Tuesday, 28 October 2008


Next on our tour of the west coast we drove from Greymouth to Punakaiki to visit the Pancake Rocks which are described as one of the 101 must do’s for Kiwis.
Punakaiki has spectacular blowholes set in magnificent rocks which look like pancakes stacked one on top of another and are impressive both in their appearance and by the noise they produce as the waves slap on the limestone rocks which have stood the test of time over 30 million years. A few unwary tourists felt the full force of the water coming up through the blowholes which are at their best at high tide which was when we arrived, however we were standing just behind them so all was good, for us at least.
We also walked (sorry tramped!) along the coast and watched the seals sunning themselves on the massive rocks of the coast. There was a definite pecking order and a large bull seal was going around making his importance known to all and sundry and ended up on the prime rock but alone, looking like a grumpy “Nigel no mates”. The seals are so well camouflaged we spent some time just looking at the rocks and being surprised when what appeared to be just rocks moved and slid off into the ocean. They are amazing creatures to watch as they surf through the rough water and yet seem so clumsy on the rocks.After we had seen enough of the seals we climbed along the path high up to the point and enjoyed a fantastic view which Ian was able to take as a 360 degree panorama which we will enjoy looking at when we get home.

Greymouth Tramping

In New Zealand you don’t go ‘bushwalking’ you go ‘tramping’! Go figure but that’s what it says in the tourist information so when in Rome ……..
After we settled into our motel in Greymouth we set off to go tramping along the Woods Creek Track which is a 45 minute loop walk through native bush featuring tunnels dug by 19th century gold miners who earned every last penny they sweated for. The walk passes through tailings, past tailraces, tunnels and dams. The method used to mine the gold here differs quite a lot from the methods used in Australia as the miners made good use of the availability of water to separate the gold from the tailings by digging very long, narrow, deep tunnels and using the water to release the gold and force it to the bottom of the tunnels from where it could be retrieved.
The walk was lovely and took us along a suspension bridge, some very steep stairs and unexpectedly a long narrow tunnel at the end. Throughout the walk we noticed many different varieties of ferns and lichens which I took photos of as well as the spectacular timber which grows so well in this climate.
To gain access to the walk we passed through some really desolate country which is the result of timber plantations and also some areas of farming including these rather cute sheep pictured in a setting I though came straight out of an English travel guide.

Greymouth by train

On Saturday morning we set out early for the Trans Alpine train from Christchurch to Greymouth. The Trans Alpine is amongst the top six train rides in the world and certainly lived up to our expectations.
The journey took about four and half hours and travelled through Barfield, Springfield, Arthurs Pass, Otira and into Greymouth.
We crossed the farmlands of the Canterbury plains, spectacular gorges and the rugged, snow capped Southern Alps before descending into the lush forests of the west coast to Greymouth. We passed through many tunnels along the way, one of which was eight and a half kilometres and for many decades it was the third longest railway tunnel in the world. It takes as long to pass through this tunnel as it does to cross the English Channel tunnel due largely to it’s gradient and for those who know how much I enjoy (not!) the Eastlink tunnel – it felt very long!
However the train ride was spectacular and it was great for Ian to be able to sit back and enjoy without worrying about driving.
It was cold so we (I) didn’t spend a lot of time standing out in the open observation area. I cannot claim any credit for the photos as Ian was the one who stood out in the cold this time.
When we arrived in Greymouth we picked up our car which is a Toyota Corolla, small but we hope efficient and enough for our needs after which we walked around the town and found a pub to sample the New Zealand delicacy of whitebait in an omelette. Very tasty it is too, so we’ve marked off one culinary requirement to say we’ve visited New Zealand. We also managed to find some flaked rice which our friends David and Elaine who are Kiwis said was a must to bring home so that will be interesting. Have to get it through Customs first!

Thursday, 23 October 2008


We arrived in Christchurch on Monday afternoon and then Ian was off to the conference and I was left to amuse myself.
The first day was lovely and warm and I explored the city by foot and enjoyed the beautiful parks and gardens and churches. However the following days have been very cold, really cold. In fact it feels as tho’ we’re having the winter we missed by going away this year!
There is a lovely river which runs through the city called the Avon River and the water is as clear as clear and there is a punt service piloted by a young man resplendent in a straw boater hat. It really looks great but he certainly has his work cut out as there is quite a current running.
Today I went to the Art Gallery which is a beautiful new building with an Australian Architect, from Victoria no less and went on a guided tour. I have now seen more of the Christchurch Art Gallery than I have of the Shepparton Art Gallery – shame on me, I will rectify that when we get home.
Of course retail therapy has been very important and getting used to a new currency has been a little confusing but I’ve managed!
Across the road there is a beautiful Art Precinct which houses many beautiful local crafts and craft people such as painters, a patchwork shop, bone and wood carvings and beautiful fine woollen garments some incorporating mohair and possum which create wonderful soft and fine yarns which are just to die for.
In the evenings we’ve dined with the others from Shepparton and on Wednesday night we had the Conference dinner which had a Pacific cruise theme and was great fun.
Ian will complete his obligations for work on Friday and then we’re off on Saturday to take the train across the Alps to Greymouth. After that we’re taking a car and travelling along the west coast, up to the top and back down the east coast to Christchurch. We don’t have a lot of time so we’ve decided to see what we can well instead of just a road trip.

Gosford to Home ....

We arrived at Pete and Dawn’s on Friday and settled in to stay until Wednesday morning. It was lovely to stay in the guest room in their apartment and to leave the van parked out the front for a few days.
Pete and Dawn had a barbeque on Monday night and we met some of their friends which was a great night. We relaxed and caught up on their news including their new car which is very nice! We also went to see Wall-E which we all enjoyed.
All too soon we were on our way home and stopped for one more night on the road just north of Albury. As if to finish the holiday in style we had a beautiful sunset followed by a cold night just to make sure we went home and didn’t stay another night on the road arriving home early on Thursday morning.
At last we have been able to see Kate and Warwick’s house and we’re looking forward to seeing the transformation they have planned for their first home. On Saturday we went to give them a hand and arrived just in time to see a bee swarm in the back yard resulting from Waz and Andrew cutting down a tree and upsetting a large nest of bees. During the day the bees became a little more agitated and by the next morning Frank, the wonderful next door neighbour had called in the apiarist to remove them. Never a dull moment!
A few days at home and then its off to Christchurch for Ian’s conference and a week to look around.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Crowdy part two

After a restful night with the ocean crashing around us we stepped out of the van to see our neighbourhood kangaroos going about their early morning feeding routine and walked down to the beach. We walked along the beach for an hour and were entertained by the whales jumping out of the water, blowing and creating water fountains as they crash back into the sea. How lucky are we? For as long as we wanted to watch they were providing the entertainment.
As we returned to the van we were able to take photos of a rather large Monitor lizard one of many we saw during our stay. There is so much to see at Crowdy that we’re sure we will return again and see many new things.
After our walk we reluctantly packed the van and travelled on to Pete and Dawn in Gosford. Sadly we recognise that the travelling part of this holiday is all but gone now but it is also exciting to be able to see Pete and Dawn on our way home and we’re looking forward to seeing Kate and Waz and their house which everyone else from home has already seen.
However this year is a little different as we’re off to New Zealand a few days after we get home as Ian is attending a conference in Christchurch and I’m going along for the ride! We’re having a week after the conference to look around New Zealand so I’ll be blogging on for a while yet.

Crowdy - Part 1

After we left Gin Gin we travelled on to Caboolture for the night which was unremarkable to say the least and then on to Ballina to a great caravan park where we were able to fill up the water tanks and relax with a swim and spa. We went for a walk in the afternoon to the beach and watched the surfers competing with the dolphins who seemed to be giving them a surfing lesson and were definitely showing off. They were beautiful to watch and we didn’t even try to take photos as it was too hard to see where they were going to appear next. Sometimes the best things we have seen will have to remain in our memories not in photos.
From Caboolture we drove on to Crowdy Bay where we stayed for one night last year and had vowed to return. It is school holidays here and there were a lot more people around so we stayed at Kylies Beach Camping Area which is lovely. Again this year we had plenty of kangaroos wandering through the camp but also a lovely koala mum and baby who were in a tree quite low to the ground and very happy to have an audience with cameras going for hours on end.
On our first morning we went for a magnificent walk from our camping area to Kylies Hut then on to Indian Head Camping area, across to Diamond Head and back to our campsite.
Kylies Hut was built during World War 2 for Australian author Kylie Tennant by a local bushman, Ernie Metcalfe as a writing retreat. Our walk which was narrow and steep in sections took us 113 metres above sea level and along the way we saw beautiful native flowers and a magnificent coastline. Quotes from the book written by Kylie Tennant appear along the walk together with information from the National Park authorities and are a great way to rest and recover as you walk!
We had booked in for two nights and were pleased that we had, as we planned to walk along the beach on the second morning.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Last days at Yeppoon

It’s finally time to leave Yeppoon and David and Elaine who have been our hosts for the past three weeks which have been more like staying with friends than at a park. We’ve enjoyed camp cooking stews and damper courtesy of David and Elaine and we’ve returned the favour with a yummy curry. For Elaine’s birthday all the campers surprised her with a roast dinner and birthday cake and amazingly we managed to keep it a surprise.
We’ve finally been able to capture a photo of one of the other campers which are generally quite retiring. Our visitor was four foot long and very happy to stay quietly up the tree whilst we all took our photos.
On our last morning we went up to see what Elaine and David were up to. Ian and David disappeared behind the Lodge and before we knew what was happening it was decided to remove a tree which was blocking the sunlight to the newly installed solar hot water panels. Just in case you’re wondering Ian was in the vehicle pulling down the tree! So by 9.30am the tree was down and we adjourned to the pool to consider our next move.
Unfortunately our next move came at 2.30pm when we had to leave. We delayed as long as we could and had our last swim at 1.30 before travelling on to a roadside stop at Gin Gin for the night.