome weekend it had been!!

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31 2016 Jul

Tiritiri Matangi – July 2016

Well, who would have thought it…….?  The weather forecast wasn’t looking too good and it was touch and go whether the trip to Tiritiri Matangi Bird Sanctuary was going to be called off or not, but it turned out pretty much to be a perfect winter’s day!

Arriving at Tiritiri Matangi.

Arriving at Tiritiri Matangi.

If you’ve never been to this island bird sanctuary, if you’ve never heard the sound of what the New Zealand bush must have sounded like way – way back, then I definitely recommend a trip to Tiritiri!

Listening to the birds.

Listening to the birds.

We were all overwhelmed at times by the beautiful and very loud song and calls of all the different native birds. At times it was so noisy you had to raise your voice to be heard by the person next to you!

Listening to our very informative guide, Kathy.

Listening to our very informative guide, Kathy.

Once we arrived, we were given a 2hr very informative guided walk about the history of the island, the birds and the native plants and trees.  Although we didn’t actually go very far on the walk, we saw so much and were constantly stopping to see the many tui, bell birds, saddlebacks, robins, kereru ……

On the ferry, a lovely quick trip.

On the ferry, a lovely quick trip.

After our lunch there was only time to go for a bit of an explore before we caught the ferry back to Gulf Harbour, (it only takes half an hour) and Auckland, (another 50 min away from Gulf Harbour.) The weather was starting to change, it was getting cold and windy, but it was a pretty calm trip back.   We were all feeling like we’d like to go back again for another visit and more of a look around.

I’m definitely thinking about taking a group over for an overnight trip.  There’s a lodge you can stay in there. Staying overnight means you can do a night walk to see the kiwi (hopefully) and the tuatara. The night sky apparently is incredible so there’d be some star gazing and then in the morning we’d be up early to hear the dawn chorus.  Sounds like a great weekend trip doesn’t it?!  Keep an eye out for it coming up in the summer months.

 

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18 2016 May

Great Barrier Island – May 2016

A rushed ride to the ferry and a panicked ride to the airport bracketed the beginning and the end of what was otherwise a fabulous four days of exploring  Great Barrier Island.

On our way into Tryphena from the ferry.

On our way into Tryphena from the ferry.

We left at 8am from the Sealink ferry terminal in Auckland for what was supposed to be a 4hr trip…….5 hrs later we arrived in Tryphena after a very choppy crossing with most of us feeling a bit green around the gills.

However, the sun was shining and the sea was now calm and sparkling beside us as we walked along the road into the little township of Tryphena.  Stopping at a General Store we bought some basic supplies for our meal that night and breakfast and lunch the next day.  We divvied up the food between us, squeezed it into our already full day packs and set off for the approximately 3 hr walk over to Medlands Beach, following the Kowhai Valley Track.

At the start of the Kowhai Valley Track.

At the start of the Kowhai Valley Track.

It was a long climb up Rosalie Bay Rd to the start of the track and by now the sun was slowly slipping towards the horizon.  We hoped we would get to our accommodation before dark.  Did we make it ………..well …… no. The last 10 minutes or so we walked along the road in the dark with our headlamps blazing before finally making it to Medlands Beach Backpackers.  It had been a long and eventful day and we were all ready for showers, dinner and an early night.  The bottle of wine that one of the women had stashed in her backpack went down a treat too!

looking out over Whangapoua. Just gorgeous.

Looking out over Whangapoua. Just gorgeous.

The next morning we were picked up by Lianne from GO Great Barrier and taken to the start of the Heretaonga Coastal Track.  This pretty track meanders gently around the hills overlooking the coast with all it’s stunning secluded bays and coves.

 

We couldn't resist stripping off for a swim.

We couldn’t resist stripping off for a swim.

We made it in plenty of time to our pick up spot at Heretaonga Bay so decided to check out the beach and couldn’t resist stripping off and running in for a very refreshing swim.  We couldn’t believe the water was so nice for May!

Lianne picked us up and drove us to our next accommodation at Crossroads Backpackers, stopping to look at the gorgeous views of the island along the way.  We were hosted by the very friendly and chatty Kate and Bruce.

Our evening at the local Sports bar.

Our evening at the local Sports bar.

Dinner that night was at the local Sports Bar which was pretty much right next door.  This was a  lovely big open plan wooden building with a big blazing fire, which wasn’t really necessary but added to the ambience. We all thoroughly enjoyed our evening there, chatting with the locals and of course the great food.

Day three and we were up, leisurely breakfasted in the sprawling comfy kitchen/dining room and off up the road to the start of the Te Ahumata Track that would take us up and over to Whangaparapara and our next accommodation at Great Barrier Lodge.

Quad stretch at the top of the Te Ahumata track.

Quad stretch at the top of the Te Ahumata track.

The Te Ahumata Track is an easy walk with an hour loop up to the look out at the top of the big flat ridge.  It was another lovely blue sky sunny day as we ambled along, chatting and laughing, enjoying the day. The view from the top, though slightly hazy, was still well worth the climb.

Our well deserved lunch at Great Barrier Lodge.

Our well deserved lunch at Great Barrier Lodge.

We strolled down the road and into Whangaparapara to the Great Barrier Lodge where I had phoned ahead to let them know we’d be wanting lunch.  I was so glad I had as we were all feeling pretty hungry and wolfed down the BLT’s, toasted sandwiches, moist carrot cake and plunger coffees!

Exploring the tranquil bay.

Exploring the tranquil bay.

Some rested after lunch and some of us went off kayaking, exploring the calm and tranquil bay. Tui’s sang from the nearby trees, the water was glassy and smooth as we silently paddled, absorbing the beauty.

Fresh snapper and salad for dinner, sitting out on the deck of one of the cabins, rugs over our knees, talking together, sharing our stories…… just perfect. Once again, I’d been blessed with such a lovely group of women to share another adventure with.

Heading off to the Hot Springs.

Heading off to the Hot Springs.

Our last morning on what was to be an exciting and almost disastrous day. We were up early and on the track to the Hot Springs by 7.30am.  We were running to a relatively tight schedule to get to the hot pools, have a soak and walk out to the road to be met by Steve, (Lianne’s husband) and taken to Claris to get our 12.30pm flight.

Loving these hot springs!

Loving these hot springs!

All went beautifully to plan, we had plenty of time for our walk, loved our long soak in the natural hot springs pool, got out to the road with 10 minutes to spare…… 40 minutes later we were still waiting!

We were starting to get worried as our flight would be leaving in half an hour and we still had to get the rest of our stuff from the Lodge which was in the opposite direction to the airport.  We managed to flag down a local and get them to ring Steve, (there was no phone reception where we were) and soon Steve turned up apologising profusely. He had read our pick up time as 1.30, not 11.30! A speedy dash to pick up our bags (as much as you can on the winding Great Barrier roads) and a then a return rush into Claris to the airport where we made it with 2 minutes to spare! As much as we all loved being over there we all had lives to get back to on the mainland.

We made it! Our flight back to Auckland.

We made it! Our flight back to Auckland.

We clambered into the little 8 seater plane and had a lovely flight back, (just ahead of a big storm, thankfully) marvelling at the beauty below us.

Goodbye Great Barrier.

Goodbye Great Barrier.

Once again, Great Barrier Island seduced us all with her beauty, her friendly locals, her laid back lifestyle and sense of New Zealand as it used to be.  I’ll be back again with another group next year, count on it!

 

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27 2016 Apr

Bali Adventure – April 2016

Bali wove it’s special magic over us us all with its stunning scenery, its beautiful temples, beaches, people, incense and flowers. We did lots of exploring, had lots of fun and laughter, enjoyed the beaches and swimming pools, the spa treatments shopping and adventures.  It worked out to be the perfect balance between doing “stuff” and just chilling out.

Read on to find out some of the highlights of what we did…….

Day 1:  Arrival Day

Ahhhh….the perfume of Bali, the smell of incense, of flowers, of clove cigarettes wafting by in the warm sultry air…..It’s always the same and it always fills me with a feeling of pleasure and happiness.  This feeling was soon to be tested though as 4 of us  arrived without our bags…..due to the short transit time they didn’t get loaded onto the plane from Sydney to Bali.  They arrived the next evening though so all was well and I’m happy to say it certainly didn’t detract from our excitement and pleasure at being in Bali.

Our arrival in Bali.

Our arrival in Bali.

Our drivers, Buda and Nyomen, met us at the airport. Full of smiles and warm polite greetings they efficiently helped us to their waiting vans. They were to prove to be excellent drivers and guides with lots of local information and with great senses of humour. Once we had sorted out our rooms in Sanur (a laid back beach town) we strolled down to the beach for dinner at one of the many little restaurants right on the beach, delighting in the warm evening air. Then it was a swim in the pool, so lovely and warm, before bed and a good night’s sleep.

Day 2:  Sanur

The first of many beautiful sunrises on this trip.

The first of many beautiful sunrises on this trip.

We all awoke early and met up for a stroll along the beach to watch the sunrise, (the first of many we were to watch) chatting, taking photos, delighting in being over here. Then it was back for another swim, breakfast at a gorgeous little restaurant with a lovely big lotus pool right next to our accommodation and then some cycling.

2016-04-14 10.18.34We hired bikes and rode along the long promenade that runs the length of the beach, stopping for cool drinks and checking out some of the many clothing stalls along the way .

Waiting for the sunset at Uluwatu.

Waiting for the sunset at Uluwatu.

The afternoon was spent resting before leaving at 3.30pm to watch the sunset at Uluwatu.  This is a not to be missed experience and we could certainly see that, as the road there was clogged with buses and cars all on their way out there.

Monkeys at Uluwatu.

Monkeys at Uluwatu.

 It is an amazing location high up on the towering cliffs with the sea crashing below.  Families of monkeys stalk the walls and while they are very interesting and amusing to watch you also have to be very careful around them and not wear or have anything they can snatch off you like sunglasses and water bottles.  We saw a number of tourists get their belongings taken and have to get the warden to divert the monkeys attention to get the stuff back.

At Jimbaran enjoying the local show.

At Jimbaran enjoying the local show.

From there we went out to Jimbaran, known for it’s seafood restaurants on the beach. We had a lovely evening eating and being entertained by a Balinese theater group and musicians singing at our table……

Day 3: From Sanur to Ubud.

After another sunrise, early morning swim in the pool and breakfast, our drivers picked us up and took us up to Ubud – the cultural capital of Bali where we were to stay for 4 nights. There is so much to see and do around the area of Ubud and we had a full and exciting itinerary to look forward to.

Our lovely pool in Ubud.

Our lovely pool in Ubud.

Our accommodation was right in the heart of Ubud on Monkey Forest Rd, yet was such a quiet, tranquil and pretty place to be.  We all took advantage of the Spa Treatments that were located there!

The Kecak performance in Ubud.

The Kecak performance in Ubud.

The afternoon was free time to explore, swim, rest, shop…..before meeting up for dinner and the Kecak performance at a local temple. This is a must see experience as it is very much part of Balinese culture.  Although we didn’t really understand a lot of what was being enacted (despite the notes that we were given) we were still mesmerized by the performance and the setting . We were sitting outside in a temple courtyard with a huge banyon tree lit up from below. The finale was the fire dance where a dancer scattered burning hot embers around the courtyard with his bare feet!  We were all off to bed relatively early as we needed to get a few hours sleep before getting up at 1.30am in time to be picked up for our sunrise walk up Mt Batur.

Day 4: Mt Batur Trek.

A foggy sunrise up Mt Batur.

Although the sunrise wasn’t that great, the whole experience was just awesome!  We joined literally hundreds of other trekkers in the dark with our headlamps and torches as we slowly made our way up the 2 hr climb to the top of Mt Batur.  Each group had their own guides who were very helpful.  Ours was a lovely young woman who just loved being our photographer and was forever wanting to take “just one more” photo of us in the various locations.  Our other guide had stayed behind with one of our group who was not able to make it to the top. We definitely had our heads in the clouds once we got up there, it was quite foggy and cold.

Sipping our hot coffees watching the sunrise.

Sipping our hot coffees watching the sunrise.

Our guide looked after us though and brought us hot coffees and our breakfast of bananas, bread and hard boiled eggs, (boiled in the steam from under the ground – it is an active volcano.) We had to be quick though as the monkeys up there were pretty adept at stealing food!  Once the sun came out it soon warmed up and we were shedding our layers. We then had a lovely trek around the top of the craters and down to a big cave before heading back down.   From there we visited a lake temple and had another breakfast snack at a coffee plantation. By the time we got back to our accommodation it was almost lunchtime, it had been a long morning, so it was free time till the evening when we met up for dinner.

Day 5: Cooking Class

Morning walk through the rice fields.

Morning walk through the rice fields.

Today was a “free day” until our cooking class that was booked in for 4pm.  So a group of us headed off exploring on a walk through the rice fields.  We followed the Camphuan walk up onto the ridge.  This is a lovely walk and very easy to follow. There is also a beautiful lotus pond cafe up there that makes delicious banana bread and smoothies.  It pays to go early though as it gets very hot and sweaty. We then explored another pathway and though we did get slightly lost it is never difficult to find someone to ask.  The area around Ubud is absolutely lovely with stunning views and homes set among the rice paddies.

Busily preparing our wonderful meal.

Busily preparing our wonderful meal.

Once we got back, had a swim and some lunch and a rest, we met the others (who had been busy shopping) and headed off to our cooking class.  We had 3 chefs for our group of 10 (3 others were on the course) and we had a lot of fun making our way through creating a delicious 5 course meal.  We then enjoyed the meal with a few glasses of wine.  I finished the day off with a lovely massage before rolling into bed…..ahhhh……..

Day 6: Cycling Tour

Sampling all the different teas and coffees.

Sampling all the different teas and coffees.

Today we were picked up at 8.30am and taken by van up to Kintamani to the start of our downhill cycling trip.  Before we got there though, we visited a coffee plantation and learnt all about the famous Luwak coffee and sampled all sorts of different coffees and teas.

Cycling through the many villages on our way.

Cycling through the many villages on our way.

We then set off riding gently downhill all the way through little villages, alongside rice fields and under tall towering palms that lined the roads.  Children called out “hello, hello” as we cycled past.  We watched a line of women each with a 50kg sack of rice of her head, gracefully making their way through the rice fields to the waiting truck.  Our guide took us into a family compound and told us heaps of information on Balinese religion and culture. We were taken to a beautiful house for a really delicious lunch. Having done the cooking course the day before we were able to recognise the different foods and know how they were made. We all thoroughly enjoyed our easy cycling and very informative day.

A warm monkey crotch right next to my ear....ewwww!

A warm monkey crotch right next to my ear….ewwww!

Once we got back some of us went and visited the Monkey Forest and were even brave enough to have the monkeys climb on us.

Day 7: Ubud to Lovina

Our fantastic 4 days in Ubud had come to end and so we headed off to for our overnight trip to Lovina at the top of Bali, stopping off to explore historical sites along the way.

 

Walking through the famous rice fields at Jatiluwih.

Walking through the famous rice fields at Jatiluwih.

Our first stop was the World Heritage site of the Jatiluwih Rice Fields and they are pretty impressive. Layers upon layers of rice paddies that gently wind their way around the hills and up and  down into the valleys. We had a stroll through, marvelling at it all.

From there we drove to the Bedugul Water Temple, a popular tourist spot and very beautiful, where we were enthusiastically interviewed by English students from Java.  From here we continued up to the lookout for the 2 lakes before cruising downhill through many villages to the coast and Lovina. It definitely looked poorer over this side of the island with lots of rubbish in the villages and poorer looking dwellings.

Sunset watching at Lovina.

Sunset watching at Lovina.

We were just in time to see the sunset (Lovina is a great spot for sunsets) and we sat with our drinks  listening to a group of local young men singing with their guitars…… (unfortunately they sounded pretty bad!) It was then a nice long swim in the pool then out for dinner at a beachside restaurant before turning in for the night. It had been a long day.

Day 8:  Lovina to Sideman (snorkelling on the way.)

2016-04-20 10.52.36

Snorkelling at Tulamben.

Today we headed off from Lovina down the East Coast road stopping off at a couple of snorkelling spots before we got to our accommodation at Sideman. The first snorkelling location was at Tulamben which is the where the WW2 Japanese boat went down.  It is not far out from the shore and there are lots of fish to see here though the water is a little bit murky.  Unfortunately the Balinese don’t seem to have the same concern for the environment that we are used to in NZ and there is a lot of rubbish on the beaches and in the sea. Things are slowly changing but I think it will take a long time to change the “chuck away” attitude.

Snorkelling at Blue Lagoon.

Snorkelling at Blue Lagoon.

From here we then stopped off at the lovely  Ujung Water Palace and had lunch before heading off to the Blue Lagoon just over the hill from Padang Bai.  This is a lovely snorkelling location.  It’s just like snorkelling in a huge fish bowl.  There are heaps of fish and the water is pretty clear.

By now it was late afternoon and we still had an hour or so to get to our accommodation at Sideman.  The road there was pretty rough but it was well worth it.

2016-04-21 06.50.36

Our cute little pink cottage at Sideman.

Our accommodation and the location of Sideman is just lovely. We are staying in cute little pink and blue cottages with lovely open air bathrooms and little back porches with hammocks overlooking a babbling little stream all set in a beautiful forest.

 Day 9: Rest day in Sideman

Even though it was actually a “rest day” we were all keen to explore this lovely area. We headed off straight after breakfast and soon found a little track beside the road that we decided to follow.

Morning walk in Sideman.

Morning walk in Sideman.

The track wound its way up and down through lots of little garden sites with narrow little waterways running through.  It was a pretty rough track though, not as easy as we had first thought. We did manage to find our way out to the road and gratefully stopped at a roadside shop for a cold drink. A couple of the women continued on and found a temple at the top of a hill which they said was well worth seeing……it’ll have to wait till next time.  The rest of us went back and lazed by the pool and waited for our massages we had booked.  It was a lovely day and we all enjoyed the peacefulness and beauty of Sideman.

Day 10: From Sideman to Nusa Lembongan

I was awake early this morning and I set off with another one of the women, Ingrid, for an exploring walk.

Part of a lovely walkway in Sideman.

Part of a lovely walkway in Sideman.

We found a delightful little track that led up through the rice paddies along side a concreted water course.

Unfortunately we couldn’t keep going as we had to be back in time for breakfast and to leave Sideman. I’ll just have to check it out next time.  It was definitely easier than the one we had done the day before!

Waiting at Sanur for the boat to Nusa Lembongan.

Waiting at Sanur for the boat to Nusa Lembongan.

Today we were off to Nusa Lembongan for 2 days. First we had to catch a fast boat from Sanur which was a 2hr drive from Sideman. The boat trip only took 30 min so we were there by lunchtime.

Once we had settled in, had the obligatory swim in the pool and something to eat, we were then ready to go off exploring. So we hired some bicycles and off we went.  We cycled along the coast road, through sparse areas that had lots of rubbish, along pot holed roads and past little roadside stalls.

Cycling over the bridge to Ceningan.

Cycling over the bridge to Ceningan.

It doesn’t take long to cycle around the island so some of us headed over the bridge to the next island, Ceningan.  Once over there we ended up on a road that took us up and over a very steep winding hill to the other side. It was hard work and pretty rough and tough going. Coming down the other side was almost just as bad!  The road was so bumpy and pot holey with lots of loose stones and very steep.  We were dripping with sweat and my hands were sore and cramped from gripping the brakes! We were pleased to get back to our accommodation, have a swim and head out for dinner.

Enjoying the band at Lemongrass restaurant.

Enjoying the band at Lemongrass restaurant.

We ended the day at a lovely little restaurant called Lemongrass, listening to and singing along with a band, sipping on our cocktails…..

Day 11: Nusa Lembongan – Snorkelling Trip

Beautiful sunrise walk on Nusa Lembongan.

Beautiful sunrise walk on Nusa Lembongan.

After a lovely warm early morning walk along the beach in the soft dusky pink haze, it was time to get ready for our day’s snorkelling trip.

Check out the guy fishing off the cliff....not a marine reserve then....

Check out the guy fishing off the cliff….not a marine reserve then….

We boarded the boat at 8am and headed off with a few others to 4 different snorkelling spots.  The first spot really wowed us with this huge mantaray gently gliding beneath us as we snorkelled all around it.  The other spots were amazing too, with lots of fish and coral (though the coral wasn’t that great.) One location even had this massive Buddha head and “attendants” around it and big bell shapes.  It was amazing! All sitting on the ocean floor like part of the lost city of Atlantis.

At our favourite Bali Eco Deli cafe.

At our favourite Bali Eco Deli cafe.

Once we got back we headed out for lunch at one of the best cafes we’ve been to. It was the Bali Eco Deli and not only did it have amazing food but it is dedicated to ridding Bali of all the plastic rubbish, (which usually bugs every tourist to Bali) and has a great recycling project in place plus they will fill up your water bottles for free.  Tick, tick, tick!

Our day finished with 2 for 1 cocktails on the beach watching the sunset, dinner at Lemongrass, a swim in the pool and bed.

Day 12: From Nusa Lembongan to Seminyak – Final full day

We caught the 9.30am boat back to Sanur where our drivers picked us up and took us to Seminyak for our last night in Bali. Seminyak is a busy, bustling place with lots of high end shops, restaurants and accommodation.  Our accommodation was at the quieter end and only a short walk from the beach so we headed down there for lunch while we waited for our rooms to be ready.  During the afternoon we either explored, shopped, swam in the pool or rested.

Ordering our drinks, waiting for the sunset.

Ordering our drinks, waiting for the sunset.

We met in the evening for our cocktails on the beach watching the sunset along with hordes of other locals who clogged up the road on our way there.  It was a lovely way to spend our last night. The music was playing, the sun was setting, we were all feeling very relaxed and happy plus a little bit sad that it was all over.

Day 13: Going home day

Early morning walk along the beach at Seminyak.

Early morning walk along the beach at Seminyak.

Today started with my final sunrise walk along the beach I was feeling very happy and pleased with how this trip has been and giving myself a little mental pat on the back.  Some of the others had gone for a long run, it’s a great beach for long walks and runs! Due to a muck up with our flights, some were leaving at 10pm and the rest of us were leaving at 3pm.  Those who had longer time headed off with one of our drivers to Nusa Dua for the day.  A couple of us headed off for a cycle ride all the way along the pathway almost to the airport.  After a thoroughly invigorating swim in the pounding surf at Seminyak we sat and enjoyed our drinks on the beach.  Then all too soon it was time to get a taxi to the airport for our flights home.  If you missed out on this trip this time round, don’t worry, I’ll definitely be doing it again next year!

 

 

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14 2015 Nov

E-Cycling and Eco-Ziplining on Waiheke Island – Nov 2015

Wow! What a fun day out we had over on Waiheke Island!  We hired electric bikes and off we went!  This has got to be THE way to get around on hilly Waiheke. You get to see so much more, to explore all the beautiful beaches and hidden away little bays and yet you are still cycling….just with a bit more ooomph!

Eco-ziplining was fast, exciting but unfortunately over all too soon!

Wine tasting at Peacock Sky winery, with delicious tasty little food matches that really brought out the flavours of the different wines, was absolutely divine.

Then it was off on our bikes again, exploring more of the island before heading back on the 6pm ferry.  What an awesome day!

(Check us out ziplining on the video clip at the end of this post.)

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29 2015 Oct

Hawkes Bay Cycling Weekend – Oct 2015

Take 8 lively women, add in a huge dose of laughter, fun and humour, some fine wining and dining, a bit of sausage making and a bonfire on the beach and of course, some cycling through the sunny Hawkes Bay and you have the recipe for a deliciously wonderful weekend!

Enjoying tapas at Deliciousa.

Enjoying tapas at Deliciousa.

We drove down from Auckland on the Friday picking up women along the way and soon the van was full of excited and animated chatter as the women got to know each other. On arrival in Napier we got fitted out for our bikes, sorted ourselves out in the motel and then went off into Havelock North to Deliciousa Tapas. We can highly recommend their gorgeous tasting tapas.

Bleak but beautiful!

Bleak but beautiful!

The next morning we woke up to a rather gray and dismal looking day with light rain spitting down. We had some time before going on our guided Art Deco walk so we hopped in the van and drove up to the top of Te Mata peak which still had an absolutely beautiful view despite the weather. Then it was back into Napier to find out more about the Napier earthquake and how they rebuilt the Napier CBD in the art deco style.

Biking along the coastal cycle-path to Bay View.

Biking along the coastal cycle-path to Bay View.

By the end of the tour the rain had eased off a bit and we headed off along the coastal cycle track right out to Bay View and to the Snapper café for lunch.

This all used to be under water!

This all used to be under water!

The rest of the day’s cycling was through the wetlands area around the Napier airport and back to our motel.

Loving the hot pool soak!

Loving the hot pool soak!

A lovely long soak in the Ocean Spa pools nicely relaxed all those cycling muscles before we headed out to dinner at Milk and Honey, a very nice top quality restaurant.

 

Going through one of the many gates on the cycle-path.

Going through one of the many gates on the cycle-path.

Cycling day two dawned bright and sunny as we cycled off for our pub lunch at Puketapu Pub, exploring and enjoying all the different areas along the way. There were wide smooth paths through suburb back streets, crushed limestone paths through fields, under pine trees, beside rivers and little lakes with so much to see and enjoy.

Making sausages.....

Making sausages…..

Once back from our cycling, we then went on to our sausage making course which was a lot of fun. We made two different types of gourmet sausages and they were sooo nice!

Cooking our sausages on the beach.

Cooking our sausages on the beach.

That evening we had a fire on the beach with bubbly, wine, nibbles and hot chips and cooked some of the sausages over the fire. We finished off with roasting marshmallows over the fire….divine!

 

Cycling along Oak Avenue.

Cycling along Oak Avenue.

Our last day’s cycling was out to Te Awa winery where we once again enjoyed amazing food in a beautiful setting before cycling back to Clive to drop off our bikes, hop into the van and head off back to Auckland. It had all been a simply perfect long weekend. I’ll definitely use that ‘recipe’ again!

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22 2015 Sep

Bay of Islands Tramping Weekend – Sept 2015

The forecast wasn’t looking that great for the weekend but we headed off anyway, feeling positive and optimistic that we’d cope anyway (and think of a Plan B just in case!)

We did a bit of a “tiki tour” on the way stopping at Kaiwaka to check out the huge kauri carvings at The Art Factory (well worth a look.)

From there we travelled up to Whangarei stopping for a delicious coffee break at the i site. They do these wonderful coffees with coconut milk and oil added to them….The tourist shop right next door proved to be a great little shopping spot and we all got some excellent bargains.

Whangarei Falls.

Whangarei Falls.

The next stop was the Whangarei falls just out of Whangarei and a very easy 10 min loop to check them out, (worth a look.)

 

 

BOI 2

The Hundertwasser toilet block in Kawakawa.

Our last stop was at Kawakawa to have a look at the famous Hundertwasser toilet block (again, well worth a look.)

 

 

From there it was just a short distance to Paihia.

Haruru Falls.

Haruru Falls.

Lunch, (according to my itinerary), was to have been on the beach but with the rain spitting down we decided maybe not, and went to a cafe instead.  From there we caught a taxi up to Te Haruru Falls and followed the track out to Waitangi and back into Paihia, walking in the pouring rain!

Dinner out in Paihia.

Dinner out in Paihia.

Showered and warm and dry, we headed out for dinner in Paihia and then back to our motel for a good night’s sleep before our big walk the next day.

 

We walked on coastal pathways….

The morning dawned bright and blue skyed but with big black clouds on the horizon. By 9am we were breakfasted and on the coastal track from Paihia to Opua.

The full circle day walk is a delightful mixture of coastal pathways, beach walking across little bays, bush tracks, boardwalks and through the streets of Russell.

                                             across pretty little bays…..

through beautiful bush.....

through beautiful bush…..

 

 

 

 

 

From Opua we caught the 5 min ferry over to Okiato and on to Russell.

BOI 9

along boardwalks in the rain……

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were on again, off again with our rain gear as rain clouds came and quickly went.

Happy little trampers!

Happy little trampers!

In Russell we only had 2 minutes to spare to catch the ferry (or wait for another 40 min).  Big ice-creams finished the day off nicely and we clambered back into the van for the trip back to Auckland (no tiki touring this time.) It had been an excellent weekend, spitty, showery rain and all!

 

 

 

 

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3 2015 Jun

Rotorua Adventure Weekend – May 2015

I don’t think we could have fit more into this weekend if we tried! We covered all the bases from screaming exhilarated excitement to blissful sighs of relaxation.

We arrived at our motel – Malones (that had these awesome huge spa pool bath tubs) and then set off for a cultural tour of Whakarewarewa Village.

At Whakarewarewa Village.

At Whakarewarewa Village.

 

This place is well worth a visit and is a fascinating insight into how the Maori people used and still use this geo thermal area. An enthusiastic singing, dancing and poi demonstration finished off the tour.

 

 

Ahhhh........Bliss....

Ahhhh……..Bliss….

 

From there it was off to relax in the famous Polynesian Pools.  Soaking in these natural hot springs while gazing at the lake beyond as the day slowly turned to dusk, was utterly wonderful!

 

 

 

 

Dinner at Ephesus Cafe.  Yum!

Dinner at Ephesus Cafe. Yum!

Feeling very relaxed but hungry we went into town to find somewhere for dinner. Well, it seems we were the only ones who hadn’t booked a table in Eat Street.  Everywhere was booked out solid! It was the Blues Music Festival weekend and there were people everywhere and the cruisy, body swaying beat of blues music drifting out of the bars and cafes.  We eventually found a table at the yummy Ephesus cafe, settled back with wine and food and enjoyed the evening.

Setting off into the Redwood Forest.

Setting off into the Redwood Forest.

 

Day 2 was our “adventure day’ starting with mountain biking in the Redwood Forest.  Half of the group were novices so we started on the Kids Loop which certainly still gave us plenty of oomph!  We then split up into 2 groups and did the trails that best suited our abilities.  There are so many trails (and so many people) everywhere.  You could easily spend a day exploring and having lots of fun.

 

Walking around the Blue Lake.

Walking around the Blue Lake.

 

From there we headed off to walk around the Blue Lake – a very pretty little lake that supposedly takes one and a half hours to walk around but ended up taking us a bit longer due to taking a couple of wrong turns.  Signage is not the best!

 

 

On the gondola going up to the Luge.

On the gondola going up to the Luge.

By then it was getting on for 4pm and we still had the Luge rides to go (as did hordes of other people as it turned out!)  We managed to get 2 rides in before they closed for the evening and we LOVED it! We ‘warmed’ up on the beginners track where we each seemed to get in touch with our inner racing woman before setting off confidently down the intermediate track daring anyone to try to overtake us!

Feeling exhilarated but also pretty ‘had it’, we headed into town for a lovely tapas meal and a wine (still in our adventure gear) before going back to our big spa bath pools and soaking the rest of the evening away.  Bliss……..

It doesn't get much better than this. Relaxing at Kerosene Creek.

It doesn’t get much better than this. Relaxing at Kerosene Creek.

We woke to spitty rain the next morning which was off and on for the rest of the day.  We breakfasted at Fat Dog Cafe and then headed off towards Taupo to Kerosene Creek, a natural hot pool, down a dirt road in the NZ bush. I can highly recommend this!  Just 2km off the road, a little shed and toilet, a 3min walk along the river to a steamy big pool with a forceful waterfall that was great to stand under!

Rolling down the hill. That's us, the little black dots inside the ball.

Rolling down the hill. That’s us, the little black dots inside the ball.

Today was going home day but not before a zorb ball ride on the way!  We stopped at OGO, stood waiting, shivering in our togs and thermals before being taken up to the top of a big hill.  Pamela and I were doing the Sidewinder, a longer and supposedly more gentle ride, Carisa was doing the straight ride – faster but shorter.  40 litres of hot water inside our zorb ball made it nice and comfortable …..until the ball started rolling down the hill!

Pamela and me at the end of our exhilarating ride!

Pamela and me at the end of our exhilarating ride!

It was definitely a lot of fun, very exciting, verging on hysteria and a not to be missed experience! As an aside, Pamela is a pensioner in her 60’s, an intrepid explorer from way back but still very nervous about doing this adventure and she did it!  Very inspiring!

So that was our 3 day, jam packed weekend of adventure, (with some relaxing stuff) in the tourist mecca of Rotorua.  I’ll definitely be doing this adventure again!

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4 2015 May

Beautiful Bali! – April 2016

Bali…..just the mere word conjures up a mosaic of unique, exotic, colourful, cultural experience like no other. From its mountainous interior, through villages full of temples and sweet wafting incense past its vibrant green, rice paddies to its long coastal beaches of frothing white surf, Bali delights the eye and totally wows the senses.

Cycling through rice fields.

Cycling through rice fields.

The first time I had been to Bali was 20 years ago, then 15 years ago and while it has definitely gotten busier with lots more tourists, shops and motor scooters, the essence of what makes Bali special remains the same.

 

My husband Derek and I had gone over to Bali this time not just for our own holiday but also to check out and put together an adventure/cultural/relaxing type holiday for my Women’s Adventures NZ to do Bali next year in 2016. And I believe we’ve done just that.

The pool at Little Pond in Sanur.

The pool at Little Pond in Sanur.

Here’s a brief updated overview of what this holiday would look like. The dates are Wed 13th to Tue 26th April 2016. April is a good time of year to go as it’s the end of the wet season and it’s not the peak busy season (June, July and August.) The cost is $2000.00.  The cost includes pretty much everything except your airfares and most of your meals (except for breakfast). It includes  stunning  twin share accommodation at at 6 different locations, transport with our own driver, cycle tour, sunrise tour, cooking class, ferry trip to Nusa Lembongan, entrance fees to the various places we will visit and cultural performances.

 

Day 1 and 2 – Sanur

The first couple of days would be spent at the lovely, relatively peaceful Sanur on the East Coast. This would give everyone a chance to ‘arrive’ and acclimatise themselves. There is a lovely long cycle-path along the beachfront and lots of little lanes and streets to explore by bike. A sunset excursion to Uluwatu is included on Day 2. Accommodation is at Little Pond, a little oasis in the heart of Sanur.

The cycle-path along the beach front at Sanur.

The cycle-path along the beach front at Sanur.

Day 3 to 6 – Ubud

On Day 3 we leave for Ubud and spend our first day in Ubud exploring with free time to go shopping, check out Monkey Forest, get a spa treatment, hire a bike and go cycling in the nearby villages or head off for a walk in the rice paddies. In the evening we’ll go to a Kecak Performance at one of the local temples. This performance features a group of up to 80 men sitting chanting in a circle and accompanies the dance re-enactment from the Hindu epic Ramayana. It is a not to be forgotten performance! Accommodation during our time in Ubud is twin share in a stunning hotel right in the heart of Ubud.

Cycling through the villages.

Cycling through the villages.

 

Day 4 – Cycling Tour – Kintamani

We head off at about 8.30am in a shuttle van up to the village of Kintamani stopping off at a coffee plantation on the way to sample the many different varieties of locally grown coffee. A breakfast stop at Kintamani then we’re off cycling for 3 hrs mostly downhill through many villages and rice fields. This is a wonderful experience and a great way to see so many lovely little villages. We arrive back at about 3pm and have the rest of the afternoon to relax, swim in the pool, have a spa……

Our cooking class.

Our cooking class.

 

Day 5 – Local hiking and Cooking Class

We spend the morning going for a 3 hr hike just out of Ubud up into the rice paddies, through villages and back along the river. At 3.30pm we are taken to our cooking class run by the famous Café Wayan.

 

Sunrise at the top of Mt Batur.

Sunrise at the top of Mt Batur.

Day 6 – Mt Batur Sunrise Trip

We are picked up at around 2.30am and taken to the start of our 2 hr climb up Mt Batur to see the sunrise. We then walk around the top of the crater before returning back to Ubud by about 11am. The rest of the day is your free time.

 

Snorkelling at the Blue Lagoon.

Snorkelling at the Blue Lagoon.

Day 7 – Ubud to Lovina via East Coast

We leave Ubud early and drive to Padang Bai to go snorkelling at Blue Lagoon Beach. After a couple of hours spent snorkelling we then head for the East Coast and Tulumben to go snorkelling at the site of the WW2 Japanese wreck. From here we travel up the coast to Lovina in time to see the lovely sunset over the beach. We stay the night at Lovina in beautiful accommodation with a huge big pool.

 

Day 8 – Lovina to Sideman

Unesco World Heritage site Jatiluwih.

Unesco World Heritage site Jatiluwih.

We travel from Lovina down through the centre of the island stopping at the 2 lakes, the lake temple and at the Unesco World Heritage Jatiluwih Rice Fields before continuing on down to Sideman, one of Bali’s most beautiful river valleys and our accommodation for the night.

Day 9 – Hiking in Sideman

We spend the morning on a guided walk through the many beautiful rice fields and valleys in this area and the afternoon relaxing at our gorgeous accommodation.

 

Cycling on Nusa Lembongan.

Cycling on Nusa Lembongan.

Day 10 – Nusa Lembongan

We leave Sideman early to drive to Sanur and catch the 10.30am ferry to Nusa Lembongan.

Once there we have free time to explore the island by bike, to go kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, learn to surf or just relax by the pool or on the beach. Beautiful accommodation right on the beach in twin share rooms.

 

Day 11 – Snorkelling Trip – Nusa Lembongan

We go on an organised snorkelling trip in the morning and spend the afternoon having free time to do all the things you didn’t get to do the day before!

Day 12 – Nusa Lembongan to Sanur to Seminyak

We catch the 8.30am ferry back over to Sanur and then get transport over to Seminyak where we enjoy the day swimming, learning to surf or just relaxing under the trees. Our final sunset and dinner is spent on the beach enjoying the chilled out music whilst relaxing on giant bean bags. Once again I have lovely accommodation organised that is just a short walk to the beach.

Cafe stop on our walk at Ubud.

Cafe stop on our walk at Ubud.

 

Day 13 – Shopping at Seminyak

Our last day is spent doing that last minute shopping or getting in the last bit of R n R before we head out to the airport for our evening flight.

 

Day 14 – Arrive back in NZ.

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1 2015 May

Queen Charlotte Track – April 2015

This was a real mixed bag of an adventure! We had some lovely weather and some really foul weather. We had days of easy tramping and days where we really struggled. We missed our final ferry but ended up quite pleased that we had. Yes, it was a real mixed bag but throughout it all the stunning beauty of the Queen Charlotte Sound shone through and captivated each of us.

Arriving at Ship's Cove.

Arriving at Ship’s Cove.

The day before we left, unbeknown to me, I had picked up a very nasty virus. Thinking I was just feeling a bit crook and would get better as the days went by, I carried on with the trip. I didn’t get better, I got worse. Although this meant that the trip was quite a struggle for me, I was determined to not let it spoil it for the rest of the group.

Lost in the tranquility.....

Lost in the tranquility…..

We left on an overcast morning with the sun struggling to shine through the clouds. The forecast was good though and we were all feeling optimistic. We were mentally prepared for the steep 50 min climb up out of Ship’s Cove. I slowly plodded my way at the back which was to end up being my spot for pretty much the whole trip.

 

Enjoying the view at our lunch stop.

Enjoying the view at our lunch stop.

Our lunch break at the lovely half way lookout point was a very welcome stop and we silently drank in the views around us. The meandering walk down into Endeavour Inlet was so lovely as we passed pretty little coves and homes tucked away amongst the trees with steep little pathways leading up to them. We envied the families their privileged hideaway retreats in such serene surroundings.

Cosy fireside meal at Furneaux Lodge.

Cosy fireside meal at Furneaux Lodge.

 

Our first night was spent in a chalet at the very beautiful Furneaux Lodge. We joined the other trampers for dinner in the cosy bar with its roaring fire.

 

 

Setting off on Day 2 with coffee's to go!

Setting off on Day 2 with coffee’s to go!

A leisurely start to our morning saw us up making our breakfast and our lunches for the relatively easy day’s walk ahead of us. The breakfast and lunch food boxes had arrived the day before and even though they hadn’t been put into the fridge they were still fine. We left our stack of bags and boxes on our front porch, got coffee’s to go and off we ambled through the cool morning shade.

 

Shopping at the local stall!

Shopping at the local stall!

You don’t imagine you’ll get a chance to go shopping while out tramping but that’s just what happened. We stopped at this cute little stall that sold hats, scarves, eggs, fruit and honey and one of the women bought a lovely hat, popping the money in the Honesty Box as we left.

 

It was a beautiful clear, sunny Autumn day and the absolute stillness and tranquillity worked its way into our souls, each of us walking for long quiet moments by ourselves, just soaking it all in.

Coming into Punga Cove.

Coming into Punga Cove.

Our peace and tranquillity was rudely broken when we reached lovely little Punga Cove and the raucous group of party goers who thankfully were just about to leave. We rested, we strolled around, we sat in the spa pool overlooking the water, we wined and we dined and thoroughly enjoyed this pretty little cove. It was off to bed pretty early as it was to be our biggest walk the next day, from Punga Cove to Portage Bay.

 

Leaving Punga Cove for our long walk to Portage Bay.

Leaving Punga Cove for our long walk to Portage Bay.

An overcast morning greeted us, which was probably just as well as it meant it wouldn’t be too hot. One of the group had decided to catch the ferry around to Portage Bay as she was having difficulty with her hip. This turned out to be a good call as it ended up being a nine and half hour walk (that pretty much did me in!)

 

The ANZAC crosses.

The ANZAC crosses.

Once again we climbed our way up out of the bay and then it was a series of ups and downs along the ridgeline with amazing views into Kenepuru Sound, before making it out to the road at the top of Portage Bay. A moving tribute of ANZAC white crosses greeted us at the top of the road next to the tall memorial covered in wreaths to the 29 “Sounds” men who had lost their lives in the war. It was ANZAC Day, the 100 year memorial.

Andrea greeted us as we limped up the driveway to our accommodation at Treetops. The heater was on, the wine was cooling and the table was covered in nibbles. We gratefully collapsed as the weather closed in around us. I had planned for us to go kayaking in the bay the next morning but cancelled it instead. The forecast was pretty bad and going to get worse. We had the next day free to rest and recuperate and we all took full advantage of it. I crashed in bed for the whole day, just emerging to eat a bit of food before hibernating again. The others explored the bay, played scrabble, read and rested (and wined and dined!)

Even in the rain, it's still so pretty.

Even in the rain, it’s still so pretty.

Our last day’s walk was hard! A long, slow climb (about 2 hrs) up and out along the ridge in torrential rain and strong winds. The rain didn’t let up all day till we got to Anakiwa. Often we were trekking through streams of water as they flowed along the path, creating little waterfalls that tumbled into the bush below. Little stops here and there for water and soggy bits of food, constant slipping over on the slippery clay track, keeping an eye out for each other, making sure we were all hanging in there.

The very welcome sight of Anakiwa!

The very welcome sight of Anakiwa!

Anakiwa Bay was such a welcome sight! Even though we had missed our ferry we knew another one was on the way to get us and it gave us time to get out of our wet clothes, put some dry ones on and have a bite to eat. Our ferry arrived and we all sank into the warmth congratulating ourselves on such a mammoth effort as it sped us over the water and into Picton. Yes, it was a mixed bag of an adventure (and I’m still recuperating in bed as I write this) but I wouldn’t have missed it! Queen Charlotte Track is still right up there as one of my most favourite walks!

Yaay! We did it!

Yaay! We did it!

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3 2015 Mar

Great Barrier Island Adventure – Feb 2015

There I was sitting up the front of the little 6 seater plane, (we’re talking ‘front’ as in right next to the pilot with my own little steering wheel and foot pedals wiggling away in front of me) zooming down the runway and lifting off into the bright blue sunshiney sky! I couldn’t wipe the big grin off my face but managed to stop myself whooping out loud! What a thrill – I can see why people get into learning to fly!

Climbing into our little plane.

Climbing into our little plane.

Due to some unfortunate last minute cancellations there was just the 3 of us heading over to Great Barrier Island for 4 days tramping. And what glorious 4 days they were! Perfect weather conditions, absolutely stunning scenery, awesome tracks, lovely friendly locals, quirky accommodation, beautiful swimming, kayaking, wining, dining……we had it all!

 

Coming in to land at Claris

Coming in to land at Claris

 

Flying out over the Hauraki Gulf was amazing…seeing and identifying all the different islands below us then watching as Great Barrier Island came closer and closer. Before we knew it we were bumping over the grassy runway at Claris. It seems the tar sealed runway is for take-offs and the grass is for the landings….

 

The cute little art gallery with the honesty box.

The cute little art gallery with the honesty box.

 

We were picked up by the very friendly and informative Lianne from Go Great Barrier Island shuttle service and taken over to Medlands Beach where we started our first track, the Kowhai Valley Track, over to Tryphena where we were to stay the night. We had a steep climb up and then over the ridge and down the gravelly road into Tryphena. At the top of the climb there was this cute little art gallery “Top of the Rock” with some lovely art pieces and photography and an honesty box for you to pay for what you bought. Not often you see that these days….especially in an art gallery!

 

Our accommodation at The Irish Pub

Our accommodation at The Irish Pub

We stayed at one of the oldest establishments on the island, The Innkeepers Lodge at the Irish Pub which as far as accommodation goes, has seen better days, though the pub was great and had a few locals sitting there strumming and singing with their guitars.

 

 

Watching the surfers at Whangapoua.

Watching the surfers at Whangapoua.

The next morning we were picked up and taken up near the top of the island to do the Harataonga Coastal Track and it was absolutely stunning! Beautiful bay after beautiful bay…..it was almost a case of, what, another stunning bay! The track was easy and meandered gently up and down overlooking the bright turquoise sparkling blue ocean.

 

Wiltshire Manor with the memorable museum at the front.

Wiltshire Manor with the memorable museum at the front.

Lianne was waiting for us at Harataonga bay, (another gorgeous bay) and took us to Claris and our accommodation at Wiltshire Manor (a rather pretentious name) but still very comfortable and cosy accommodation. We can highly recommend the museum there that the owner, David, has built and put together. You could easily spend a couple of hours just reading and looking at all the stuff he has there.

 

That evening as we strolled along the road to ‘The Club’ for dinner, a local woman picked us up and gave us a lift and then on the way home we got another ride in the back of a ute (and we weren’t even hitching. :))

We climbed up and over this - Te Ahumata.

We climbed up and over this – Te Ahumata.

We were up bright and early the next morning for the Te Ahumata Track which would take us over to Whangaparapara. We ended up getting a lift to the start of the track with Lianne and a van load of other trampers. Apart from this group, we saw no-one on the tracks the whole time we were over there. This track took us right up to the top of a flat topped rocky precipice which looked way harder than what it actually was, and the views……..INCREDIBLE!

 

The view out the front of Great Barrier Lodge - so tranquil...

The view out the front of Great Barrier Lodge – so tranquil…

We sauntered down the road into Whangaparapara; tui’s whistling, cicada’s singing, sun sparkling on the water, the gentle lapping of the sea….paradise…. We sat on the rolling green lawn in front of the Gulf Harbour Lodge and basked in the beauty, letting the calm tranquility soak into our souls. After a leisurely picnic lunch and a good rest under the big pine tree, we took the kayaks out for an exploratory paddle around the bay and into the inlet. A lovely refreshing swim later, a shower and a fresh change of clothes and a cold, crisp bottle of Sauvignon Blanc while sitting on our deck in the late afternoon sun, completed a beautiful day.

 

Soaking in the Kaitoke Hot Springs - bliss!

Soaking in the Kaitoke Hot Springs – bliss!

Our last track, before we flew out at lunchtime the next day, was along the Tramline Track to the Kaitoke Hot Springs. We set off just before 8am in the soft early morning light along the wide easy old tramline track, up some steeper hills and across some trickling streams. The hot springs were just heavenly and we were so glad that it was a cloudy day as it would have been too hot if the sun had been shining! We wallowed and totally relaxed in the hot mineral water, no-one else there, just us. A very easy, almost wheel chair friendly track, took us out to the road where Steve, Lianne’s other half, met us and dropped us off at the Claris airport.

Great Barrier Island had worked its magic on us and we were three very chilled out, happy and relaxed women as we boarded the plane back to Auckland. Don’t worry if you missed out on this trip, I’ll definitely be doing it again!  Check out the photo gallery for more photos.

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18 2015 Jan

Tongariro Crossing – Jan 2015

Heading off in the shuttle van to the start of the Tongariro crossing on a mild, sunny, blue sky morning, we were quite sure the met service had got the weather report wrong. It wasn’t going to rain, even our driver said we had more chance of getting sunburnt than wet…….. how wrong we all were!

Heading towards Soda Springs.

Heading towards Soda Springs.

 

We strolled along the easy pathway and board walks, enjoying the tussocky landscape, stopping to peel of layers as the day heated up and being overtaken by literally hoards of other trampers.  Luckily the track is long enough to sort of disperse them, until you get to the toilet sheds and the steep rocky bits! People were dressed in all manner of clothing….some wearing and carrying very little which was quite worrying to see especially later on when the weather turned.

 

The cloud closed in and down came the rain.

The cloud closed in and down came the rain.

We took it slowly up the steep, many staired Devil’s Staircase, pausing to admire the views, have something to eat and marvel at all the people dotted here and there…..  We stopped long enough at the top at Red Crater to oooh and ahhh at the crater, take photos and then get a move on as it was pretty darn cold and windy.  The layers were back on and we were all very pleased to have all the thermals and rain gear ready in our packs.  The cloud closed in and a persistent  drizzle started up that kept going pretty much all the way to the end. Eating sandwiches in the rain isn’t much fun and can make for a soggy lunch!

Enjoying the Ketetahi Track through the forest.

Enjoying the Ketetahi Track through the forest.

We stopped at the Ketetahi Hut, as did scores of others, and quickly backed out of the warm, damp smelling fug of wet bodies huddled in there out of the rain.  We continued on down the never ending zig zag track through the tussock dotted with alpine daisies, through the stunted ti trees and down into the leafy green forest.  We were hurrying now, on a mission to get to the car park before our shuttle left at 3.30pm.  We got there just in time….well 5 min late and it was a relief to finally sit down and rest our sore feet.

 

All showered, relaxing before going out to dinner.

All showered, relaxing before going out to dinner.

 

 

 

Back at our ‘Book a Batch’ accommodation we got showered and cleaned up and enjoying a wine or two before we headed out to dinner.  It had been a thoroughly enjoyable day despite the weather.  In fact, I think the weather kind of added to the enjoyment of the day.

7am, Ngauruhoe on the right, Tongariro on the left. We walked through the dip between them.

Ngauruhoe on the right, Tongariro on the left. We walked through the dip between them. Looks quite easy from here!

 

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6 2015 Jan

Let’s Go Adventuring!

Having a Nana (or a mum) who likes to go ‘adventuring’ can be a lot of fun for kids.  With 3 of our grandkids (ages, 13, 8 and 6) coming to stay with us for a week, I decided to put together a selection of adventures for us to do.  Into an envelope went strips of card with a different adventure written on each one.  First thing each morning one of them took their turn to pull out 2 adventures from the envelope and decide which one they wanted us to do.  Some of the adventures were weather dependent (like cardboarding down Mt Victoria in Devonport) but most were do-able in any weather.  There were certainly no moans or complaints, in fact they often found it hard to choose which one they wanted us to do the most!

Here’s some of the ones they chose:

Indoor rock wall climbing at Birkenhead.  We had the whole place to ourselves!

Indoor rock wall climbing at Birkenhead. We had the whole place to ourselves!

Catching the ferry from Devonport, then the train from Britomart right out to South Auckland.

Catching the ferry from Devonport, then the train from Britomart right out to South Auckland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waiwera Hot Pools for the day.

Waiwera Hot Pools for the day.

Geocashing, (treasure hunting using a phone app.)

Geocashing, (treasure hunting using a phone app.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heading off for our night in the bush, staying in the AUTC hut.

Heading off for our night in the bush, staying in the AUTC hut.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As well as the Adventure envelope we also had the “Down Time” envelope full of low key chilling out down time activities that we did once they got home from their adventure.  A third envelope was for “Evening Meals” and it was full of all their favourite meals, (pizza, nachos, roast chicken etc).  Each child had an envelope to chose from in the morning and I’m pleased to say that the whole thing worked a treat!

I’m sure you’d have lots of your own ideas but here’s some of our ones. Most of these you can fit into your own location and most of them don’t cost too much to do. (The great thing is, that you can just keep using the envelopes idea.)

ADVENTURE IDEAS

1. Choose a beach to explore.

2. Choose a bush walk.

3. Indoor Rock Wall climbing.

4. Local hot pools.

5. Snorkeling.

6. Geocashing.

7. Cardboarding down big grassy hills.

8. Kayaking, (we have our own, but you can hire them.)

9. Train trip, (choose a location.)

10. Overnight camping.

11. Ferry trip.

12. Off road cycling.

DOWN TIME IDEAS (We allowed them to have 1 hour ‘device time’ each day as well as whatever they chose from the envelope.)

1. Watch a DVD (the library has heaps to choose from)

2. Creative art time.

3. Reading.

4. Play a board or card game.

5. Create a treasure hunt.

6. Build a hut, (inside or outside.)

7. Build/create something (lego, marble run, wood etc)

8. Extra 1 hr device time.

9. Cook or bake something.

10. Library visit.

11. Play foozball.

2014-12-19 09.37.32

Playing foozball with Poppa.

All up, as I said earlier, it worked a treat and we’re all looking forward to their next visit!

(One last thing that I thought I’d also share. Having 3 kids in our very small 2 brm house can mean lots of mess.  Giving each of them their own container to put anything in the bedroom that would normally have gone on the floor meant that there was actually floor to be seen and used instead of piles of their ‘stuff’!)