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Margaret River Area

Away from it ALL is where we arrived yesterday. 11kms from Dunsborough down Cape Naturaliste road with only 5 buildings that we’re aware of

  • A school
  • Eagle Bay Brewing Company
  • Wise Wines
  • Bunker Bay Beach House
  • Our Hotel Complex

DAY 2 

Not a great experience in the restaurant here last night, hey ho !                                  We have a studio here so it’s a relief not to have to eat 3 meals a day OUT.               Gavin went to the shops (11k away) for provisions. Whilst I caught up on 2 necessities

  • Laundry
  • Sunbathing 😀

We’d been recommended a Winery or 2 by our dear friend Al so on his advice we’d booked ahead to have lunch at Leeuwin

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eat place and v nice lunch too.

The in house art gallery wasn't to our taste but we are both a bit sad that we'll miss their live concert in March, one of my favourites. Looking at the hall of Fame most of the big names in music have performed here. Sting, Diana Ross, James Taylor to name but a few, oh and of course our mate Dame Shirley

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
euwin we popped into

<<<<<<<
a look……… ahh go on then I'll try some of your fizz🥂🍾

Before heading back to our place we walked on our glorious beach

Day 3 Started much the sameas Day 2, but the tranquility was spoiled for me

We had a couple of uninvited guests on our breakfast terrace, who of course also climbed onto the table 🤮

The baby was the most tenacious/fearless, the parent scuttled off at the least noise but not so the young un 😩

Worst thing about this is that it doubles as my sunbathing terrace and now I’m terrified of going out there, Woossy I know but it’s one of my failings.

Never to be outdone I’ve found a new position, inside with the mesh screen between me and the critters 👍👏👍

So if I have a slightly chequered tan when we come home you know why 😜 Our plan was to have lunch at the local brewery but we were only able to have s quick drink as they were closing for a wedding. Shame, but we were able to see the florists creating the wedding arch, so not all bad

Instead we headed to the beach house for lunch, FAB view but disappointing food.

Gavin had an important date with the TV to watch rugby, so I spent an hour or two on our beautiful beach, people watching and paddling in the crystal clear Indian Ocean. Day 4 A loooooong overdue catch up for Gavin

Maureen and he went to the same primary and senior schools, but they haven’t seen each other since she emigrated here over 40 years ago.

We spent a great couple of hours picking up tips and things we mustn’t miss on our travels.

We played golf at Dunsborough Lakes in the afternoon, hardly saw a soul. Except another Kangaroo family, I guess they’ve discovered golf courses are quite fertile as there’s always plenty of water?

One of Maureen’s recommendations was Wise winery, so we popped in on our way home. We had an impromptu tasting then sat outside to admire the view The joys of not having to eat out, we decided to try and stick to our daily budget (For the first time since we left home) and I have to say it beat many meals eaten locally.

Day 5
Rainy
ut having seen a few days of glorious sun I’m cool about the odd shower now.

Inspite of the rain our next hotel didn’t disappoint A beautiful lakeside setting with the pool to the left in the trees

Another winery recommendation Vasse Felix beckoned. It’s the regions founding wine estate, since 1967.

We very much liked what we tasted so picked up enough bottles to take us through to the plane trip on Thursday 🍷🛍.

Oh, and we also spotted ‘technically’ our 4th kangaroo sighting We’ve been amazed at the volume of wineries down here, even more concentrated than wine areas of France and South Africa that we’ve been to.

Apparently there are around 200 wine estates in the region, of various sizes and sophistications. Some with fine dining restaurants others just with Cellar Doors where you can buy direct.

Our hotel is actually a winery but only produces 3000 bottles a year of 2 varieties, A Shiraz and a Sauvignon Blanc and all is consumed by their guests.

After a walk around the 40 acre estate where we could have enjoyed complimentary afternoon tea, we decided to skip that in favour of the early dinner that we’d booked.

The food, the ambience and the staff here are all delightful. Definitely recommend it if you’re ever in the area.

Day 6

On our way to Albany later today, with the sun out to guide us on ourjourney

Featured

What’s Happening

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Gavin & I are about to embark on the most exciting trip of our lives, literally going around the world!!!!! Starting on 23rd November we leave at the crack of dawn for our flight to Singapore, via Dubai. After 4 days, we’ll head down to Perth WA. We’ll be in the Margaret River area for 9 days, before flying diagonally across Australia, to Cairns QLD. Here we pick-up our motorhome in which we’ll be living for just over 3 weeks, travelling down the East Coast to Sydney NSW. A major highlight of the trip will be celebrating New Year on a boat in Sydney Harbour. From Sydney we travel on to Melbourne VA by car, taking a week to see the sights, en-route.  From Melbourne, we have a week in Tasmania, before heading to New Zealand, where we start our 6 week adventure seeing all there is to see on both islands. From there we fly to French Polynesia, relaxing in Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora. If Gavin can drag me away from the Overwater Bungalow, we’ll fly to California, where San Diego will be our home for the last week of this trip of a lifetime.

The main purpose of this blog is so that we don’t clog up facebook,  but of course we’d like our friends and family to know where we are and to see our pics as we travel, and it’d be great to hear from anybody who’d like to keep in touch, you can do this via our contact page.

Look forward to communicating en route and to seeing everyone after the middle of March when we’re back.

new post 22nd Nov Our Travel Docs

Only 24 hours before take off, just a tad excited !!!!!!!

6 Days in San Diego & The Highlights from our whole trip

Leaving Taihiti and the neighbouring islands was a wrench but we’ve got some great plans for the next 6 days so let’s get at ’em

Sunday 4th March

An overnight flight with Tahiti Nui allowed us to sleep a little on the 5 hour flight from Papeete to LA but our first sight on approaching the runway was a bit of a shock to the system given not only our most recent destinations, but all of them for the past 4 months

So much urban sprawl was quite a scary prospect.

Driving down the Pacific coast highway there were some great looking towns, whose residents, judging by the cars, are extremely wealthy. Places like, Long Beach, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Dana point.

Arriving at the Hyatt, we knew we were in safe hands.

Great evening with the Polsons and Amanda Aponte-Edgar had to go and do some work related golf in Palm Springs for a couple Of days-So lovely to be with people who weren’t strangers.

Monday 5th March

Bright and early start at Aviara golf club, on a gorgeous sunny day, around 18 degrees, much less warm than we’d been used to. But beautiful all the same.

Fabulous round of golf on a very pretty course

US competition Sue 1 Gav 0

A journey we thought would take us 40 mins, took us an hour longer, so we had to turn ourselves around pretty quickly to meet up with Tim & Carmen Haslam.

Our hotel – Lowes Coronado- is in a beautiful position between the bay and the Ocean, and is very nice indeed.

Great evening at a down town Coronado restaurant, the Brigantine, catching up with each other’s news from the past year when we last met up.

Tuesday 6th March

As we had our morning ‘At Leisure’ we did just that. Maisie our youngest grandchild has a birthday today, so we facetimed her. She was sooooo excited though with her friends around playing, so we only got a minute of her time, bless her 😘

After this we took the hotel shuttle to downtown Coronado.

Had a wander around, along the beach arriving at the beautiful Del Coronado, we had originally planned to stay here, but a couple of people back home said it was a bit dated, so we changed to Loews. However, we thought The Del, as everyone calls it was delightful. We spent a very pleasant couple of hours over brunch just people watching and admiring the fab location.

It was built in 1888 – old for SD- and is an iconic landmark of the City, but also very famous for the film ‘ Some Like it Hot ‘starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.

Talking of people watching. Gavin thought the guy on the right was David Crosby from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. ?

Leaving here we got an Uber into the City to Tim & Carmen’s office

After a quick look around we left for a spot of sightseeing.

First stop Balboa Park, where TnC were married 3 years ago.

We couldn’t make it at the time so it was great to see the spot outside the Prado where they had the ceremony.

Moving through the fabulous park and the Spanish Mission architecture we saw the botanical garden, the museums, the globe theatre and all the other beautiful buildings. As well as a fascinatingly enormous tree and its roots, and several young girls being photographed in their beautiful dresses celebrating their ‘coming of age’ – Quinceanera

Leaving here we went to the Pacific Beach area to their home for a while before driving out through Ocean Beach to Sunset cliffs.

Masses of people were there all over the rocks to see what promised to be a magnificent sunset, it was until the actual ‘setting’ when the clouds obliterated the sun, but stunning all the same.

Back to Missouri Avenue to drop the car before walking to a local Italian which was v v good.

Wednesday 7th March

Uberring it to Torrey Pines, we left an hour to cope with the potential traffic, and arrived in plenty of time.

Edgar was back from his golf trip, great to see him, as well as Amanda, Mike and Amanda.

It’s a stunning course, set right on the edge of the cliffs, just North of La Jolla ( most people would recognise it pronounced as La Hoya)

Not surprisingly, for such a busy course, the guys had an extra player with them so did the ladies. Oddly both were from Manhattan but obviously didn’t know one another. Jeff, who played with the ladies was a very nice man who had a very young family, a 2yr old & 5 month old twins. He was here a day early for his brothers stag, we all thought his wife was remarkable, letting him come away, but they have 2 day nannies and a night nurse so she’s hardly been left to cope alone!!!

So the golf was extremely challenging, especially the greens that were very tricky to land on then next to impossible to putt on. Amanda P managed it especially well though, as did Gavin who won the day.

So in our little US comp between ourselves it’s 1-1, deciding match at Coronado on Friday.

After a lunch and the de brief over everybody’s best shots, we bid a fond farewell to the Apontes and Poulsons as they headed back to Aviara.

Tim and Carmen came to collect us and it’s such a beautiful setting we decided to share a delicious bottle of Prisoner red wine, Edgar had had it at lunch and it was very coiffable indeed.

Heading into La Jolla, the traffic was atrocious- we found out later that one of the freeways was closed due to a gas leak, hence the terrible delay. This meant that by the time we reached the cove, it was dark so seeing the pelicans and seals was not easy, you might just make out the pelicans

But the seals were pretty hard to distinguish between them and seaweed clumps to be fair

Next stop was a gallery, whose artwork collection was the most fascinating photography. The elements changed according to the lights, which we experienced in a special viewing room.

A very smart cocktail bar called George’s was the next venue that the Haslam tour company had laid on, right across the street from Peter Lik, so why not????

moving on we ate a very unsmart Mexican taco place, standing up in the street – great to mix it all up though !!!!!

Thursday 8th March

The morning was a very leisurely affair. Checking messages Sue found this hilarious one from Tim, the reference to ‘failing to achieve’ is a joke around the sunset not being a brilliant one on Tuesday and not being able to see the Pelicans & seals in the dark last night. If you know Tim you’ll understand how funny this text is. If you don’t know him, believe us, it’s funny

Now that we had our schedule, the first job was re packing our suitcases for tomorrow’s departure 😳 then a perfect stroll around the really pretty downtown Coronado shops to buy wine and flowers for the Haslam’s and one more pressie each for the grandchildren who we can’t wait to see on Sunday 😍😍😍😍😍😍😍

Arriving at Missouri Avenue

Front view of their cute ‘tardis like’ home

Below is the side view, see Tim’s car on the driveway. See what we mean about a tardis 🤣

As we arrived, The smells emanating from the kitchen were divine. If there’s been one slightly disappointing thing about this trip is the food we’ve tasted-with a handful of exceptions.

Tim’s ‘roastie’ was absolutely scrumptious, Rare roast beef, homemade Yorkshire’s, divine roast potatoes and gorgeous veg. Almost the best meal we’d had in 4 months.

Feeling very full, we went for a walk to and along the beach, to relief the full to bursting feeling.

We were rewarded with a fabulous sunset, and a lot of surfing activity. This guy had done his bit, we passed him on our way back home.

Quick turnaround at the house as where we were going required – for men – long trousers and shoes, shorts n flip flops wouldn’t do. Quite a change for us as we’d been in VERY casual dress all over the antipodes.

Gav was the designated driver in our very nice, but last hire car of the trip

Arriving at the venue, it looked quite buzzy from the outside, We were a bit confused as the place had a different name than they’d said??? We walked into the corner of this place, through to what looked like a cellar, Carmen said to Sue, touch those barrels

Taaaa Daaa, they moved and we were were through to the waiting room of The Noble Experiment 🤣🤣🤣

A VERY classy but compact, speak easy, prohibition themed cocktail bar

Gav the driver had mocktails of course, but everyone else enjoyed a couple of very tasty alcoholic cocktails. 🍸🍹🥂

Friday 9th March

The last day of our trip……..😢

We have a V early start for our last game of golf, the venue is Coronado Golf club, only 10 mins away thank goodness, as we’re teeing off at 6.45 am

One of Tim’s staff, David is joining us, he’s a single figure handicapper so hopefully we’ll pick up some tips. When we met him in the office the other day he said Phil Mickleson often plays very early at Coronado so we may see him 🤞🏼🤞🏼🤞🏼.

Half an hour after we’d tee’d off the sun was coming up and had reached the top of the trees

Tim and David left us after 9 holes to go to work 👏👏

Tim by that time had scored a very respectable 21, so he was happy to quit while he was ahead, David we assumed, thought he ought to go too 😳

After 18 holes Gavin had won, not only this game but the US leg of the tournament, and ultimately, by being the victor in 2 countries against Sues 1 – he’s definitely the Round the World champion ⛳️🏌🏼‍♂️🥇🏆👏

Back to the hotel to shower, change, pack, eat lunch and we were on our way.

We decided to leave PLENTY of time to get to LA, as the traffic jams in both SD and LA are legendary.

When we left at 2pm the sat nav said we would do the 130 miles in 2hrs 20 mins, we’ve now been driving for longer than that and we have 1hr 12 mins still to go.

The weather is getting us U.K. ready we think 😜. Crossing the LA county line- and for some while before- the sky is grey and the temp only 16😩

So, we can’t leave the San Diego area without some ‘observations’

TRAFFIC is a bit of a nightmare

There are NO dirty cars

On the Pacific Coast Highway there are an infuriatingly high number of traffic lights – about every half a mile 😩

Fuel is still priced in gallons, at $3.70 it’s only about 58p a ltr

Climate is very similar to the Costa Del Sol at this time of year, but very temperate throughout the year apparently.

Military, mainly the Navy has a huge presence on Coronado. The Seals, the amphibious division and many others.

Apparently it takes about 3 hours to cross back into the US if you go into Mexico, which was only 4 miles down the road from our hotel. Very frustrating as it would have been great to add to our trip. Great excuse to come back though. 😜

It feels like a very safe place to be, we only experienced downtown SD a couple of times but Coronado felt super safe.

Municipal golf courses are abundant. Torrey Pines for example is where they’ve held the US Open, is a municipal course where residents can play for just $40, this one and Coronado, also municipal, were in superb condition. A fantastic facility, no wonder there are sooooo many world class US golfers.

Everywhere we went was in pristine condition, streets, pavements, etc.

It feels to Sue especially, that it’s sooooo like Spain, the buildings, the place names, the flowers etc.

There’s a definite improvement in the quality of food on offer in restaurants, since our last US trip, we had plenty of vegetables and a variety of options.

There’s a mixed opinion, amongst those we asked on the validity of Mr D Trump. Whilst most people agree he’s a bit of an idiot, but there were a number ‘of those surveyed’ who thought he was doing an OK job, and the alternative was just not an option. And that in the U.K. our news coverage of US affairs is filtered.

Top Awards from our Trip

Top 3 per category

Favourite Place

Gavin – Doubtful Sound, Marlborough & Margaret River

Sue – Bora Bora, Akaroa & Singapore

Favourite ‘Lodging’

Gavin – Fullerton in Singapore, Novotel in Manly, Loews in Coronado

Sue – Cape Lodge In Yallingup, Intercontinental Thalasso on Bora Bora & The Motorhome

Favourite Experience

Gavin – Dolphins, Whales & the silence of Doubtful Sound

Sue – climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge, Doubtful Sound, Mount Cook flight.

Favourite Golf Courses

Gavin- Joondalup, north of Perth, Torrey Pines, S Diego & Wairaki, Lake Taupo

Sue – Joondalup, north of Perth, Waitangi, Bay of Islands & Aviara, San Diego

Favourite Winery Experience

Gavin – Cloudy Bay In Marlborough, Devils Corner In Tasmania Leuwins In Margaret River

Sue – Cloudy Bay In Marlborough, Dessert Heart In Central Otago & Pooleys In Tasmania

Favourite Meal/Restaurant

Gavin – Leuwins in Margaret River, Catalinas in Sydney & The Duke In Russell

Sue – Catalinas in Sydney, The Aquarium in Merimbula & Tim’s Roast Beef in Pacific Beach ( which Gavin also wants to add to his Tops 😜)

Some of These were ‘stand out’ tops, but there were many others that just missed making the top 3’s.

If you’ve read all or any of the posts, first of all THANK YOU, but secondly, hopefully you’ll have the feeling that we have had an absolutely amazing time pretty much EVERY day since 23rd November. You may feel you’ve seen enough pics on here and Facebook, but we have over 4000 in total, so just ask …………………..

In Summary

Sue feels that she is one of the luckiest people alive to have experienced all of this.

Gavin agrees ( 😜 ) but adds that this has been a lifetime ambition achieved and looks forward to our next adventures.

But right now….. We both can’t wait to get home to spend time with our beautiful family.

Hasta La Vista

French Polynesia

Taihiti, Moorea & Bora Bora

Sat 24th Feb

The weirdest thing, we already used all of the 24th Feb in NZ, but because we crossed the international date line we got to live it all over again !!!!!!!

So to remind you, we went whale watching in Kaikoura at 10am 24 Feb – awesome tick off Gav’s bucket list- we then travelled for 36 hours. Arriving in Taihiti and it’s still 24th was the oddest but best result!!!!!

Massively impressed with

Air Tahiti Nui

It was a qantas flight operated by ATN, who knock Qantas out of the park in terms of customer experience. Not least the SMOOTHEST landing either of us have EVER experienced. Very pleased to be taking our next 4 flights with them.

The Intercontinental hotel was only 5k from the airport, very handy as we need to head back there first thing in the morning !!!!

We were greeted by a lady giving us a wonderfully fragrant flower necklace each and a book of vouchers for our Polynesian stay, quite a lot to take in at 11pm, on ‘whatever’ day it was.

Sunday 25th Feb

Breakfast was a superb introduction to this VERY colourful country, we were even serenaded by some Polynesian descendants of George Formby

The views were MAGNIFICENT and we were certainly looking forward to the next part of this awesome trip, albeit Gavin was dreading the evident humidity 😳

On the airport transfer we met a lovely honeymooning French couple who work for Nestle and currently live in Switzerland. They’re staying in the same hotel as us in Moorea so we’re bound to cross paths again.

On the itinerary it says the flight was 15 mins, but actually it was 6 – see Sues watch for take off and landing times

Landing at Moorea, we met up with Amanda & Mike Poulson who were getting onto OUR plane to fly to Bora Bora – to tell them we’re on our way 😜 great to see them, as apart from the impromptu meeting with Henley acquaintances on the Wellington ferry, we hadn’t seen AnYBODY we knew for almost 6 weeks, and it’s quite odd. So we had hugs and wished each other well until we meet up with them again in SAN Diego next Sunday!!!

Our new honeymooning ‘mates’ thought it was a massive coincidence until we explained that we’d arranged it 🤣🤣🤣

Somehow they went in a different ‘minibus’ to the hotel and unfortunately we had to share with these obnoxious Californians, who didn’t even say hello, and clearly ignored our existence and MONOPOLiZED the drivers time ALL the way, marvellous!!!

Arriving at the Intercontinental, it was suitably lush with vegetation as well as the welcoming cocktail. Even though it was only 11am they took us on a golf buggy straight to our OVERWATER bungalow 608.

OMG, it’s FAB U LOUS even though the decor is very usual for this part of the world, all dark wood and bamboo, and it could be a little more modern, BUT, the view is timelessly PERFECT.

The outside space absolutely ideal, and such a change that we won’t be separated whilst being in our different comfort zones, Sue on the deck taking some sun, Gavin, who will rarely venture out into the humidity, will only be yards away in the A/C’d room.

Just perfect 🌞🌬

Sue has resolved to do the best part of Bugger All until Wednesday when we leave, except perhaps to drag herself away from the deck for food n drink. 🥂👙😳 Gav had ticked whale watching off his bucket list in Kaikoura, but there was still swimming with dolphins, so we went to book it as they have a dolphin experience here at the hotel, only 50 mtrs from Our bungalow 🐬🐋🐬

It cost the national debt of a 3rd world country but who cares, bucket list items don’t come cheap 🐬👏🐬. All arranged for 10.45 On Monday. 👍

The afternoon was spent generally chillin’ and acquainting ourselves with the coral and fish living on our doorstep.

Gavin thinks not, but Sue definitely thinks she saw almost as many coral varieties and definitely more types of fish than they saw at the Great Barrier Reef a few months ago 🐠🐟🐬🐋

A fabulously angry sunset before dinner

Monday 26th Feb

Beautiful view from our breakfast table

Saw a few fish on our way too

The Boy was getting impatient for his dream date with the dolphins so we went back to the room to chill, passing the dolphin centre we saw that our honeymooning friends Jean Claude & Nicole were on the session before Gav.

Not long and he was able to start the ‘journey’

JC & N came to join Sue and actually a gathering crowd on the bridge to watch the spectacle. They were still high on the thrill of it all. 🐬🐬🐬

Gavin was extremely lucky that no one else was (prepared to pay that much 😳) booked in for his session, so he had 2 instructors and 2 photographers, so 5 people and 1 dolphin, from the bridge Sue was wondering who was most ‘at risk’ Gav or Hina his dolphin partner!!!!!

One more VERY big tick off Mr Cs bucket list.

Later we’d booked to see the traditional Polynesian show on the beach, with a buffet. Pretty low expectations but WOW !!!!

For more than an hour we were entertained by over 20 people, singing, dancing or playing with fire.

Unusually, the buffet was superb too, allowing us to sample local fare like raw fish in coconut milk, tuna & banana curry, bread fruit, and loads more.

Tuesday 27th Feb

The sun’s up and ready for Another beautiful day in Paradise. Sue decided to throw a piece of pastry for the fish to see what happened.

WOWZA, you’ve never seen such activity, and word must have spread because, as we did this 4/5 times throughout the day more and more fish came – even small sharks, no really. And actually one that was about a metre long

This kept us amused for most of the day, with an interlude or a spot of kayaking

what a fabulous day !!!!

Topped off with this great sunset

Wednesday 28th Feb

We’re very reluctant to leave this little piece of paradise, and are wondering how Bora Bora can match up??

Just a 45 min flight and we landed on B.B. with great anticipation. We’d passed over another 2 smaller islands en-route, Raiatea and Tahaa, beautiful turquoise waters surrounding them both.

Bora Bora airport is on an island, so having collected our luggage

we all caught our boats to whichever hotel we were staying at.

So, everyone on the flight went off on their little boats, except us and two ageing hippies with backpacks😳 we alighted the ‘no 9 bus’ – the big boat above – for the town jetty???

Waving goodbye to the cute little airport we both admitted to not having a good feeling about this.

Our fears were founded as we arrived at Mai Tai – yes we had an overwater bungalow but …….

Sue kept telling herself to make the best of it, and she honestly tried, but the fact that for her this was the holy grail of the trip made the disappointment even more acute. She sat feeding the fish from the deck , and played out the conversation when back home with Savile Row in her mind. It ended with them saying, if only you’d said we could have moved you.

That last bit, if only…… just wouldn’t go away. By this time it was 6pm here 4 am U.K. time so we just sent an e mail.

We actually had a really good meal, which pleasantly surprised us.

Before 8am UK time, 10pm here, Craig was on the phone apologising, and promising to sort it. Obvs nothing could be done overnight here, but By 11.45 am the next morning we were on our way

Only 1 min into the boat journey, Sue realised that this was the major thing missing previously – the iconic Mount Otemanu, when you imagine Bora Bora you imagine this mountain, palms, turquoise seas and white sandy beaches. Previously we’d had the palms and the turquoise seas, but next to no beach, and Def no mountain.

Arriving at Intercontinental Thalasso Bora Bora, we had it ALL

Sue was ecstatic, and supremely grateful, Gavin was relieved 😜

Our home for 3 days is just exquisite, we thought Moorea couldn’t be beaten, well it has been. Sue is in 7th heaven. We’d even been upgraded 2 steps from an Emerald to a Diamond Bungalow, looking at them from the outside, they all look exactly the same but the grading must be about location we think.

Talking to Carly this morning on FaceTime showing her around, Sue said actually, this is all the space I need to live in, the fact that it has no kitchen to speak of wouldn’t really matter. 😜

Friday 2nd March

Sue was up to see the sunrise reflected on the mountain

New Laundry container being delivered by boat, this then gets fixed to a truck and exchanged for another with ‘unclean’ laundry to be taken back to the main Island

Silly messing about in the beautiful warm lagoon

These are taken through our coffee table 🐳🤣

What a Fabulous day in the sun, Sue finished the 3rd of 3 books she’s read by Joan Fallon, an English author who lives not far from us in Spain. Curiously she used to teach in Maidenhead with a lady Sue played golf with at Badgemore, and plans to meet Joan on a future trip to Spain.

After the sun had set we headed over the bridge to the restaurant for the ‘buffet and Polynesian show’ spectacular, but the Moorean one just has the edge we feel. Sorry we forgot our phones, so no pics, but you can imagine the girls shaking their bums and the boys shaking their legs in a way that defy’s gravity, and some very south sea island singing – lovely 💃🏼🕺🏻🎼🥂❤️🌴

Sat 3rd March.

Last day today, with plans to do the same as yesterday, ie lounge around a lot.

Dramatic skies this morning

And a little boating activity at around 7.30 am

Gav Feeding the stingrays in knee deep water, what amazingly long tails they have. He says their bodies are REALLY soft, until the edge which is ripply and harder 🐟

The penultimate stay of this terrific trip has been just beautiful, the slight hotel hiccup is but a distant dream, erased from our minds.

Below is a little present that came with the bill- nice touch 😘

And a lovely send off too 😢

We’re back in Papeete now waiting for our connecting flight to LA in 4 hours.

Maurooroo Tahiti, we’ve loved your Islands 😍😍

These Taihitian Islands are the perfect place to just chill and recharge your batteries, which was exactly what we needed after our epic antipodean adventures. They will always hold a very special place in our hearts & memories. ❤️🐬🐠🐟🐋👙☀️🛥🌴❤️

Some random Observations

The water is several exquisite shades of blue-but predominantly the most VIVID turquoise, even when it’s cloudy above ??

They say I orana – hello – with a really smiley voice

The thatched roofs are made of a very authentic looking plastic

They call frangipani flowers Tipani, they’re used in the Lei’s you’re given on arrival, they have a heady but lovely perfumed scent.

They have the flamboyant tree.

A tree that’s Sue has for many years wanted to see in Mauritius, blooming in November, we’ve always been in Feb and seen only one or two brilliant red flowers remaining. We saw them in Port Douglas QLD in profusion where they are called the Christmas Tree. Absolutely stunning.

Another unusual tree is this, a large yucca tree with its roots on the outside/above ground ??

The Taihitian girls are beautiful, but when you take a second look some of them are men 🤣 just a bit big everywhere to be born female we think 😳

‘Black Pearls’ are inordinately expensive, but beautiful. They contribute massively to the Islands economy.

French Polynesia is about midway between Australia, Liz Angeles, NZ and Santiago de Chile. It’s made up of 5 archipelagos & covers a total area similar to the size of Europe !!!

The most recognized archipelago is the Society Islands. This exotic group, with the alluring names of Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa and Maupiti, has for many years captured the attention of romantics, and summoned them to it’s shores. Amongst those who heard the call are painter Paul Gauguin, writer James Michener, and actor Marlon Brando.

Bora Bora has a similar number

of visitors per year to Hawaii in a WEEK !!!!!

Back in The Beautiful South

Monday 19th Feb

One slightly annoying element of the crossing was that we had to return our rental car before boarding and get a new one once we docked!!!! It seems crazy, especially as the car hire operation in Picton is WOeFULLY under efficient. Always an upside though, Sue got chatting to the man behind her in the queue. This is where the small world thing surpassed itself, he lives less than 500 mtrs from us, and walks past our house every day with his dog, he even described our cars 🤣🤣🤣🤣

No luck in upgrading the car this time, so we struggled, but just about managed to fit our luggage into our little Corolla. 😳

Only 90 mins to get to Nelson, our home for 2 nights

Miles and miles of vineyards – which we’ll back to visit in 2 days – lots of familiar names !!!

This road soon gave way to climbing the mountain range, rising from the Pelorus river scenic park.

Up and over the other side we weren’t far from our destination, but with mounting awareness of the oncoming cyclone, we were VERY nervous about potential falling trees blocking our way back 😳💨😳💨

Arriving at Warwick House, Sue’s mind was made up, it was a little like a spooky haunted house, all shabby without the chic 😩 she hated it on first site.

We stuck around for the evening and had a great meal in town, agreeing that we’d keep an open mind until the weather news that night. Meanwhile, Craig our caring travel agent had e mailed us with names n numbers, in case of an emergency.

Tuesday 20th February

By 10am we were out of there – hurrah- slight mishap in the euphoria of leaving, Sue mistakenly booked a hotel in Marlborough Wilts on hotels.com 😳😳😳 By the time we realised we were already on the road, and EVERYWHERE in Marlborough NZ was FULL. Sue was imagining a night in the car, but it would have been impossible with sooooo much luggage.

Widening the search, we ended up back in Picton, where we’d alighted the ferry 24 hrs before 😩

Lashing down and really windy, our host, Don came out to meet us with a big umbrella and a smile, and it’s all been great since then. We stocked up with supplies and have no plans to move until tomorrow. Steph, the hostess has done all our washing for us and lent us loads of DVDs so we’re just fine. 😊👍😊

Wednesday 21st Feb

Beautiful blue sky this morning,after the horrors of the past 36 hrs, absolutely mad!!!

The change of overnight venue meant that we got to see Picton, very cute little harbour town.

Driving along the ridge out through the Marlborough Sounds to Portage the scenery was stunning

Quite a lot of evidence of churned water from the storm, lots of debris washed up, and a landslide.

Unusual hill formations as we reached flat land again

We’re here in Marlborough to visit some wineries, Giesen was our first, mostly because they make Marlborough Ridge, our everyday tipple at home. We discovered that MR is only sold in the UK ( as well as Calais through Majestic Wine) it’s made especially for that market – surprise surprise!!!

We tasted a few others which were fine, but a much higher price point than their UK offering. Really diverse platter with Moulles, Smoked Mackrel, Pates & Chutneys, as well of course as the meats and cheeses that wineries usually serve

We’re staying on a road where there are at least 40 wineries, vines everywhere you look, and spectacular mountain ranges either side of the valley.

Checking into the Marlborough Vintners Hotel, Sue was very excited about our ‘suite’ it’s HUGE

The Restaurant unfortunately didn’t match up in quality or efficiency, and 24hrs on its a bit crazy here, but Sue still loves the S P A C E.

We booked a Whale watching trip for when were in our next stop Kaikoura, Sue was really tickled by the fact that we have to meet at the WHALEWAY STATION

🤣🐋🐳🐬🤣

Thursday 22nd

Another of those dates etched in our minds, as our amazing offspring arranged us a VIP tasting at Cloudy Bay Winery, which we have been looking forward to ever since mid November and our early family Christmas, when we found out.

Arriving at the somewhat understated entrance then going inside to a cacophony of oriental voices we wondered how well this was going to go.

However, when we ‘checked in’ the atmosphere changed

There WAS no red carpet but it felt like we were stood on one!!! Matthias, their brand ambassador was brought out to meet us, a very charming young French guy from Bordeaux.

He took us through a 2 hour+ lesson in vines, viticulture, the history of the winery, the global group that own Cloudy Bay (same group as Veuve Cliquot), what’s behind the names of their 2 Special wines Te KOKO & Te WAHI and their fizz, PELORUS.

So Te Koko means The spoon, and in Maori legend the king carved out Cloudy Bay with a spoon, hence its shape.

Te Wahi, means ‘the place’ the grapes for this wine are actually grown in another vineyard of theirs in the central Otago region of NZ, and the reason they’re grown there is because ALL the elements required for a perfect Pinot Noir exist in Central Otago, so the winemaker declared it as ‘The Place’ for the vines to grow.

Lastly, Their fizz, Pelorus is named after a famous dolphin, Pelorus Jack who worked tirelessly for over 20 years guiding ships safely through French Pass, a tight gap out in the Marlborough Sounds.

We assumed Cloudy Bay was named for the sky? Wrong, that busy old fella Capt Cook named the Bay Cloudy because he thought the water wasn’t very clear, back in the year dot!!

Slightly deceiving therefore that on all but the 3 wines with names, the labels on CB wines feature this mountain as the label, with clouds swirling?

As well as all the above we of course tasted 8 of their wines in a very special room overlooking the mountain that features in the label.

This is their ‘boardroom’ so we felt very honoured to be in there, as well as the fact that our wine that we tasted came from the boardroom cellar 😮

Nice little touch with the Veuve Clicquot Tin

And the ORIGINAL watercolour to Create the Wine Labels

Matthias even took us into an area that a large Chinese group were being hosted in, as long as we were quiet 🤐

So here we were amongst ALL of their production of 2020 vintage Te Wahi 🤗 of course we tasted it, and even with 2 years to go it was pretty special 🍷🍷

Really special experience, thanks again, Marc, Lucy, Emily, Carly, Toby & Ben ❤️😘😘😘😘❤️

We think It might have been the high of our ‘experience’ that made lunch a bit of a let down, hey ho. we shared a table with a very pleasant Australian couple and talked about shared places but mostly about the Royal family, Brexit and Trump.

Back at the ranch, Sue fancied some exercise

This is a ‘rip off’ of a photo Sue gave to Gav (at his request) in August 1992, 3 or 4 weeks after they’d met. He was going away on a business trip and wanted to remember her 😜, it’d be helpful to remember Sue was only 36 at the time and had a swimsuit on with the white ‘cycling shorts’ in Ibiza, a different sight altogether.

Friday 23rd Feb.

As the main SH1 is closed due to landslides caused by the backlash of Cyclone GITA, we have to take a detour through Murchisson. Meaning a 6/7 hour trip to Kaikoura instead of 2 😩😩😩

However the scenery is fab so not a bad thing really, and the sky’s are the bluest blue.The amazing vineyards stretched for at least 10 miles.

Then Range after range of mountains, for 7 hours, with a minimum of 20 peaks in eyeshot at any one time, sometimes more. These are just a few and Sue was only looking in one direction each shot. A truly magnificent journey, sitting in the passenger seat with the camera, Gavin of course was of a different opinion from where he was sitting he was counting the roadwork holdups – he reckons at least 40 in a stretch of 200kms

Soon after Boyle River & Doubtful Valley we saw the most curious rock formations on the hillside

We passed through Rotherham, Sue Horner, you might be interested to know the Hotel’s for Sale😊

Further on we passed Hanmer Springs which looked like a lively area for Adrenalin thrill seekers. Soon after that, we came across Marble Point Winery, but resisted.

Then at last we reached the holy grail of Kaikoura. 5 hours after we should have done, but well worth the wait.

When Sue first saw the inventory she had Lemontree Lodge earmarked as superb, and it doesn’t disappoint

Sat 24th Feb

Up before the sun this morning

Sue’s hoping they’ll have a whale of a time today 🤣🐳🤣

………………..

Indeed we did, we saw 5 sperm whales, 2 pods of dolphins and a few seals.

An incredible operation, a small boat, only about 40/50 people and 5 expert crew.

The skipper was in touch with all kinds of sources and within 3 miles of the shore we spotted the first whale

The pattern is they’re on the surface for 10 mins or so, ‘blowing’, refilling their lungs, and in the case of this one, having a poo!! Then they dive again for 40/45 mins then come back to the surface to start the process again. The pattern of their actions is obviously quite set as our ‘commentator’ knew EXACTLY when each one was preparing to dive so gave us notice to get the video on

We then had to return to our seats v. Quickly as the skipper had the nod there was another a mile or so away, and we weren’t allowed to be standing up top while he was racing to the next spot, incredibly strict operation, but brilliantly safe as a result

After just catching this one as he dived back down, Only a few hundred yards away they spotted another, same pattern, same dive. We couldn’t believe our luck. After returning to our seats again

we raced out a couple of miles to see the 4th sighting same pattern again. You can see on the screen, the pic taken by the crew photographer, with a much better camera than our iPhone 8!!! They gave us loads of info whilst pinned to our seats, it really is very well done.

The skipper wanted us to see dolphins so again we raced across to a sighting of a pod of Dusky’s, by the time we got there, a third boat had joined the two existing ones, so we had to hang back until 1 left, as marine law says only 3 boats at a time.

As soon as one left he moved us in closer for this FANTASTIC show

Absolutely stunning

Then we were racing back again for our next whale sighting, getting a bit blasé now, didn’t even film it 😳

Our 2 hours was almost up but they took us really close to the shore where a small pod of dolphins were on the surface, we saw 4 of them but they didn’t stay on the surface for long enough to be caught on film 😳

Same as the numerous seals we saw, they were there, then gone back underwater.

Fantastic experience, that to be honest was more Gavin’s indulgence but Sue really enjoyed it too. The scenery of the Kaikoura peninsula was spectacular when no marine life were evident.

The staff of whalewatch were supremely professional and on several occasions left us in no doubt how grateful they were to all of us for showing up, with the main road closed both ways they fully expected a lot of no shows. They explained how the business nearly went under (pardon the pun) after the devastating earthquake in Kaikoura in 2016, they were just starting to get back to normal and the cyclone last week has knocked them for 6 again. Such a shame for them as they do a brilliant job, hope they can keep going.

The main road SH1, is still closed going south to Christchurch so we had to take the inland route – more spectacular scenery that We posted lots of yesterday, but here’s a couple showing yet another rock formation as we went through the Weka Pass, it’s an incredibly diverse landscape.

We passed a fab looking golf course – Pegasus – just before reaching Christchurch, but for various reasons decided against it.

So Sue won The NZ Leg 4-3

Gav won the Oz Leg 6-3

Sue calls this a 1-1 draw, Gav doesn’t 😳

So after more than 7000 kms up, down and all around these spectacular Islands our ‘road trip’ is over, tomorrow morning we take the car back then fly to Auckland to connect to our flight to Taihiti and our French Polynesian folly.

We had a fabulous time in Oz but this place is BEYOND SPECIAL, even though we’ve left it quite late in our lives to visit, it’s quite probable we’ll be back.

As with Oz we made some ‘observations’ along the way.

They’re more of a memory jog for us to look back on but you may find them worth a minute to read, random as they are 😊

Striking Difference in S vs N islands, ie mountains in South vs Hills in north – with the exception of the volcanoes in Ruapehu

The AA is very evident /visible here, in the travel and insurance industry, probably breakdown too.

Weather, over 50% of the time here has been overcast or raining, but we still love it.

Very good at advertising/signage around all their scenic stuff, and they love to Indicate, oldest, tallest, widest etc.

Marketing and TV advertising is quite basic/naive like Oz

The Maori culture is far more evident than we imagined, thrilled though we were to have been enlightened by it

On balance we much preferred the smaller towns to the big cities, with the exception of the capital, Wellington

Not enough beer without ‘fruit’

Shoes are disproportionately expensive

Peter Yealands Sav Blanc in Countdown for £6

Saw this brilliant road sign up in the north

Happy Valley – no exit

What a great thought 🤣🤣🤣

Cyclones and Earthquakes disrupt the place it seems on a regular basis yet they don’t appear to take pre-emptive action around landslides etc. They cause real issues for road users and ultimately their economy.

Jacinta their PM is very visible.

Apart from being hotel room neighbours in Waitangi, we’ve seen her on the TV almost every day

AVIS rent a car

You can’t take your car on the Interislander ferry

We had to pay to collect from the airport- when we’d already paid the hire charge???

We had to give our d licence and contact details at every hire, quite tiresome. Not just here, same in Oz??

They seem very keen on Doc Martin, the Chase and Lewis, they all seem to be on every other night

Estate Agents rarely advertise a price in the window, tender and auction sales seem to reign?

Just over 7000 Kmsin38 days + ?? Nautical and air miles on top

New Zealand North Island 11-19 Feb

Sunday 11th Feb

Our next destination is Taupo, only 50 miles away so we’ll ‘see some sights’ along the route, appropriately called the ‘Thermal Explorer Highway’

First stop, Waimangu, was not viable due to poor visibility on lake Rotomahana and the walkway not stable enough for our liking. We did see many steaming geysers along the way though. 👏 (pronounced guy ser)

Another abortive stop was at Waiotapo where we’d just missed the ‘ Lady Knox’ geyser erupting. 😳

Third time lucky? we stopped at Orakei Karako, crossed Lake Ohakuru in a boat and walked for an hour amongst NZ’s largest and most active geothermal site.

Absolutely Awesome Experience

Arriving At Lake Taupo early, we went to checkout Wairakei Golf, where we’re due to play on Tuesday, if it ever stops raining !!!All looked FAB so 🤞🏼

We’d been recommended by Gavin’s brother Neil to go to Huka Lodge, being very close to the golf course we went to check it out. Sue was headed off before getting inside the door, by an over zealous receptionist ‘Do you have a reservation? ‘ No said Sue, we just wanted to check out the restaurant and make a booking. ‘Sorry we’re fully booked until April because we only cater for residents in high season’ Sue feels it may have been because she didn’t look the part in her drowned rat state, but Gavin was secretly delighted because it probably would have cost a small fortune .

Down the road from there we saw signs to Huka Falls, despite there being almost as much water coming from the sky as there was in the falls, we braved it to get these pics. We think it was worth it

Checking in to our ‘very dated’ hotel, with ‘allegedly’ a lake view. Sue got on with the laundry while Gavin caught up with the Sports/News.

For a brief few moments the mist cleared and we could see life on land across the water, so we definitely had a lake view.

The crater of the lake is a caldera apparently from the world’s LARGEST volcano eruption, over 25000 years ago, this is just a corner of it that we overlook

We’re at the blue dot on the map

Monday 12th Feb

Hoorah-we have sunshine and a beautiful view

We took the 3k walk along the bustling lakeside

Golf tomorrow is looking unlikely so we’ve brought it forward to today 🤞🏼🤞🏼🤞🏼🤞🏼🤞🏼🤞🏼🤞🏼for fine or just dry weather.

Very enjoyable game, Sue now 4-2 up in NZ, but Gavin’s very keen to remind everyone he won the Aussie leg 6-3 so he says he’s leading 8 7 😒

In the bar we were chatting to 2 young Aussie guys, they’d played Cape Kidnappers the day before but they preferred today’s course. This cheered Gavin up as Cape Kidnappers would have cost us over £550 to play !!!!!!

Anyway, these boys had won their week long trip playing at all the top NZ courses. All inclusive of everything, a prize worth about £10,000. One of them, Jai had only recently taken up the game and by buying his clubs he qualified for all these ‘raffle tickets’ and he won the prize. His brother in law Darren was delighted to accompany him as he’d introduced him to the game in the first place.

Lucky boys, great to meet them.

Back at the hotel we were rewarded with this totally amazing sky, so pleased we saw Taupo in a good light, although the last pic didn’t hide what was promised for tomorrow.

Monday 13th Feb

Rainy day again, so the scenery that we should have seen, on our way to Napier, was unfortunately kept under a wrap of mist. Were pretty sure it would have been good though.

Napier is the Art Deco Capital of NZ. Due to an earthquake in 1931, it was rebuilt almost immediately in the prevailing style of the day.

Hawkes Bay – the wider area – is abundant with wineries.

We visited the granddaddy of them all, and enjoyed a good wine tasting and a very nice lunch.

Mission Estate was established in 1851, when a group of Marist missionaries left Lyon, France, with the express intention of growing vines on the North Island if NZ. They had a few abortive attempts at finding the correct setting, but eventually moved to Church road where theyve been ever since

They not only dug up and replanted the vines, but they also dismantled the Lodge into 16 pieces, rolled them on logs up the hill and rebuilt it in its current location

Later, a walk along Marine Parade on the sea front gave us glimpse of the pier, Gisborne to the left (N) and Cape Kidnappers to the right (S)

Note the REALLY black sand

Tuesday 14th Feb aka Valentine’s Day ❤️❤️

Full-on sight seeing day ahead.

Te Mata was a definite ‘not to be missed’ and we’re so glad we didn’t – great panoramic views from the top

This vista is situated above North Havelock, a suburb of Hastings.

We picked our lunch venue from the top of Te Mata, too early too ear or taste wine though so we drove in search of the ‘golden’ sands of Ocean Beach, strange how they contrast with black sands at Napier only 20km along the coast??

Not being dressed for swimming Sue was pleased to see people quite a way out, so took a cooling paddle out towards them.

What she didn’t notice was the deeper part in between 😳 dress a little wet, she turned back to the car

Cape Kidnappers was the next place on our list, a huge sanctuary of gannets live here, as do the super rich. 😮. The hotel here is allegedly amongst the top 50 in the world, and with golf at over £550 for 2, we decided against it.

We did think we’d be able to at least ‘drive by’ and visit the pro shop, but ‘not a bit of it’ about as secure as Fort Knox. Never mind

We had to just settle for looking at the rather unattractive beach instead.

Back to Craggy Range Winery for a lovely lunch, and a tasting of their quite quaffable wines. 😊 A very smart enterprise, owned by an American/Australian family, who’ve set up a trust that ensures their vineyard and winery operation will not be sold outside of the family for 1000 years !!!

moving on, we couldn’t have a sightseeing day out in NZ without a waterfall, so we drove the 10 miles or so to Maraetotara.

Totally Different scale to Huka Falls in Taupo, but picturesque none the less.

Enhanced by Sue overhearing a lady speaking Spanish to her 2 children, who’d all been swimming in the crystal clear water below the falls.

They were from Vina del Mar in Chile and were amazed that we’d even heard of it let alone stayed there, 4 years ago on our South American trip. They’re here as her husband secured a job as a design engineer in Napier, strange that they couldn’t find a local who’d probably have done the job for much less money????? didn’t say that to Mari Lu though. 😜

Last stop was the ‘CITY’ of Hastings where we’d previously planned to play golf, but couldn’t as the course was closed for maintenance ??

We had a quick scoot through to admire some of the Spanish Mission style architecture that the town is famed for.

so our short stay in Napier is nearly over. Shame that we’re missing the Art Deco festival that’s taking place here this weekend, there’s already lots of 30’s style vintage dressed people around town, looking like they’ve stepped off the set of Peaky Blinders 😜

We saw just such a couple in their very stylish car this morning, oddly we’d seen in Taupo a few days ago, but we didn’t get the relevance at the time!!!!

Thursday 15th Feb

We had to take a little detour on the way to Ohakune, via Taupo to collect something we left at the hotel.

So we actually saw the superb scenery that we’d missed in the misty murk of Tuesday.

Reluctantly leaving Lake Taupo for the second time, with the snow dusted Mount Ruapehu In the distance, we were keen to see what our next destination has to offer us.

Arriving at Ruapehu Golf & Country Lodge to early to check in, we decided that a round at Waimarino Golf would be our first undertaking 😜

We could have walked through the garden of the lodge to arrive on the 3rd tee. Driving there meant we could pick up a trolley and start at the first hole🏌🏽‍♀️, which made more sense to us.

Our first experience of a golf club with an honesty box for your payment, prior to our payment the box must have been as EMPTY as the course !!!!! Seriously there was no one else there.

I’m not gonna lie, we’re not talking Wentworth or even Badgemore quality, but some neat holes and 3 hours of excercise is what was delivered. And some great views too with the Might Mount Ruapehu visible from many holes.

Plus a little bit of humour on hole 1

In case you can’t read it

‘Bury me on the golf course so my my husband will visit’

Next stop the visitor centre to plan tomorrow’s sightseeing.

Armed with more info than we needed we went back to our very ‘nice’ Boutique BnB, run by Heather and Peter, he’s from Wolverhampton, emigrated over 50 years ago on the £10 ticket. Quite a character who works tirelessly on keeping the 3 acre grounds looking tip top. With the neatest driveway hedge you’ve ever seen.

We ventured into ‘town’ if you can call Ohakune that, had supper and watched the sun go down.

Friday 16th Feb

Breakfast around the table with our fellow guests and hosts 😳 Gavins worst nightmare, he can’t bear the small talk with strangers bit, much prefers an impersonal hotel setting.

Not too soon for Gavin, we left to get on with our day in the UNESCO listed Tongariro National Park. It covers 79,000 hectares – stretching from here to the bottom edge of Lake Taupo, and incorporates 3 mighty volcanoes, Tongariro, Ngauruhoe & Ruapehu, which is NZ’s largest ACTIVE Volcano and the North Islands highest peak at just over 9000′

Ruapehu last erupted in 2006 but 11 years before there was a massive one that lasted for 3 months !!!!!!

Fabulous day walking, riding in a chair lift, spotting waterfalls having lunch and a bit of driving in between.

Gavin selflessly ( because it meant he couldn’t have a drink) drove us half an hour up Mount Ruapehu to see a wonderful sunset, that had 2 additional bonuses.

1. Mount Ruapehu ‘changed colour’ in the setting sunlight.

Also, Mount Taranaki, previously out of sight, became visible with the sunlight behind it, from an incredible 90km away.

Wonderful ❤️❤️

Saturday 17th Feb

Arriving in Wellington, after 4 seasons in one morning. It looks like it’s just the wind we have to deal with whilst sightseeing the Capital City this afternoon.

Boy is it windy, Sue assumes it’s a backlash from Cyclone Gita that struck Tonga this week and is heading our way 💨💨💨

The waterfront is bustling with people trying to keep their hats on, some gorgeous old buildings housing the fine art gallery and the Wellington museum mingling with the modern structures housing bars and restaurants.

Back inland a large statuesque building caught our eye

This lead us naturally to the parliament complex, where 3 distinctly different buildings are linked by glass corridors.

Chuchlike – 18xx library

Beautiful Greystone – 1918/19xx refurb-old parliament bldg

The Beehive- 1970’s – current one where Jacinta has her office on 9th floor

The station is also a very fine looking building

Gavin was curious about when the Blackcaps are coming – the flags say they are, but not when?

After our meal we were entertained by the Chinese New Year fireworks 💥 not quite Sydney standards but 15 mins of ooohs & ahhhs

Sunday 18th Feb

A wonderful day in windy Wellington, visiting galleries, museums, riding the cable car to Kelburn and walking back down through the beautiful botanic gardens. Fantastic Sunday sights

Amazing wooden bridge structure that nobody had any idea about, except that it was displaying woodworking skills, and providing a way to cross the water?

The Te Papa museum is a magnificent installation covering all aspects of NZ history

Gavins favourite, where he spent 55 mins was the Anzac display, depicting the WW1 Gallipoli campaign using words & experiences of 8 NZ soldiers actually involved.

Sue preferred the Awesome Forces installation covering earthquakes and volcano eruptions,90% of the locations featured, we’ve been to on this trip.

After several hours of looking at ‘stuff’ we sat outside for lunch in Beautiful sunshine, with intermittent GUSTS, one of which blew Sues wine off the table 💨💨💨🥂

To Lampton Quay – which is the main shopping street, nowhere near the water BTW? To ride the historic fernicular railway to Kelburn.

Magnificent view from the top,

Sorry these 2 below are blocking the view a bit 😜

Funny story around this.

These elderly Americans asked Sue to take a pic of them, having chosen the aspect they wanted, the asked if we wanted one of us, so we just stood where they stood !!!!

That’s not the funny bit, chatting to them they live in El Dorado Hills, Sacramento – just doors away from our lovely friends Vicki & Tony, the lady said she knew who they were, from our description, and that she’d pop round and send them our love when she gets home 🤣🤣🤣🤣

So Vicki, don’t be surprised if this 80 something stranger knocks on your door sometime soon.

She looks like this – side on, it would’ve been rude to take a full frontal and they didn’t volunteer their names. How small is this world ????????

Beautiful walk down the hill through the Botanic Gardens

There was a HUGE rose garden, unfortunately most of them were past there best.

These one’s, however were still looking fabulous n peachy.

Looking at the name they’re called ‘My Mum’

Sue thought how apt, her mum is still looking Fabulous n peachy, and she’d love to see all this ❤️

Monday 19th Feb

Eagerly queuing to board the Interislander ferry to take us back to the ‘Beautiful South’. Gavin turned around to see Marion & Neil Macadam, right behind us !!!!!!! For the second time in less than 24 hrs, we were struck by just how small the world is. We compared notes about where we’d been and we’ll hopefully see them again in the next few days as they’re viditing the same/similar areas as we are. As they used the same travel agent we agreed that Savile Row have done a fabulous job for us all. 👏👏

Fantastically smooth and scenic crossing from Wellington to Picton, Sue had read that it’s ‘the most scenic ferry crossing in the WORLD’ and we certainly don’t disagree.

Howling winds from the oncoming cyclone made it really hard to stand on deck so some pics are from inside – apologies.

As we wave a very FOND farewell to the North, we enjoyed the diversity of this Island, but we are busting to get back to the beautiful south to enjoy what the Marlborough region especially has to offer.

Next update on/around the 25th

North Island 2-10 Feb

Friday 2nd Feb

Late night flight, even later after a delay, in bed soon after midnight at the Grand Mercure Auckland. The smallest room of our trip so far – not much bigger than our motor home 😳

Auckland Sat 3rd Feb

We were a little shell shocked after the past 2 days adventures so perhaps weren’t as enthusiastic about Auckland as we might have been.

As it was a drizzly rain type of day we went up the sky city tower for a view of where we’d like to visit.

Not such a great view after all, too cloudy.

Sue found some mischief to get up to – nothing new there

Wahiki island looked interesting and had been recommended by our friends the Poulson’s who’d been there the week before, as we were car 🚗 less for the weekend we opted for Devonport which was walkable once leaving the ferry

Delightfully quaint little town, great lunch at Dixie Browns, a little bit of retail therapy in the way of Sketchers flip flops which made the hike up Memorial Hill REALLY comfortable.

The 360 views from the top were well worth the walk

Dinner in our hotel on 13th floor with super rainbow sunset view over the harbour, and a rain distorted city view after dark

Sunday 4th Feb

Our Maitre’D waxed lyrical about his home town, an hour out of Auckland on our way far north to Taipa.

We conclusively agree that Matakana is not worth the 20k detour, I’m sure we missed the bits that Tom clearly loved very much.

Moving on, the landscape continued to be VERY different from the dramatic mountainscapes of a few days ago in the South Island ,

Undulating and very green would best describe our views.

Curiously ‘shabby’ houses and more livestock on the road

Further on, after driving through 18k of hairpin bends and Ponga (silver fern) tree clad Waipoua Forest

we were rewarded with this view on the other side

Oponomi was like an Oasis in a dessert, bohemian population but scenically special.

6 hours after leaving Auckland with a 4 hour drive ahead, we reached Taipa ???? Not sure why the extra time as we didn’t stop for more than 45mins tops ???

It’s true what everyone says, NZ roads take longer – no problem.

Taipa was just a means to an end because our Bay of Islands hotel didn’t have room for us until 5th.

Nice view from our room over Doubtless Bay though, and actually, surprisingly delicious salt n pepper squid for supper🐙

Monday 5th Feb

Short drive today to make our 10.00 T time at Waitangi Golf Club.

Where the Sea meets the Tee

Lovely people, fantastic scenery and great anticipation of Waitangi celebrations tomorrow.

A lot of the government ceremonial stuff happened when we were playing golf, right next door to the upper treaty grounds.

Diplomatic Cars and helicopters were everywhere we looked.

The golf club staff told us that Jacinta, their pregnant PM was staying at our Hotel 😲

The security outside and 2 doors down from our room proved that she was closer than we thought. 😮

Fantastic view right over the Bay of Islands 🌴 right from our balcony.

Amanda P had recommended a ferry ride to Russell and to eat at the Duke of Marlborough, we could see it across the bay from us. We had a beautiful meal and a super sunset before heading back across the water.

Tuesday 6th Feb

Another one of those milestone dates, set in stone since we first booked this trip.

Happy Birthday to our lovely friend Maree, she was born here on WAITANGI DAY, and it’s because of her suggestion, that we’re here now enjoying this special event. Thanks again Maree 🍷❤️

It’s the date and place where the treaty to give the UK sovereignty over NZ was first signed back in 1840 Between Capt James Hobson & several Maori chiefs.

The day started with a Dawn ‘Church’ service, we missed that but we saw on breakfast TV that Jacinta (PM) was serving breakfasts 🍳 she’s a game girl.

Sue’s first glimpse of the day was a spectacular sunrise at 06.45

a bit later Sue popped down to get something from car to see that the Maori were in the Wakas (Canoes) on the water, sorry no camera so no pics of that but there were more later .

Then they reassembled for a GIANT Haka on the beach, more frustration, as boats kept cutting across the viewpoint, how very dare they!!!

We were just moving away when we heard a ROAR

We wandered all around the events, spread over several square miles and saw a great variety of performances and traditions. We were a bit surprised that they made Jacinta stand on parade in the baking hot sun for so long, in her condition, but she probably had a choice. 😳

Here’s a sample of what the day looked like to us.

Thursday 7th February

We were warned that the traffic leaving Waitangi heading south is likely to be heavy so we were out by 9.30

Even though Hamilton – our destination – was only just over an hour away, once we were South of Auckland – we took a detour.

Gavin wasn’t best pleased at the prospect but as we’d heard that Hamilton ‘leaves a little to be desired’ and it was due to rain all afternoon, Sue preferred the idea of exploring the Coromandel Peninsula.

Drawn first to a town called THAMES, how could we not go there 😊

A prosperous looking town – probably due to the gold mining heritage.

We could have retraced our steps but that would have been boring right? So we went to Waihi Beach, beautiful scenery enroute

and wild waves when we arrived.

Driving from there to Hamilton we passed many dairy installations so we weren’t surprised to learn later that Milk is big business in this part of Waikato.

Hamilton looks a bit like Bracknell with a river running through it. Sorry if that’s harsh😳 but let’s see if St Andrews Golf course can score the town more brownie points tomorrow.

Thursday 8th Feb

Beautiful day at St Andrews Golf.

Very friendly staff, greens superb, fairways nothing short of diabolical. Never mind.

Didn’t take a single pic !!!!!!

Took a drive out to Raglan where they have black sand, they think it’s quite a phenomenon but on the Eastern end of the Costa Del Sol we have it so not new to us

Pretty harbour/beach area and a buzzy little town

On the way back to the DULL town of Hamilton, we saw a sign to Bridal Veil Falls. So we parked up and took the half hour walk through the dense rain forest, and it was surprisingly impressive

Before we went back to the hotel Gavin wanted to find the Waikato Chiefs Rugby stadium, it looked surprisingly small- sorry forgot to take a pic😳 but he’s happy that he’ll now recognise it when he watches a game from there when we’re back home 😊

Friday 9th Feb

Hamilton garden is well publicised around the town, so we popped in. What a treat, fabulous formal gardens from several places around the world.

Such a shame it was raining so no blue sky backdrop

first the Italian Renaissance

English Country Garden

Indian Garden, Sues favourite, architecturally

Japanese

Tropical

Tudor

Random plants

Hamilton you redeemed yourself, anybody visiting this town you mustn’t miss the Garden

Friday 9th in Rotorua

A rainy day in Rotorua, it’s actually forecast to rain for a week so we just had to get out there and take a look.

The area is famed for its geothermal activity, so there are plenty of ‘escape outlets’ all over the town, as the lady in the visitor centre explained, it’s all bubbling beneath the whole town so without these outlets it would just blow !!!!!

What a great ambassador she is for making you feel comfortable 😳

Odd ain’t it 😳

Our hotel has a thermal pool -sulphur in the naturally warm water – about 35 degrees. So we gave that a go to try and ease the backaches we’ve both developed since picking up our Mondeo at Auckland😒😒

It seemed to help a bit, might give it another go tomorrow.

Later, Strolling aroundbefore supper we looked at what must be a great view on a sunnier day

Then we found a street food mall

So good, and so much choice !!!!!

Saturday 10th Feb

Raining again today, but are we downhearted? Just atad 😒

Anyway we went to Te Puia to see the incredible geyser activity, far more intense than those we saw yesterday,

The hotel you can see in the background was closed down a month ago as geologists, who constantly check all areas for safety, deemed that the mud pools in front of the hotel are growing at such a rate that they are too close to the hotel foundations 😳

After this we took shelter in the Rotowhio Marae – meeting house – where we were entertained with a cultural show including many traditional songs and dances.

Their leader was the campest Haka performer We’ve seen, very good though, as were the rest of his family.

We saw a sign for a vineyard, but had to take the gondola up the mountain to get there 😜 Hardly being able to see a hand in front of our face it didn’t look like the best investment of time. However, Volcanic Hills wine tasting was superb, Sara and Johnny were very knowledgeable about their products, they made us feel very welcome and the 5 wines were all great. Followed by a superb sharing platter.

The weather even lifted enough to see the vague shadow of Mokoio Island in the middle of the lake

Another dip in the Thermal pool back at the ranch to end a great day in the

New Zealand South Island Part 1- corrupted I think?

Christchurch

Thursday 18th Jan

Arrived at 05.00am from Melbourne, which to our bodies was 03.00 am.

Car hire desk attendant the oddest person I’d met for a loooong while, it took her an hour to dispense our car, charging us $50 extra for collecting it from the airport, amongst other nonsensical stuff. 😩

We then had nowhere to go as our hotel was full, so we just drove out to Sumner to look at the shore.

The ‘land of the long white cloud’ wasn’t living up to expectations so far, through no fault of its own.

After a rest and refresh we ventured out to the beautiful botanic gardens, very nice n English.

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lias, lilies & fuscias growing outside at this time of year 🙃 at this time of year, great sculptures too. Another of the countless places that made me think 'Cat W would love it here' ❤️

Really interesting visitor centre, one part of which covered the fact that Christchurch are one of a dozen Botanical gardens around the world who are collecting seeds to be part of a Millennium collection at Kew, who knew ??? Must visit Kew when we get back, we’ve never been.

Gavin was keen to visit the Quake museum, telling the story of the disastrous earthquakes that hit the city in 2010/11, unfortunately it was closed😳

So we jumped on the tram and did the city tour instead.

The place is still devastated 7+ years on. Apparently the local government are notoriously bad at making decisions, hence the slowest progress.

The biggest impact on town buildings happened in the Cathedral quarter, the Cathedral is still standing in its half blown apart state.

Curiously they have a ‘Temporary’ made out of CARDBOARD???? With some wood and glass surrounding it. They say it’ll be in use for the next 50 years !!!!!

As a lot of retail units were also destroyed, a shopping mall sprung up in Shipping Containers, still there 7 yrs on !!!!

New Regent St, not far away from the Cathedral remained intact, with its Spanish influenced 1932 architecture. Apparently soon after the quakes nobody would go near but it’s been regenerated with pavement cafes and is always buzzy now.

We didn’t see it, but, , slightly out of the city in the New Brighton area, huge swathes of domestic properties were ‘in the red zone’ ie condemned.

A Terrible natural phenomenon that doesn’t look like it’s bricks n mortar casualties are going to be healed anytime soon, sadly.

Cocktails at the ‘prohibition’ themed OGB followed by the the best Thai food we’ve eaten in a very long time, at Keoh Thai.

Thursday 19th Jan There are loads of pics – no apologies 😆

We Set off early as we knew Akaroa was supposed to be gawjuss.

There was a straight road, but we’d learned in Tassie that the long road is often best so we took a turn to Diamond harbour, which turned out to be a real gem, even with grey skies above.

Ker Ching, absolutely the right decision, 😲 ooohs and 😮 aaahs every few minutes. We also got to see several other bays and luscious landscapes.

Soon after Port Levy the road became a track for 12 miles or so but who cares, it was a beautiful drive. Our lovely Mazda isn’t so shiny anymore though!!!!

We called in at Akaroa Cottages to see if we could check in early but no luck, hey ho. Less than 2k away is the cutesy little town of Akaroa, where we easily whiled away the few hours until 2pm. We both said it’s like Franchoek SA with a waterfront, many of the street names are French due to the historic connection, when a French sea captain came here and negotiated the French acquisition with the Maori chiefs. In 1840 he returned to France to bring settlers back. Meanwhile the British had claimed the whole area??? A bit of Maori double dealing or British Bullying, who knows. Anyway the French made a small settlement hence the street names, also a lot of Germans settled & descendants of the British sea captain still live in the town today.

We tried to book a boat trip but no luck, Sue fancies having a go at body boarding so may do that later.

Back at our Cottage, everything is perfect

Sue manages to find a sunny spot to read a few chapters of Mightier than the Sword 7th in a Jeffrey Archer collection of 8 books. ‘The Clifton Chronicles’ series is easy reading about the highs n lows of the family business and all concerned.

Gavin sits under the ceiling fan indoors and catches up on the sport, news and FB

As late afternoon approaches, the sun is shining beautifully on the hills to the left of our back yard.

The girl in last nights Thai restaurant told us that the fish and 🍟 here are THE BEST in the 🌎? We’re going to try them later, we’ll let you know.

Before our supper we had a sundowner at the beautifully located ‘Harbar’ – not sure if it’s always this way but the the clientele were mostly our age and English???

The views over the harbour into the setting sun were spectacular. There are some young girls diving off a pontoon to the left of the pic. Brought back happy childhood holiday memories for both of us, when you spent all day doing this and never got bored ❤️❤️

We Absolutely agree about the Chip shop, we had Hoki and chips, FAB. Gavin had Coki, Sue ‘turned around’ but stuck to water 😜 👌🏼👍

looking back over ‘Harbar’ and towards our cottage in the hills.

Last evening view of this great place from our backyard, Sue doesn’t want to leave but Gavin wants to push on early in the morning for Oamaru ??

Saturday 20th Jan

Sue obviously presented her case well as we didn’t leave Until 2.30pm 👌🏼👌🏼

Busy morning on the water with Sue ‘having a try’ at paddle boarding. Start on your knees said the guy, then when you feel comfortable stand up, sounds simple enough??? Oh and he said keep away from the rocks as if you capsize you could damage the board!!!!!! First class customer service????

Despite trying and failing to stand up 3 times, the verdict. ‘It was good fun, but my knees were shot when returning to the slipway, not sure how I didn’t fall over’

Gavin thankfully was too far away to take pics of the 3 times Sue ended up in the water when trying to stand up. If you look very closely above you’ll see Sue ‘halfway to standing’

Luckily the sun was gorgeous so strolling up and down, when able to walk again, meant Sue was dry enough in no time. Obviously she had prepared dry clothes but with our upcoming Jet Boat trip, the dry clothes were saved until after that.

Gavin treated himself to a new hat but prefers wearing it this way around

The jet boat was a pretty hairy experience, with rewards though.

This Black Beast of a boat, laden with 17 of us travelled ‘relatively’ slowly whilst near to the harbour, but once in the open water we flew across the surface at over 48 knots – more than 50 mph !!!!!

The agenda was to hug the coast out to the heads, visit the caves, see Elephant Head rock, bump across the bay to the salmon farm, then have some fun 😳 with some spins!!!! All sounded good but Sue wasn’t looking forward to the Spins.

For any sceptics, these pics are not photoshopped in anyway, the blues were REALLY this blue !!!!

We saw all that was planned plus some seals, dolphin fins and a little blue penguin, not quick enough with the camera for the first 2 but here’s the penguin ??

The shore – A welcome site to Sue who felt that she’d been inside a washing machine that was on full spin, that then decided to spin the other way, several times – RIDICULOUS, but everyone else loved that bit, must be our age ????

Journey to Oamaru from Akoroa was much flatter once we’d climbed out of the beautiful valley.

For certainly the last 160km was the dark outline of what we assume are the southern alps, looking like a big blue whale to our right. At one point we saw the sharper peak that turned out to be Mount Cook- we saw. a sign. Strange that we were driving down the east coast, and Mt Cook, Ostensibly the Western edge of the country was only 200km away to our right. Odd also that the mountains are so clearly visible, from such a distance, not clearly enough for an I phone pic – Sorry. 😒

Arrived at our very adequate and newly refurbed Motel on Thames St. Oamaru.

Highfield Mews location is not a patch on Akaroa last night, but it’s absolutely fine. Having read all the blurb we made our way to Scott’s Beer Company 😒

Buzzy place where we met 2 different groups of people, the first a couple who were doing our trip the other way around, and had other commonalities with us-except we saw them later and they had matching anoraks on 😜.

The others were a family, just lovely and gave us their number and asked us to look them up when we’re in Wanaka!!!!

A quick walk after supper at Portside and we saw this huge collection of Cormorants & Shag on the boardwalk. We only know that as we bumped into our ‘mates’ in their anoraks and they told us 🤣🤣🤣

Sunday 21st Jan
Driving out of Town today
hat there must have been quite a lot of money / commerce around here back in the day. Not so now though.

We’d read about Moerakibeing a scenic spot so we decided we’d breakfast there enroute to Dunedin. We both agree that on a sunny day it’s probably stunning but not so much covered in cloud

Next stop Dunedin vape shop, as Gavins life support machine was playing up 🤣. He’s now the proud owner of 2 shiny new ones.

While waiting in the car Sue discovered this place, which we just had to visit

Not a patch on ours, but curious nonetheless.

The cloud cover was still very heavy so all we could see of Dunedin were the very dated buildings and the industrial harbour that our hotel overlooks. We had a wander and checked out what’s not to miss in and around theseparts, so we have a full day ahead for Monday. This afternoon however we had a T time booked at St Clair. It’s a Fairly high course, so at first the clouds covered the near distant view, After half a dozen holes we were rewarded with this

And then this A few holes further on And lastly a view of the sea AND the harbour

Great golf with great views – perfect 👌🏼

Some of you may know that the steepest residential street in the world is in Dunedin. We found it, Gavin would’ve been happy just to go, get a pic from the bottom and get out of there, Can’t do that can you!!!

This and the view back down we’re a worthy reward for braving the upslope😜

Street Art is quite a thing here, but this piece tells the story of Baldwin Street.

Monday 22nd Jan

New Zealand South Island Part 2

To Queenstown

Thursday 25th Jan

2 and bit hours after leaving lake Manapouri, Driving towards Queenstown, 33 degrees in a bowl surrounded by mountains on all 4 sides 😲

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Our first glimpse of Lake Wakatipu, followed it for 45 Kms into Queenstown, where it stretches for a further 40k from there 😮

The views just got better and better from there

None better than in the town itself

It’s REALLY busy here, but what stunning surroundings.

Our Novotel is right on the edge of the lake and in the middle of town, so we ditched the car and went to investigate.

Sue’s first impressions were that it reminded her of Whistler BC in 🇨🇦

The stone of the buildings and the sight of a Gondola running up the mountain perhaps?

Our next impression was that it was full to bursting with backpackers and the only things to do ‘in town’ were adrenalin rushing extreme sports. Not our thing, so we booked a round of golf at Queenstown Golf Club for the next day. The hustle n bustle in Queenstown was a huge shock to the system after the tranquility of Doubtful Sound.

Friday 26th Jan Golf was brilliant, and as their website says, a photo opportunity on every hole.

Firstly though, we parked right next door to a cousin of our car, we left them admiring the view and went off to play.

A bit scorched but the greens were good.

rounds= 2-0 to Sue in NZ 😜⛳️🏌🏽‍♀️

After a relaxing afternoon, we fancied a trip up the hill, we asked the concierge the best way to the Gondola station, which he pointed out on a map, seemed simple but by the time we reached the bottom we’d, seriously, walked half way up the mountain !!!!!!

From the top we had Remarkable views of the mountain range of the same name 😂 plus all the other fab mountains around, and of course the wonderful lake Wakatipu which looks like the ocean. We could also see the golf course on the 2nd of the peninsulas in the pic.

Crazy guys with their bikes 🚴 hooked onto the gondola cars were arriving to cycle back down – really 🤞🏼

We could also see the luge track below us which didn’t look as impossible from above, and we regretted not opting for that ☹️

Back down on Terra Firma we ate Malay street food and hung out with the kids in the harbour till after dark 😉

Saturday 27th

Leaving the mayhem of the majestic Queenstown, We set out for Cromwell and the wine areas ahead.

Arrowtown was our first stop, what a gorgeous little town it is, a bit like a street in America in the days of the gold rush, but also some gorgeous boutiques with ‘Sue, you need this’ on a few garments 😂 Next we’d been recommended by two friends to visit Chard Farm winery, Gavin did a tasting and we came away with a cheeky bottle of their Reisling, Dave – our soon to be Godson in law – that’s not a real title, but Rosie Hunters Fiancée, will be pleased to know he converted us.

A curious building, kinda Mexican/french?

Right next to the ORIGINAL bungee jumping bridge

Our Hotel is ON a golf course, but when push comes to shove…………..

Mount Difficulty Winery won over.

Wine Tasting followed by an amazing lunch with jaw dropping views, very different from Queenstown, more arrid and reminiscent of ‘the back way’ to Malaga airport from our place in Spain

Apart from grapes, the Cromwell area is famous for growing fruit

Lots of roadside stalls, so we indulged