Te Anau and the Milford Sound

We have just spent a great weekend staying in Te Anau with Raewyn and Wayne at the home of Margaret and Brian, whom we met when we were living in Turkey. At the time, both Margaret and Brian had been injured in a very bad bus accident while travelling in the south of Turkey, but we were delighted to discover that they have fully recovered from their ordeal.

The photo shows, from the left, David, me, Margaret and Raewyn (Brian was out playing bowls for his club). We arrived on Friday evening and dined at La Toscana, the restaurant in Te Anau that is owned by our hosts. We were greeted, Italian style, by a glass of Prosecco and pizza bread. This was followed by the most delicious pastas and we were very pleased that we had decided not to take the car to the restaurant as we really needed that walk home!

The following day, David and I went to Milford Sound. This is situated in the Fiordland National Park and has been awarded 'World Heritage' status. The scenery on the drive to Milford sound was breathtakingly beautiful with indigenous forests and towering mountains capped in ice and snow.

We passed Lake Te Anau and Knobs Flat to cross The Divide before descending into the Homer Tunnel and past the Chasm to arrive at the harbour which is the launching site for boat cruises along the Milford sound. We had picked a gloriously sunny day and the boat trip was utter delight.

The sheer rock walls of the fiord soared 300 metres above us with temperate rainforest clinging to its sides. We sailed the whole length of the fiord and out into the Tasman Sea. Although we only saw some fur seals basking on the rocks and one lonely penguin (at least they said it was a penguin, it could easily have been an old boot floating on the surface of the water as it was quite far away) the cruise was very satisfying. We even sailed close to a waterfall of ancient glacial water coming from a melting glacier high above us.

Folklore has it that this is the fountain of youth as the water is thousands of years old and very pure, so, just in case, we turned our faces to the spray - one never knows about these old wives' tales!

On Sunday morning, David and Wayne ran the last 10 km of the Kepler Challenge before we all tucked in to a mammoth brunch, I really do have to keep up the walking!

A toast to Jordan Sean Hendry!

Here we are raising a toast to our grandson, Jordan Sean Hendry, born on January 15 2008 on his great grandfather's birthday.


Hampden, and the Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand

The Moeraki Boulders

We have just spent a relaxing week in Avis and Brian’s bach (holiday cottage) in Hampden, north of Dunedin. Unfortunately, Brian was unable to be with us from Monday to Friday due to pressure of work in Invercargill, but Avis looked after us extremely well and we are very grateful to her for that. For the most part, the weather was lovely and David was able to go for his daily run on the beach; although neither of us swam, unlike Avis who being a tough Kiwi braved the rough, cold sea on more than one occasion.

One great walk was along the beach to the Moeraki Boulders (see photos). According to Maori legend, the boulders are gourds and calabashes (traditional Maori food) washed from the great voyaging canoe, Araiteuru, when it was wrecked upon the coast of New Zealand 1000 years ago.

Scientists explain that the boulders are septarian concretions formed some 65 million years ago, which have been eroded out from the cliffs of soft, black mudstone that back the beach. My theory is that they are alien pods waiting to crack open in the night, under cover of darkness, and release the alien within!

One day we went into Dunedin for the day. To begin with, David and I wandered down to the old Dunedin railway station, a very fine Victorian building, while Avis went to see her optician. If you click on the photo to enlarge it you can see how far we are from Shanghai (although we are rather bemused by the discrepancy between the distances of Edinburgh and Portsmouth).

This was followed by lunch, then shopping, then the movies. We saw the new British comedy, ‘Death at a Funeral’ – highly amusing! This was followed by a rather splendid dinner at the Bacchus restaurant.

We have been making a habit of fine dining. Once Brian had rejoined us for the weekend, we dined at Fleur’s Place right on the waterfront at the old jetty in Moeraki. Fleur serves fresh fish which is brought in daily by the Moeraki Bay fishing boats.

Only last year Rick Stein visited New Zealand just to do a show on her restaurant and it is not unknown for people to helicopter in from Auckland, just to eat there. We were tempted by the Kai Moana platter, but decided that more than four people would be needed to do it justice! This enormous dish contains about eight different types of smoked fish, along with bowls of raw fish in coconut milk, mussels in an Asian-style marinade and steamed cockles! We opted instead for the blue cod, which was cooked to perfection, as were all the accompaniments. A dessert each was out of the question, but David and I managed to share a Pavlova, while Brian and Avis shared a Berry Parfait – a most memorable meal!

All those calories needed to be worked off, so on Monday we climbed Trotter's Gorge, an untouched indigenous forest, flanked by towering limestone cliffs. As we climbed, we listened to the bird song and were highly entertained by the antics of a little fantail. After our exertions, the picnic Avis had prepared was doubly delicious and well deserved!

Nelson and Blenheim, New Zealand

"The Bach" where we are staying

At last I am able to connect with the world again! We have spent a wonderfully relaxing week staying in Hampden (north of Dunedin) in a bach (holiday home) owned by Avis and Brian – but more of that later!

From Cape Foul Wind (so-called because Captain Cook was becalmed there) we continued up South Island to Nelson, famous for its seafood, horticulture and fruit-growing. Fish and chips is the must-have delicacy in Nelson so, before indulging, David and Wayne went for a run, while Raewyn and I opted for a brisk walk, along the seemingly endless expanse of beach to justify the extra calories.

The next day we had to continue on to Blenheim where Wayne and Raewyn were going to a reunion for teachers who had been at the New Zealand Forces School in Singapore 25 years previously. In Blenheim, we stayed at the Marlborough Girls’ School Boarding House – an interesting experience!

We four were the first to arrive, but were gradually joined by others until there were 22 people in all. The reunion was great fun and lasted three days! Even though we were interlopers, David and I very quickly made some firm friends and had a most enjoyable time. Our first dinner was an Asian extravaganza with a multitude of dishes from a Chinese and a Thai takeaway (OK, not quite Singapore, but it had that Asian flavour).

The second day (Saturday) we all piled into a bus and visited four different vineyards for wine tasting. As you can imagine, we were a very jolly crowd. After a good lunch in a restaurant, we went back to the hostel for an afternoon nap before enjoying an evening barbecue.

Sunday was a very hectic day; we began by going to the local Farmer’s Market to have breakfast, followed by a visit to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre. This collection of WW1 aircraft and memorabilia belongs to Peter Jackson, the film director, and is one of the world’s largest private collections of its kind. As you can imagine, designed by a film director, everything was presented in a captivating and entertaining manner (see photo of one of the life-like recreations).

The museum is situated next to an airfield and we were all able to wave farewell to two of our number, Wayne and Jan, as they flew off to Auckland in their small two-seated plane (built by Wayne himself!). Then it was time for our departure.

We started down the East coat of South Island, staying in Amberley overnight, on our way to stay in Hampden with Avis and Brian. Here we said farewell to Wayne and Raewyn, although we will see them again once we get back to Invercargill.


The West Coast of South Island, New Zealand

Relaxing, and enjoying a barbecue in Wanaka

We have just travelled up the west coast of New Zealand! Avis took us to Queensland where Wayne picked us up and took us on to Wanaka where we went straight to a barbecue at the campsite where Val and John (our hosts for the evening) were staying. We had a most enjoyable evening and reluctantly departed to find our B&B for the night. We spent a very comfortable night at Collinson's Cottage in Wanaka and were thoroughly spoilt by our hosts, Brian and Susanne.

The next day, Wayne, Raewyn, David and I drove up over the Haast Pass to Fox Galcier (see photo of David and Wayne by a waterfall up high in the pass). On the way, we stopped at the Salmon Farm for lunch. We had a delicious bowl of Salmon Chowder, served with a home-made bread. This sustained us as we continued on to view the glacier.

It is interesting to note that this glacier, together with the Frans Josef Glacier, has the distinction of being one of the few glaciers to end among lush, temperate rain forest, only 300 metres above sea level. We drove on from there to the town of Frans Josef where we were booked into the Glacier Gateway Motel.

That evening we walked from the hotel into Frans Josef, across the Waiho River. This is a very small town – population 320 – although swelled to many times that by the tourists visiting the glacier!

The Fox Glacier

The Franz Josef Glacier

David and Wayne were up early the next day as they had planned to run to the glacier and back before breakfast – an 8km round trip! Raewyn and I waited until after breakfast, when we all drove to the glacier car park for a much shorter walk to view the glacier. Everywhere we looked the vegetation was amazingly prolific and such wonderful shades of green – although maybe it is not so amazing when you know that the annual rainfall is 5 – 6 METRES per annum.

We said goodbye to the glacier and drove down the coast to the pancake rocks at Punakaiki. The pancake rocks are a curious limestone formation in which the layers of rocks look like piles of pancakes. In the rocks are blowholes, through which water spurts high into the air when there is a heavy surf. No one knows why the rocks developed in that way and it is thought they are quite unique.

That evening we stayed at The Great Beach House at Tauranga Bay, a B&B owned by Michael and Yvonne (see photo left). The setting is stunning. Their house is on a promontory between two beaches and the view from both sides is spectacular! Michael and Yvonne were excellent hosts and if it weren't for the fact we had to be in Blenheim by Friday, we would have been tempted to stay – although I am sure they have guests lined up for the rest of the year! We were delighted to have a sitting room for our own use, complete with baby grand piano, a library, beautiful paintings to browse and a balcony overlooking the sea. Only a few steps away from their house is the Bay House Restaurant which serves gourmet meals. After dining in style there, we walked to the seal colony and watched the mothers with their babies, while the 'Beach Master' stood sentinel nearby. Breakfast the next morning was a delight and Michael's home-baked bread was the crowning achievement. (We also loved Michael's t-shirt!).

The view of Cape Foul Wind

The view of Nine Mile Beach

The stunning view from Michael and Yvonne's outdoor 'Cocktail Lounge'.


A New Year, a new me, in Queenstown, NZ!

The view across the lake

On New Year’s Day, Brian, Avis, David and I went to Arrowtown to visit Wayne and Raewyn at Wayne’s brother Ross’s holiday home. We had met Ross and Pauline, his wife, when they visited Istanbul, so we were very pleased to see them again. David, Brian, Wayne and Ross were planning to climb Sawpit Gulley above Arrowtown, so Avis and I decided to power-walk along the banks of the Arrow River. We did a 4.5 km loop along one bank and back along the other. One day of exercise down and 364 to go - if I am to stick to my plan of doing some sort of exercise every day! When the men returned, Pauline treated us all to a splendid lunch and it was with great reluctance that we finally dragged ourselves away, tired but very happy!

The following day I walked with David beside the lake for an hour of continuous walking (only 363 more days to go!). Later in the day, we went up in the gondolas to the top of the mountains overlooking Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu. You can see the stunning view behind Brian, Avis and David in the photo. Everywhere you look there are activities to do – parasailing, paragliding, a luge, bungee jumping, water-skiing, jet-skiing, mountain biking, sailing – almost every type of outdoor sport you can imagine. I was very tempted to paraglide, maybe I will – I’m seriously thinking about it!

On Thursday we began sorting our things and packed ready to return to Invercargill on Friday, but I still managed to walk – this time the other way around the lake and for one-and-a-half hours – Avis thought we had got lost! We will be sorry to leave this magnificent place. The scenery is simply stunning and everywhere you look you can’t help seeing the range of mountains called The Remarkables – so called because they are… quite… remarkable!

New Year's Eve in Queenstown, New Zealand

David went to watch a One-Day International Cricket Match between Bangladesh and New Zealand at the Queenstown Cricket Ground, where he achieved a long-held ambition of watching an international cricket match, basking in the warm sunshine and looking up at the snow-capped peaks which surround the ground. The less said about the cricket the better!! While David watched cricket, Avis and I spent a pleasant day shopping and lunching al fresco.

In the evening we had a barbecue (braai) on the veranda overlooking the lake and later toasted in the New Year with champagne as we watched fireworks around the lake. Here you can see Bron, David and Brian slaving over a hot barbecue!! May 2008 be the best year ever for all our friends and relatives; may prosperity and happiness be yours!

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