Hop-on Hop-Off Bus, Wellington, NZ

The Basin Reserve, where David and Brian were watching
the South Africa and New Zealand test.

On a recent trip to Wellington New Zealand, I found myself free for a couple of days while David went to watch cricket at The Basin Reserve with our nephew, Brian. I decided to try Wellington’s Hop-on Hop-off Bus, as I have found these are the quickest way to explore any city.

Wellington’s Hop-on Hop-off bus is unlike those found in most areas of the world, in that it is a small 20 seater, rather than the usual double decker. It was easy to see why when we drove up some of the very steep and narrow country roads.

I booked my ticket at the i-Site Visitor Centre, and discovered that, luckily, I had the last ticket available for the next bus. As the seats are limited on each bus, you really need to book in advance to be sure of a seat, especially if you are travelling in a group.

We set off through Wellington’s entertainment hub to our first stop at the Mount Victoria Lookout. Here, the bus driver waited while we all scrambled to take photos, before getting back on the bus to continue our journey.

Wellington, as seen from Mount Victoria Lookout

The view of Mount Albert from Mount Victoria Lookout

Not much room for error on Wellington Airport’s runway!

The next destination was Wellington Zoo. As a rule, I don’t approve of zoos, but I hoped to take photos of some of New Zealand’s elusive native animals. I was disappointed. I did take one or two, but some of the exhibits I had hoped to see were under construction. I didn’t go to see any of the African animals, having recently been on safari in Africa – a much better option. I wasted time here that would have been better spent elsewhere.

These strange creatures are capybara, the largest rodent in the world.
However, they are not native to NZ, they are from Central and south America.

Another strange creature was this agouti, also from Central America.

I saw that there were seven more stops on the itinerary, and that I was going to run out of time to see everything. I made a bad decision to miss the next stop – the Great War exhibition, created by Sir Peter Jackson at the Dominium Museum Building - although I have promised myself to go back and see it next time I am in Wellington.

The Cable Car was next on the list, but as this can be ridden up from Wellington, I decided that would be put off for another day as well.

However, I did get off at Zealandia. This is Wellington’s eco-attraction, home to some of the world’s most extraordinary animals. Zealandia is a conservation project, aimed at preserving New Zealand’s rarest wildlife. Of course, at 225ha, you could walk all day and see very little, and as the last Hop-on Hop-off bus leaves at 3:30pm, you can’t take advantage of the night tour offered.

Zealandia also offers free introductory tours, and I was able to take advantage of one of these, although I had to duck out half way through so I could catch the next bus. This is another place I have on my list for my next visit to Wellington.

This is a Takahe, a flightless bird indigenous to New Zealand. It was once thought to be extinct, 
until it was rediscovered in 1948 in the Murchison Mountains of Fiordland, South Island.

This rare reptile, the tuatara, is only found in New Zealand. They are the last survivors 
of a type of reptile that thrived in the age of the dinosaurs.

The day was getting on, so I skipped the Botanic Garden – 24ha of beautiful gardens, native bush, exotic forests, and colourful floral displays – and got off at the next stop – New Zealand’s Parliament Buildings. I was rather frustrated to find that all cameras and phones have to be deposited with security before entering parliament. So, no photos - except of the exterior.

The Beehive: The Executive Wing of the New Zealand Parliament Buildings.

By now, it was getting late, and the next bus was the last one, so I had to miss the Wellington and Te Papa Museums, but they were within easy reach of our hotel, so I left Te Papa for the next day.

I would definitely recommend the Wellington Hop-on Hop-off bus, especially for the interesting commentaries from the very knowledgeable drivers, but with the following recommendations:

1. Book in advance to be sure of securing one of the 20 seats.
2. Make sure you catch the first bus at 9:30am to get the most out of the trip.
3. If you are going to be in Wellington for a few days, make Zealandia a separate trip by using the cable car up from the city, and then catching the free shuttle bus to Zealandia. This will give more time to explore this amazing eco-attraction.
4. Save Wellington and Te Papa for a separate day, so as not to be rushed.

Elizabeth Coughlan


A Quick Visit to Doha, Qatar

The new modern city, seen from the old city, Doha, Qatar

The tourist visa for Abu Dhabi is only for 30 days, and mine was about to expire, but we needed more time there so that we could meet up with our granddaughter, when she returned from boarding school. We chose Doha for our visa run, as we hadn’t been there before.

Since gaining independence in 1971, Doha has transformed itself from a sleepy pearl fishing village, into a city of nearly 600,000 people. And it is still growing and developing, as we discovered when we looked over our hotel balcony.

Our room with a view

Although the view wasn’t great, the hotel was in the centre of the old city, and within walking distance of most attractions. Souq Waqif was quite close, although we had to dice with the traffic where there were no sidewalks, due to the reconstruction going on.

Souq Waqif is a warren of little shops

On first sight, Souq Waqif is rather reminiscent of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, but on closer inspection we found many of the shops held goods for local consumption. This was born out by the fact that we encountered many locals doing their daily shop in the souq.

We did, however see other reminders of Istanbul, 
like these ice cream sellers…

…and this restaurant

Not all of Souq Waqif is given over to household commodities and luxury goods. A large part of the souq is dedicated to falcons. Falconry is an ancient tradition in this part of the world, and is still popular today.

There are numerous rooms full of hooded birds lined up for sale, like these

The outer buildings of the souq look very old, 
but they were rebuilt to look like the original

Another great shopping and restaurant area,
with the Central Mosque at the end

The Central Mosque has an easier climb to the top for the muezzin
than is found in most mosques…

…unlike the more traditional Grand Mosque

Unusually for this part of the world, dark clouds were gathering the whole time we were there. It culminated in a massive downpour, which, judging from the lack of preparation, came as a surprise to everyone.

As the rain bucketed down, everyone ran for shelter

The streets gradually filled with water through lack of drainage

We sat under an archway just across from this restaurant, but didn’t dare venture out to get wet. Eventually the rain began to ease, and men opened up the manhole covers to let the water drain away, and we managed to get over to a well-deserved lunch. Delicious it was too!

Elizabeth Coughlan


Red Arrows and UAE Air Force in Abu Dhabi


Clare’s apartment complex in Abu Dhabi

We are so fortunate that Clare and Reg’s apartment in Abu Dhabi is right by the Corniche, an 8km long curving walkway and cycle path by the sea. It’s there we can walk, and enjoy all sorts of activities put on for the amusement of residents and visitors alike.

While we were there, the famous Red Arrows arrived to give a stunning display of their skills. It was the same weekend that the Formula One Race was run, so there were lots of visitors to watch the spectacle.

Hundreds gathered on the Corniche to watch the Red Arrows' aerobatic stunts,
as they flew overhead

The Red Arrows visit to Abu Dhabi was part of a two-month long tour of the Middle East, to demonstrate the best of British innovation and industry. It certainly was impressive!

Go Red Arrows!

The following week was Abu Dhabi’s National Day, and this time it was the turn of the UAE Air Force to show their skills.

David standing on the corniche, watching out for the jets

Smoke streamed behind the jets…

 …and left their mark behind!

We had so much fun watching these two displays of precision timing and breath-taking manoeuvres as these jets zoomed through the skies. And I had fun trying to photograph both events. I can tell you, it was no easy task!

Elizabeth Coughlan


New Balance Beach Run, Abu Dhabi, 2016

Reg and Clare after finishing their 7.2 km Beach Run

Have you ever tried to run far in soft sand? If you have you will know it's a killer for your calf muscles. Well, my daughter, Clare, and her husband, Reg, both signed up for a 7.2 km run on a beach for the New Balance Beach Run in Ab Dhabi, which shows just how fit they are.

The run organisers’ promotion pamphlet said, "The different run options of 1.8k, 3.6k and 7.2k mean that there’s a run suitable for everyone whether you’re an avid runner, lacing up your shoes for the first time or just looking for a fun activity for you and your friends or family."

The day had a carnival-like atmosphere, as runners of all ages got ready for their runs. Fortunately, Clare and Reg were in the first batch of runners, as it was very hot on the beach for us spectators.

Setting off with determination

Clare setting a good pace

Still smiling after the first 1.8 km lap

Competitors beginning to string out

Reg still on track

Reg keeps up the pace right to the finish

Clare receiving her medal

Reg receives his medal, as they take off his race bracelet

Well done Clare and Reg! A monumental effort!

Elizabeth Coughlan

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