March 26th 31st

Last couple of days on South Island.

Nelson – beautiful place and guess what we found there…..we found the Ring!!! We saw Aragorn’s and Gandalf’s rings and we saw The Original Ring used in the film….and best of all, we HELD the massive Ring that was used in the close ups. It wasn’t melted by lava in Mount Doom after all, it still exists…and I held it!!! You know what that means don’t you!!

North Island

Beautiful sunset as we headed for North Island.

Stop 1;Wellington was keeping the Earth Watch Hour of Darkness as we arrived. It’s a windy place with spectacular views over the harbour, delightful houses on Oriental Bay and the surrounding hills… and lots of people taking exercise. It also has the most fantastic museum..Te Papa…if you need somewhere to take kids on a Sunday morning, this is it…we learnt lots about Maori History.

Stop 2;Palmerston North

Steve Dawson, Ann Marie and Lily Mae live there – we called in to say hello and meet 11 week old Lily. What a lovely life they have…Ann Marie is growing veg in the garden, looking after their lovely big house, she sorted out our washing and persuaded us to sleep in a proper bed …and all the while looking after a new baby! Steve has a really good school and is enjoying his job. He cooked us a great meal, we drank a silly amount of wine and were hugely entertained by the cleverest, most sociable and cutest baby…..she is a star…. and….she sleeps!!! We’ve left her a permanent reminder of us in the shape of a purple ‘Eddie the Elephant’ which plays music (how could we resist?)

lily mae

Stop 3; Napier

Destroyed by an earthquake in 1931 Napier was completely rebuilt in Art Deco style and remains like that today. It’s one of the best examples of original Art Deco architecture in the world. Eddie loved it and has taken some superb photos. I put my flapper dress on and tap danced.

napier

Stop 4; Lake Taupo

Take a 100m wide , 4m deep fast flowing river and funnel it into a gap 15m wide and 10m deep and you get Huka Falls – a brilliant colour and scarily powerful.

Take a layer of magma which heats the earth above it and sends steam hissing through the fissures….add some mud pools, lots of noises and smells and you get the Craters of the Moon – lots of lovely colours and spookily prehistoric

Tomorrow our steps lead to Mount Doom…………..precious

mount-cook

March 19th – 25th

The Fellowship of the Ring now disbanded, we carry on alone. But remember – .not all who wander are lost.

There are 8 million stories in this trip and these are just some of them.

In a motor home in another hemisphere, far, far away………

Star Gazers.

Two go to South Island.

Indiana Wolinski and the Last Crusade.

Carry on Campervanning

Around the World in 135 Days

Last of the Motorhomes

Licence to thrill….extreme sports and chases.

The (Sand) Fly

Road to New Zealand….South Specific.

Motorhome in the Mist.

Breakfast at DOC’s

The Reader (34 and counting)

Ready, Steady – Mount Cook!

Last of the Spring Sauvignon Blanc.

Silence of the Vans.

How many book/film/TV quotes/titles can I distort before you become irritated?

The following events happen in real time.

Lake Manapouri -entrance to Doubtful Sound – enchanting and mysterious – we found the River that Sam and Frodo travelled but we failed to find the Dead Marshes.

Kingston Flyer – a black steam locomotive puffed and hooted it‘s way through the Remarkable Mountain Range (and they are, indeed, remarkable in their beauty!)

Kawarau River – a mum and her 10 year old son were tied together and jumped from a high bridge…..it was the original Bungy Jump

Mount Cook – walked up to Hooker Glacier. – the glaciers creaked and groaned, New Zealand Falcons screeched and a naked man jumped in and out of the turquoise milk lake to a round of applause (and possibly hypothermia!). I loved Mount Cook, we woke to more sunshine and glistening mountain tops and I didn’t want to leave.

Pancake Rocks – hundreds of thin slices of limestone rock stacked on top of each other, foundations of distorted caves undercutting their sometimes precarious balance. A beautiful walkway of stone and wood, totally hemmed in by lush tropical vegetation allowed superb vantage points. Later discovered this had been built after a tragedy where a viewing platform collapsed and 17 young people died. This place was an assault on all the senses. The thunderous swoosh, crunch, boom and bang as the waves pounded and slapped the fragile limestone; the anticipation of which wave would pound through and force the spray up through fissures in the rock, the delight when the whale spout emerged and created rainbows in the resulting mist, the surprise when blow holes erupted elsewhere and bursts of spray came from odd directions; the taste of the sea when you were gently showered; but above all the sights – the colony of petrels watching the show from the top of a flat rock, the snow studded peninsula stretching in the distance across the bay and hundreds (no, thousands) of white horses galloping in on the rolling waves. All we needed was a guinness.

Eddie parked the van to take a photo. It started to roll gently down the hard shoulder. I had to unbuckle, dive across, press the brake pedal and find the handbrake which was in the wrong place. In such moments, heroes are made. So, what exactly does our insurance say?

Cape Foulwind is home to a colony of hugely entertaining Kekone Seals. The dads had done their duty and buggered off. The toddlers had a training pool and played ‘Kingy’ on a rock and were occasionally showered or washed out of the safe area – their mums either ‘cried’ them back in or went and got them. The teenagers had advanced to surfing in the wild waves and were having great fun. Mums cared for very young pups or splayed out sunbathing or had arguments with much screeching and fin flapping. It was all a bit like a Copley break duty really.

Drove 7 …seven….slow, juddering miles along a gravel track to do the following;- a) stand in Aragorn’s footsteps as he guided the hobbits through ‘Chetwood Forest’ away from Bree b)walk through an orc ridden, magic pool forest (where the mozzies sounded like 633 Squadron) c)clamber over massive fossil stamped boulders d) look down into the dizzy depths of Harwood’s Hole – the biggest sink hole/cave in the southern hemisphere (400m down, 70m across) e)stay in our most remote overnight stay yet, no light pollution for miles and miles and miles, we wrapped ourselves in the blackest of inky, black, velvet, black blackness ….the night sky was phenomenal.

 

We are so privileged to be doing this.

 P.S. We have walked part of a coastal path in the Abel Tasman National Park – stunning beaches. Tomorrow I have the chance to ride a horse that starred in Lord of the Rings…middle horse in the 19th row in the battle scenes…shall I?!!!!abel-tasman-view1

 Celebrated Rod’s birthday with a trip to Skippers Canyon…a winding road with terrifying drops to the side, scary enough even before we met a thousand sheep mustering to the lower levels; a jetboat ride down the canyon…we gazed reverently upon the very spot where Frodo and Arwen faced the Ringwraiths before they were washed away by a tidal wave; Gill was exhilarated and drenched as we sped on, scraping by the sides of the canyon , Rod and Eddie sat stoical and unperturbed as we did 360degree turns, and me? I just about managed to hang on and I squealed like a girl; we stood on an early bungy jump bridge and pondered the madness of youth; we found Kelvin Heights and paddled in freezing water , spectacular views all around , debating how we could manage to live in this particular part of Queenstown; we played mini golf…Gill got a hole in one and I won overall (we were gracious victors).; we had a wonderful Italian ,thanks Rod) and toasted Emma’s hen night. Bliss.

Mounted a joint campaign against sandflies – we lost – they really are vicious little buggers

Enjoyed their photos of their Milford Sound experience – they had spectacular, glorious weather and a marvellous trip under brilliant blue sky

On our own again

We climbed onto Fox Glacier, put on our crampons (I write this so casually but I was so excited….I wore crampons!!!! Tick it off the ‘things I must do’ list!!), picked up our hobbit like staffs which helped (but didn’t entirely stop) me falling over and had fun with moulins and glacial flow ON THE GLACIER. WOW!

Found Deer Park Heights – several Lord of the Rings locations…I embarrassed Eddie by posing for several photos…here I am firing arrows alongside Legolas, here I am standing by Gandalf and Shadowfax, here I am pointing to attacking Wargs, here I am being a refugee from Edoras, here I am following Aragorn over the cliff (oh yes, indeed) ….such fun.

 In the same place we fed gentle but supercilious llamas, alpacas, goats and an especially aggressive deer. With signs which warned ‘STAY IN YOUR CAR IN THIS SECTION’ we did exactly that and then watched nervously as a huge stag with the fiercest and largest antlers tried to disembowel two Spanish tourists. We suspected they couldn’t read English.

Headed to Milford Sound in a steady downpour, listening to the Pogues ‘Misty Morning’, trying to count the myriad cascades sliding down the mountains and wondering whether it was worth going on a boat trip, we could only see vague shapes across the water. The boat was practically empty….we went. Good decision! The trip started in that scene straight out of King Kong when they arrive on the island…gazing up at sheer, soaring rock face, green with rain forest and prehistoric, velvet vegetation shrouded in clouds that moved sluggishly in the breeze giving glimpses of majestic heights towering above. Arctic terns showed off their flying skills in the tail wind behind the boat. Mitre Peak disappeared into the mist, veined with hundreds (thousands?) of waterfalls. Mount Kimberley, the Lion Rock, crouched at the entrance to the Sound. We glimpsed a rainbow at Fairy Falls, applauded the lone seal posing on the rock…..and in an instant the whole scene changed, the sun broke through and we were insignificant and awed as we craned our necks to see the dizzy heights surrounding us – the glacier glittered brightly and we saw the whole magnificence of this beautiful place. Perfect. We drove back via an unfolding scenery of massive granite slabs, swooping eagles, hidden chasms, and a changing light which startled us around every corner. Eddie’s photos of it are simply beautiful.

We called in on the positively delightful Te Anau and were so taken with it that we stopped for the night…this motor home makes for spontaneity! We could live here too…lake, mountains, walks, pleasant beer, nice people, more LOR locations to check on tomorrow…what’s not to like? New Zealand is stunning.

P.S. As suspected, access to the internet is a little more difficult here as we are traveling in quite remote areas and staying in the motorhome but we will post when we can. We are on the South Island for another 10 days and then move up north.

The zealous customs officers of Christchurch were convinced that we were bringing biological hazards into the country (“…and where did you say you got this wooden turtle from again madam?” “Hmmmm, your hiking boots have certainly been around….” “I’m sorry, this sachet of coffee came from where…..Russia? ….Why is that?“ but eventually we emerged to be met by our oldest (in the best possible sense) friends Rod and Gill…Rod holding a helpful sign ‘WOLINSKIS’ in case we didn’t recognise him since his 60th and Gill taking the photo of our somewhat startled arrival. It was soooo good to see them.

After two nights in an apartment we arrange our meeting points for the next week with Rod and Gill, and then go to collect the motor home in which we are to spend the next 5 weeks. I’ll say that again. 5 weeks. That’s 35 days.

It is cute. It is cosy. It is a little bigger than the Trans Mongolian compartment. It is compact. It is full of ingenious ways of storing the things you need…everything from a teapot (essential) to a carpet cleaner (hmmm).It is civilized, – it has a TV, DVD player (a bit of a hint that it may be difficult to get a signal) toilet and shower. It encourages your awareness of how much water you normally waste and it certainly ensures that you become very aware of your bodily functions. And it is small. If we can survive this close proximity, for this length of time, we can survive anything. We’ll be fine as long as the weather is kind to us.

We drive through Arthur’s Pass, stopping to climb Castle Hills in late afternoon sunshine and the odd rain shower. The rain turns our surroundings a million shades of grey and the first night finds us up a mountain in the dark with torrential rain and winds. It can only get better. And it does….the morning dawns clear and we do a steep, demanding climb to see the surrounding peaks dusted with the first new snow of the season. It destroys our knees for the next 2 days but it was worth it.

Things we did with Rod and GillExplored Christchurch which is very pretty and looks like Oxford.

Celebrated Joanne’s birthday with a lovely Italian meal and remembered our collective holidays and children fondly.

Visited Akaroa – beautiful harbour – had an incredibly cold picnic .

Mislaid each other en route and somehow created looping texts which cost us all a fortune.

Illegally fed seagulls in Hokitika with the best chips ever.

Walked to Franz Joseph Glacier (Rod and Gill went up earlier in a helicopter and had a truly magical time – the photos were stunning).

Ate a wonderful meal that Eddie cooked for the 4 of us in our tiny, tiny kitchen, ate a wonderful meal that Rod cooked for us in their apartment

Drank a significant amount of alcohol celebrating Rod‘s birthday several times.

Had a particularly glorious day – leaving Franz Joseph with clear blue skies and the Lord of the Rings magnificent ‘Lighting of the Beacons’ ridge of mountains to our left; Gill leading us to Gillespie Beach – panorama of Mount Cook and Tasman behind us, a beach of pebbled sand dotted with bleached driftwood and rimmed with huge crashing waves in front; we enjoyed Lake Matheson with the glacier mirrored on it’s surface; Rod and Gill climbed to the glacier and we enjoyed a wonderful meal to complete a perfect day – the 4 of us have been lucky enough to share many excellent days and moments but this was absolutely superb.

south-island-122

 

 

 

March 8th – 18th

more oz

March 8, 2009

Sydney – Melbourne February 27th – March 8th

We left Sydney via Bondi Beach which was sheltering under a huge black cloud. We saw people fishing, jogging, doing tai chi, meditating, swimming, boarding and of course surfing. Two Buddhist monks sat in their saffron robes and focused on the waves. ..clearly keeping any more great white sharks at bay (except it didn’t…we read in the paper 3 days later that a 3rd attack took place!) There was an open air pool right next to the beach and waves crashed over and into it – why didn‘t we have time for me to go in there?

The drive down the coastal road was beautiful. Hyam‘s beach was an excellent stop…in the kind of light that makes the sand look even whiter, the sea look even more turquoise and the sky look even bigger and bluer.

Mollymock Beach was gorgeous (Billy Connolly has a house somewhere near…cost $1 million and a quarter and he comes here for about a week a year) but Pebbly Beach was superb…..an exciting drive down a dirt track led to a distinctly unpebbly beach renowned for kangaroos. We spotted forest, grass, rock pools, white sand and eventually friendly roos and even friendlier exotic birds. Eddie explored while I had another washing machine experience in the surf which had wilder and bigger breakers than Mollymock.

The coastal road took us 3 days through Gypsy Point, Mallacoota, Eden, Lakes Entrance….so many idyllic spots with beaches, lakes, fishing, boats, pelicans and glorious scenery. We met some very friendly people who are so proud of their country and especially of their own little piece of it.

We arrived in Melbourne to stay with my relatives. Maggie was my mam’s cousin and she and Derek came here in 1971. They have 4 sons – Heath lives in London and Maggie is visiting him at the moment. Taran works in Ceres, an environmental collective – it’s a fascinating place (great for school trips and learning about sustainability!). We went to his daughter’s 12th birthday party in a Japanese restaurant and met his children Riah and Liam for the first time.

Calan lives in the city and runs a community printing business which was really interesting (we have some clever and funny postcards and I‘m already ordering next year‘s Christmas cards!). He lent us his apartment so we have had 2 days of city living in a designer flat overlooking the sea and the city – the night time views are extraordinarily beautiful. Calan is thinking of letting the apartment to visitors so check him out if you are going to Melbourne because it is central, stylish and the swimming pool is so cool and has the most amazing view….

Jarret and Debbie and their son Hayden live near where the bush fires have been and as you can imagine, it has been very tough up there. We experienced just a little of the extreme weather with 33 degrees and the hottest, most fierce, most unpredictable wind I have ever felt – it certainly made us understand how the fires spread so dramatically but they’ve had several days of 46 degrees and these terrifying winds for weeks now.

Jarret and Debbie live in the most fantastic house with huge space inside and out, the most amazing bathroom taps (we had a competition to see who was quickest at working out how to use them!) parrots and kookaburras in the garden, turtle in the pond, Debbie’s mum makes fantastic food and Hayden is excellent at sport… and a ‘Groodle’ called Honey. A groodle is a cross between a golden retriever and a poodle which makes it a friendly and very smart dog…and she was…we plan to set up groodle breeding business when we return home.

Derek has been a tremendous host – we have eaten very well (lots from the garden) and it’s been lovely catching up with family news and old photos. He’s driven us all over the place and it’s not his fault that we didn’t win the pub quiz! Griff the dog is a character and has become very fond of us. Sarah has lent us her computer to do the blog and organise things and been delightful. We’ve had great book conversations and enjoyed her excellent vegan food.

We have also met Tim’s brother Steve and nephew Daniel and had a pleasantly alcoholic evening in the wonderful Dog‘s Bar in St. Kildas ( I apologise to them both unreservedly now…in my defence I had only eaten 2 slices of toast all day and that wine was spectacularly good!) they were lovely people and didn’t deserve to see me sozzled. We also caught up with Xris who we first met up with in Beijing – it was bizarre to discover that she lived right next to where Taran works and has probably met him already! It was brilliant to see her, she showed us round Williamstown and we had a thoroughly pleasant time watching the ships and boats and sharing a chocolate toblerone cheesecake of spectacular size and taste…..and on the way back we shared an earthquake!!! We didn’t actually feel it as we were on the train but it was an interesting end to a wonderful day.

So the weather has changed….33 one day, 19 degrees the next…and rain……we were back to fleeces and socks but pleased that the change will help the firefighters! We have skyped Paul and David and Ali (HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALI!) and the memory of David with his drinking hat on will sustain us for some time.

Off to New Zealand on 8th – very excited about meeting up with Rod and Gill. Internet access will be more difficult from the motor home but we will endeavour to share our Lord of the Rings experiences.

G’day cobbers!!!

 white-sands