March 2019 Sydney adventures- Blue Hills and Pink Diamonds and Edinburgh

Day 39

Another day of sightseeing- this time on a real touristy bus. Not to my liking I’m afraid but useful to see a wider area- Bondi Beach and get off at a few sites.

I had to go back to finish paying for my beautiful pink diamond ring today and have the fitting checked as the jeweller had to enlarge it a little. Trying it on again made me smile , just looking at this delicate little band of Argyle pink diamonds in rose gold between the white ones. I am crazy to do this but it will become an heirloom for my granddaughter. And naturally give me great pleasure and wonderful memories of my trip of s lifetime..

I went down to see the light show again on the Opera House only to be disappointed once more!

Day 40

Up early to catch a train to the Blue Hills. A 2 hour journey on a double decker train. Lovely and comfortable train, leather seats that you could move to face whichever way you liked, smooth and easy to nod off! We travelled through the suburbs of Sydney and out into the forested hills. Forest for as far as you can imagine seeing. Breathtaking even on a train. We caught s circular bus, splitting st the Scenic Centre so I could do a series of walks along the cliffs, in the forest and down to waterfalls and viewpoints. A stunning and exhilarating day walking in natural rainforest. I didn’t mind walking on my own, in fact loved it, meeting people and chatting on the bus, then having some quiet in the walk. I listened for birds I can only imagine, but actually saw a few too- a lure bird fanning its tail feathers making s rattling noise, some squawking yellow headed white cockatoos wildly flying about like uncontrolled adolescents, three brown birds that showed flashes of red and white when they flew past in the trees but virtually disappeared when still. Lots of sounds I cannot describe or name. The treks down to waterfalls were taxing and there were so many steps- some so steep they were like ladders, some quite scary and I had to go down backwards and take a deep breath! One bridge across from a cliff face to a rock formation called The Three Sisters was particularly knee trembling! It’s was all stunning and well worth the effort for my knees and back, even though the temperature rose beyond 30 degrees. Luckily there was plenty of dappled shade to keep me relatively cool. When I met up with my brother I still looked like a lobster but from the exertion of the steep walking rather than sunburn. I absolutely loved it and was buzzing as we stopped off for an early dinner in a town on the way back to Sydney called Parametta. We arrived back at 8 pm – after catching the 8.14am train this morning. Wow what a day.

However there was a small matter of the light show on Sydney Opera House to deal with. Should I make one final attempt. Of course. And yes it WAS worth it. A wonderful animated sequence of 7 minutes of visual delight in Aboriginal style. Just as it finished he heavens opened and I was drenched as we all ran down The Memorial steps for cover. I treated myself to Guylain ice cream as a reward for being so persistent and determined to see this light show!

Returning to the apartment I left my final packing until the morning and after a shower dropped – yes literally dropped- into bed.

Day 41

Aftee final pack and breakfast we put our luggage into storage and headed off in different directions- me to Bondi Beach and L&A into the city. We arranged to meet at Wharf 6 for the Harbour Cruise in the afternoon. I took the train and bus to Bondi Beach and walked the full length of the beach. It was dull and cloudy but I loved being there. Hardy surfers were out as the waves were big. It was good to watch their efforts – one Guy was quite stunning doing somersaults, others just learning. There were joggers and walkers, no one sitting on the beach. I looked at the saltwater swimming pool, a bit bigger than the one in Dunedin but similar. Watched the waves crashing like cymbals on the cliffs at each end of the bay. I’m quite glad it’s not too hot as it’s less busy.

As the rain began to spit I found a little cafe on a corner. It was becoming humid. Had a vegan salad and chai tea, perfect. The cafe was run by the church next door for young vulnerable people to give them a start. They were so welcoming. Caught the bus the whole way back to watch the journey more and decided to try and see if they had any places left on the 2 pm Opera House tour. My luck was in. After thinking it might be boring I was pleasantly surprised. It was fascinating- the architect was Danish after winning a competition it was such an innovative design there were many delays and problems. It’s built like the engineering of a bridge. I really enjoyed the tour. I walked round the wharfs until I found number 6 and sat and waited for their cruise ship to come in. They loved their cruise too.

We went back to the hotel and waited for our taxi and then started our journey home. The flight was at 21.45pm and was on time. The first flight was 16 hours during which I started with horrendous leg and back pain- the worse I’ve had so painkillers were needed regularly, but I did manage 3 hours sleep in between films.

Day42

In Dubai I bought some amazing dates- chocolate covered, stuffed with pistachios and different flavours. The second flight was 8 hours and boring, in s smaller plane- not a double decker like the others – narrower seats. Made it to Edinburgh.

Day 43

A Day in Edinburgh- after visiting the Fruitmarket Gallery where the exhibit wasn’t open so had chai tea and an absolutely gorgeous cake, I went to the City gallery to see some interesting photography. Then I made my pilgrimage to the Cafe Royal only to find that they were refurbishing it and it was closed. Disaster. Decided to go to Portobello beach. After a walk on the beach I had mushroom soup and proper fresh ginger tea ( my favourite) in The Espy overlooking the beautiful beach. Feeling somewhat spaced out as I watched the waves dribble in unlike Bondi Beach rollers.

What a journey I’ve had. What an experience. One to remember forever. I’m glad I did this.

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March 2019 Leaving New Zealand and arriving in Australia – from Christchurch To Sydney

Day 37

Hardly slept. One hour! Up at 3 am and off to the airport for a 7 am flight to Sydney. Couldn’t sleep on plane but had a lovely breakfast and watched two good films- one a documentary about Christian Dior’s drawings and the other the film The Favourite with Olivia Coleman. We were met by a taxi but too early for our room so stored our luggage and went for early lunch. Eventually found The Haven after major construction work on an extension of the light railway hampered Google maps. This cafe was a great find. A mixture of Hong Kong, Japanese and Korean. Great superfood salad and proper brewed chai. Busy and quirky. Occasionally it rained! We had quite an experience with an over enthusiastic tourist information guy on the station. I was beginning to lose the will to live! But he gave us good tips too. Returned to check in and rest, then in the evening walked down to Darling harbour to watch the fireworks and have dinner with the millions of Asian tourists. A bit overwhelming.

Day 38

A day on The Rocks….wandering through the Rocks craft market. Sheer delight talking to the makers and artists. The atmosphere was lovely and the sun shone raising the temperature to 31 degrees. I spent awhile in the Argyle jeweller looking at rare pink diamonds. Met the designer and maker. Bought a ring. Exquisite. Then I enjoyed the Contemporary Art Gallery Australia – some stunning work by a woman called Janet Lawrence. Wonderful installations. Very inspired by her. In the evening I went to the Sydney Opera House by train to see the Maori lights how on the building. The first show at 7.50 was cancelled so I sat in the iconic Opera Bar overlooking the Harbour Bridge sipping rose wine until the second show at 9pm which was then cancelled as well due to technical difficulties. Hopeless.

 

March 2019 Arriving at the end of the New Zealand adventure in Christchurch

Day 32

Left Twizel for 3 and a half drive to Christchurch. First part was interesting but most was flat and boring. After we settled in to our new motel we walked in to the city to meet Paul an old friend of my brother who used to live in Edinburgh and go mountain biking with him. The city lost 80% of its buildings in the centre during the earthquake 8 years ago. Much has been rebuilt, some is still being built, other parts are demolished, some buildings are just being held up by steel buttresses. But we had drinks and a meal together in a modern bar, sitting on the balcony outside.

Day 33

Exploring the city today, jumped on the heritage tram system to get to know the centre with some funny and interesting commentary from the driver. After a full circuit we got off at the partially destroyed cathedral, looked at a small market, the Art Deco Regent Street, had coffee, cake and later ice creams, just trying to take in what the city was becoming after such a terrible event. We got on two more trams to try different types and ages of trams.

We drove to Paul’s house in the early evening for a BBQ and to meet his family. We had a lovely evening chatting with him and Lora-and Rowan (9) and Tilly(6). Lora showed me her silver jewellery mainly tiny shells moulded in silver clay from different beaches and some of Mt Cook. She grew up in Coromandel town.

 

Day 34

Laury went up into the hills mountain biking with Paul today. Audrey and I went to the City Art Gallery and joined a guided tour- great “unpc” commentary! Loved the contemporary NZ artists very quirky and interesting. Then went for tea and lunch in Ballyntines Tearooms- a traditional department store l8e House of Fraser- great pot of tea. Next we walked to the memorial sculpture 185 white chairs which was really moving each chair commemorating those who died in the 2011 earthquake here. I was really moved by this. Quite special when you read the names and ages of the dead. There was a baby car seat to show a 5 month old baby died, a high chair to show a 15 month old child died, a rocking chair for someone 87.  We finished off with a visit to the incredible cardboard cathedral. As the cathedral was badly damaged in the earthquake this temporary cathedral was designed by a Japanese architect who specialises in this type of structure. It was fascinating- the roof was made from enormous cardboard tubes, covered with polycarbonate lightweight panels. It was great. I lit a candle for dad there.

Day 35

Another day for my brother to bike with Paul whilst Audrey and I had a great adventure going to Sumner beach, having a paddle, watching the big surfing waves rolling in whilst having a lovely lunch in the Beach cafe. We went to drive a different way home along the coast but we misread the roadwork signs and ended up a mountain at a closed road, a detour took us to another hill along a windy road with a sheer drop on my side! But at the top the view was gorgeous. We could see all the way to New Brighton.

Day 36

Last day in Christchurch ( had to visit doctor in the morning but all sorted) and we all went to Quake City which was an amazing museum about all the earthquakes in Christchurch, the Maori legends, lots of interesting facts about positive things that occurred and a very moving film of individuals stories. Tears flowed at times. Went back to Summers beach cafe for late lunch, but windy and grey skies. Good lunch though! We drove to New Brighton to see the new concrete pier- I walked the full 300 metres and back to see wonderful turquoise water and a traditional Maori racing rowing boat practicing for racing on the large waves. Loved the long beach which we had seen from the hill yesterday. Final pack and weigh for early start tomorrow.

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March 2019 New Zealand adventure from Dunedin by the sea back to the mountains of Twizel and Mt. Cook

Day 30

Long journey to Twizel but great lunch at Clyde in Oliver’s restaurant and brewery. We stayed in a motel with each room shaped like a mountain chalet. A triangle shape at the front with my room up in the roof on a mezzanine. The interior was pine so was quite quirky again. It was on a very flat plain within sight of snow topped Mt Cook the highest mountain in NZ. Not a lot on Twizel except a rowing lake with full regatta set up.

Day 31

A tremendous day walking up the Hooker valley to see Mt Cook. It was a long hot walk over 2 very long swing bridges which I crossed with trepidation and anxiety. The mountain view was special, unreal like a painting. The number of tourists walking was high like on Pen y Fan at home. We then drove to the next valley to see the icebergs floating in the Tasman Lake from the Tasman glacier. This was such a surreal sight, much quieter and mesmerising. They were white and grey in a milky grey lake. Three small orange inflatable boats were ferrying groups of people on the lake to get closer to the glacier. It also looked like we were in a quarry as there were so many shades of grey! I sat and watched the icebergs silently floating, yet still and going nowhere.

Day 32

On the move again to Christchurch our last place to visit in New Zealand.

February into March on my New Zealand Adventure, from the mountains to the sea and New Edinburgh

Day 27

We left the wonderful a Remarkables and the lake and travelled to Dunedin, originally named New Edinburgh, but later changed to the old name for Edinburgh- Dunedin. Apparently the town was founded by Scottish Presbyterians. Plenty of hills but we stayed at the seaside resort of St Clair’s which has a long curved beach with huge rolling waves that the surfers loved. The apartments were built in 1919 and were quite quirky. My room was as big as 2 twin beds exactly! We had a walk along the explode but it was nippy and windy.

Day 28

Had a look at the public art gallery as we explored the town. An interesting collection downstairs but didn’t view the Chinese work upstairs. Explored the Otago peninsula and the Penguin conservation reserve. The yellow eyed penguins are endangered as there’s less than 2000 left and they’re all in N Z. We saw a few in the wild and some in the hospital who are recovering from lack of fish in the sea. There were a few blue penguins but they were snuggled up in their nests so only caught a glimpse of their eyes. There were some large brown seals basking on the rocks too. Weather cold and damp.

Day 29 First day of March

In the morning I revisited the public art gallery to explore the Chinese contemporary exhibition and was pleasantly surprised by the Ai Weiwei sunflower porcelain seeds, Zu Hen Chinese supermarket and especially Yang Yongliang Artificial Wonderland – a huge giclee print like a black ink traditional painting actually a print no idea how he does it. Long enormous work. Breathtaking. Also Journey to the dark film reminds me of Bedwyr Williams but in b&w about Shanghai. Cleverer than Bedwyr. Inspiring.

Went to a few galleries and liked an etching in Moray Gallery by Heather Dunckley called Kiwhau- New Zealand sepia 18/50 $160 it was a flower apparently golden and an etched map of NZ so I bought it. Better than loads of tourist crap that is everywhere.

In the afternoon we went on the Taieri Gorge train with restored 1920s carriages and it was great rattling along through the changing landscape up to the amazing gorge carved out of the rock. We crossed a number of very old bridges some iron and some wooden. Looking down into the gorge was spellbinding.

February 2019 New Zealand traveller reaches the mountains at Queenstown and sails on Doubtful Sound

The Day 22

Driving from the torrential rain in Franz Josef we hear that there has been a land slip just north of there at Hari Hari where we had passed earlier. Those people who are travelling north have to take a 12 hour detour or wait for 3 days. Luckily were on our way south. We stopped at Wanaka on a lake for lunch at The Big Fig which was one of those places you’d like to return to. You had one of three plate sizes and could have a meat choice and add as many interesting salads and vegetable dishes as the plate holds. It was delicious. I felt there was a relaxed vibe here. I could have stayed longer. Not sure why but it felt just right. Went to see a pharmacist about my hands.

We continued through some stunning landscapes,  rugged mountains , rolling glaciated valleys, quite magical. We arrived at Lake W.   and Queenstown eventually. The apartment was on a steep hillside overlooking the lake with the most amazing views of the lake and the mountains. Spectacular. The apartment was rather tired looking and a little disappointing. We walked into the town which was buzzing with young people on a Friday night out. Still a lot of Chinese celebrating Chinese New Year too. After the quiet of the glaciers it was a bit of a shock. We had a lovely cheese platter and gorgeous Mt Rosa rose wine at the Bathhouse overlooking the lake. Interesting barman had an unusual accent. Thought it was Dutch but he wasn’t.

Day 24

Vineyards and Cheesery in the Gibbston Valley – first a cheeseboard of goats cheese with rose wine then after buying some lovely goats cheese and a cheese bag we wandered next door to the winery for a taster board of 5 wines. They were nice but not worth the extortionate prices. We continued and found the Mount Rosa vineyard, a much smaller concern and met the owner. Beautiful rose. Home for cards.

Day 23

Wandered in to the Art and craft market by the harbour where I saw many individual crafters. Atmosphere is relaxed and interesting. I chose a glass necklace individually engraved with a mountain and clouds by a man who used Bombay Sapphire gin bottles as his base material. Then I bought two beautiful boxes from a woman who had more unusual designs than I’d seen before. This place is solely for tourists as it is the adventure centre for things like bunny jumping, sky diving, paragliding, water skiing, thrills of all kinds and skiing in the snowy mountains in winter. It makes it a strange place. I saw some interesting art galleries today – one was a photographer called Stefan Rommer a German whose enormous prints were on aluminium then coated with acrylic which gave them a mirrored look. Quite stunning and expensive, only one place in Düsseldorf produced them. One of the Remarkables Mountains was mesmerising. I strolled to see the oldest house in Queenstown to also find an ice cream trailer selling real fruit ice cream – the boysenberry was delicious. The weather is mixed and not hot.

 

25

A full day of 13 hours travelling to Doubtful Sound. It was dry and only windy outside on the boats. It was 2 hours drive to Lake Manapouri, then on a Hydrofoil for an hour, on to a smaller coach(queuing not pleasant. The Wilmot pass was on an unmade road through forest, mosses landlocked road for hydro power station only between the lake and the Sound. No traffic. From the top we Saw Deep Cove at beginning of Doubtful Sound then there was a 1 in 5 descent!, On to another hydrofoil into Doubtful Sound with trees kissing the water, waterfalls down the steep sides falling vertically, calm water, like a Norwegian fjord and hardly any other tourist boats – the numbers are restricted and so much quieter than Milford Sound. We sailed right out to the Tasman sea which was rougher and just immense and endless. We sailed around a small group of islands that had basking seals in. We sailed back on the other side and into one of the inlets called Crooked Arm. The mountains were closer here and I could see the lush forest vegetation- such diversity, quite mesmerising. Then we sailed into another inlet called Hall Arm and they shut down all the engines and asked us to find a place outside and stop talking and takin* photos and experience the beautiful silence. It was quite a moment – spine chilling, moving, mind settling. Wonderful. I will never forget that moment. When we got home it was after 8 pm so after a bite to eat we hit the sack. I was pleasantly tired but still restless ar night with my itchy skin. Wish I knew what was causing it.

Day26

A quiet day wandering around the art galleries of Queenstown. I saw a beautiful piece of contemporary Maori art today made of pieces of rare jade, river stones and wire. It quite blew me away. Only £5000. Had a coffee in Fenz by the harbour whilst waiting for Laury and Auds to come down from their cable car and luge experience. We met in the Moa brewery bar then went on to have early dinner in The Bathhouse restaurant overlooking the lake. Magical. Relaxing. The interesting waiter was German from the south. We watched a few youngsters tight rope walking between the trees by the lake and two balancing acrobats practicing. I’m in awe of their beautiful balance. Off across the mountains tomorrow to Dunedin. The apartment was not up to standard which was disappointing although the views of the Remarkables mountains and the lake were outstanding and mesmerising from the balcony.

 

February 2019 New Zealand adventure reaches the rainforest and glaciers

Day 19

Off to the rainforest.

Drove to Franz Josef and to our Treehouse. Absolutely stunning. On stilts with a hot tub surrounded by trees, palms and tree ferns and others I don’t know the name of. I had my own double room and gorgeous en-suite. As I lay in bed I looked into the trees and watched busy little fantail birds dart about in the morning. Bit cloudy and nor warm. Straight in the hot tub in the evening after an exploratory walk in the town. It’s a bit like a ski resort. Motels, restaurants, bars, gift shops, outdoor adventure gear shops and a kiwi centre. My skin has been bothering me since I came to NZ but I can’t work out what is causing it to flare up on my hands and body.

Day 20

Drove up a narrow valley to the start of the Franz Josef glacier walk. It was a varied walk through forest, beside the riverbed and a little up the mountain. I could see the great mass of the end of the glacier. It was filling the gap between the mountains. The colour changed according to the sunshine or cloud over. The river was high and full of force as the water tumbled down from the glacier. The tops of the mountain had low cloud on them. You could fly up to the top in a helicopter to stand on the ice but that didn’t appeal to me. I enjoyed the walk. The thought of all that power held in the glacier was quite amazing and hard to get to grips with. Hot tub helped the achy bones in the evening.

Day 21

Today we woke up to rain and lots of it. The clouds were low and it was misty. As avid adventurers and optimists we decided to go to Fox Glacier as we’d planned. Audrey decided to stay in the car but the Smythes ventured on in the Lake District type rain. The path was more difficult terrain than Franz Josef and we didn’t see the glacier edge until we were at the top of the track. There weren’t many people. It was torrential at one point but we had to do it. My trousers and shoes were soaked, not helped by having to jump across rocks in streams and missing my step. We were much higher up the mountain but it was a grey day. The mist lifted so we could see the larger glacier going further up the mountain. Both glaciers have receded significantly. Scary thought. They had markers to show this. The top of the glacier looks like jagged teeth. We returned by the same route only to find at the last stream the torrential rain earlier had turned this stream into a raging torrent and the stepping stones were gone. There was a group of us trying to work out a way to cross. It looked scary with the force of the water visibly getting worse as we stood there. Laury bravely set off where we thought the stepping stones were and I hesitantly followed and was very relieved. When we got to the bottom at last we were met by 4 wardens who had closed the track and were going up to check that everyone was down safely. We stripped off by the car and changed into dry clothes. Even after everything that the weather and the landscape threw at us it was still worth it. The experience was better than the photos!!!! We had a lovely dinner in the Blue Ice Cafe and warmed up quickly.

Day 22

We left the treehouse for a long drive to Queenstown heading South west.

February 2019 New Zealand South Island adventure begins with wine tasting

Day 11

We picked up the new car a Rav 4 and set off for Picton. I loved this apartment as we overlooked a marina on one side and a lovely little harbour and stream on the other. It was tidal so at certain times I’d be watching the black New Zealand swans with their brilliant red beaks and rich black plumage and flashes of white under wing feathers picking at the mud when suddenly there was the noise of waves and the tide slowly rolled in. It was fascinating. There were other birds and ducks pecking about in the mud at low tide. I loved watching the changing view. I felt calm and contented- when did I say that last?? Only two hours sleep so I watched the marina wake up. There are two gorgeous trees outside – one with fluffy pinkish flowers on, the other with upside down branches and very angular. I enjoyed drawing both of them

Day 12

First Wine tasting trip today to Blenheim and Marlborough- started with the Wine Station- over 50 to try. We did about 10 and started our wine buying spree! Had a drive to a Maori settlement along the coast and watched a sailing race. Only a few ditches as the remains of houses like an Iron Age fort back home but very interesting walk to the end of a headland. More tidal mudflats watching of the inlet from the balcony. Very hot.

Day 13

A wonderful day of wine tasting. We picked 3 smaller vineyards called Bladen, Jackson’s and Allan Scott. We talked to the winemaker and owner at Bladens – the name is a combination of his sons  Blair and Denis. He knew Wales as he went to Barry Builibs as a child. At Jackson’s the wine was lovely but the lady’s explanation was lack lustre. The toilets were divine!!! At Allen Scott the tasting was really interesting with enthusiastic explanations,but then we had lunch in their posh restaurant and that was an absolute feast of tastes. Wine was gorgeous. The area is flat and a bit industrial with vines stretching for miles and Nike’s in the hot sun but I loved the wine tasting apart from the jargon. Back to the apartment for a doze and a game of cards- we play nearly every night. And I don’t always win.

Day 14

Drove to Nelson via Mao brewery for more tasting. Laury very happy with this beer. New apartment was in a mock English village. Quaint red brick terraced houses overlooking a village green. Outrageous tiles in bathroom. Rather strange mixture of furnishings but all very good quality. Luscious fish and chips – we shared 3 different fish – delicious.

Day 15

Drove to Takaka over windy mountains to have lunch in Mussel Inn- quirky 70s feel, very rustic, great mussel chowder, earth closet toilet was interesting. Swam and walked on Pohara beach. Rough waves but good fun. Windy.

Day 16

Explored Nelson market – my sorta place. A wide variety of stalls, all quirky and refreshingly different. Bought some unique earrings made from tiny fern leaves dipped in glass coloured with oxides. Nelson art gallery was interesting too – bought a tiny porcelain dish with a fantail design on.

Day 17

Drive to Greymouth. Lovely scenery. Tree ferns seem to appear everywhere. Stopped at Pancake rocks- an amazing volcanic rock formation. There were supposed to be blowholes where the waves shot up through the rocks like geysers but the tide was too low so they just sizzled and spluttered a bit. We then stopped in the Moa brewery in the evening. Coleraine suites was functional although soul less.

Day 18

Visited Hokitika Gorge- This was simply amazing, quite exceptional. The river was turquoise rushing over the boulders in the riverbed. The trees grew close to the edge and it felt like we were in Canada or the Rockies. It was awe inspiring. I even courageously went over the rope bridge across the gorge. The drop was large so I didn’t hang about! The colour of the warmer and it’s force took my breath away. We also went to search for Dorothy- along an unmade road around the side of the lake but we failed to find the Dorothy Falls as marked on the map! Luckily the Gorge was so awesome it made up for the lost Dorothy. Finished the day off with another beer tasting in the Moa brewery and a delicious meal. No cards tonight just rolled into bed.

 

 

 

February 2019 New Zealand Travelling on the North Island, volcanic pools at Rotorua and on to Wellington

Day 7

Travelling to Rotorua

Early start as picked up at 7am by Kiwi Tours in a minibus. Lovely driver who loved talking. Only 7 of us on the bus to Bombay Hills near Auckland. Quite a hairy road, winding amongst the trees and hills, many varieties of trees, very lush and green. Got to Bombay and was dropped at a service station to wait for Intercity bus. Quite strange as no bus stop. One other man was standing in the cold wind who was going to Rotorua to take part in a huge running race around the lakes.Bus was late so felt very vulnerable and cold. Bus was busy and not very hot so I still felt freezing and I had no coat. Driver was really grumpy. Met a French couple who were travelling to Rotorua as well – they were on a long trip before returning home to find jobs. A young mother and toddler got on and screamed for ages as she wasn’t allowed in the luggage area until she fell asleep. Bliss for all of us fellow travellers. A taxi was waiting for me in Rotorua to take me to the hotel. The entrance and public areas were lovely overlooking the lake. Mine room was a dismal room, dark and grotty bathroom but as it was one night and the bed was comfy I didn’t complain. Off I went to the Polynesian Spa for my appointment- soaking in volcanically heated pools of different temperatures- felt lovely, then my treatment. Wow that was something else. It was a French water massage- lying on a special bed with jets of water above me whilst the masseuse massaged coconut and lime oil all over me. Strangely calming and my skin felt great.

In the evening was a night market in the town so I wandered down to get some street food and have a browse. There were lots of Chinese stalls and a Chinese band playing as it is the Chinese New Year celebrations. It was packed. There was some great music particularly a young woman accompanied by a guitarist who sounded like Suzanne Vega. Amazing food of all sorts. I had delicious crab an prawn sliders. Didn’t stay late. Needed to sleep- failed on that count. I can’t blame the sulphurous smell just my overactive mind.

Day 8-10

Up early for breakfast with the throngs of Chinese tour groups. Free for all at buffet! Not very pleasant. Waited for Laury and Auds to pick me up. I was pleased to see them. First we went to a Maori site with geysers and rock pools. A guided tour was surprisingly fun as part of the guides “fans” or family. We then headed for Taupo to meet Robin who they had been staying with to have lunch. He is a second cousin I think to Auds. He was lovely and still sounds Scottish. Then we motored on to his daughter’s house in Wellington. We stayed with Karen and Rowan for 2 nights. We had a superb day in Martinborough  wine tasting and beer tasting and also met her sister Jane and husband Jeff who did a BBQ for us. Everyone was so welcoming. The vineyards were called Poppies (my favourite), Colombo and Jackson’s( best toilets!) Then on to the Garage Project brewery for beer tasting. We managed to get to a superb market in an underground car park with great stalls by artists, jewellers, wood crafters – all sorts and good quality. I bought some aloe Vera cream for my hands which are reacting to something and causing me problems. Also bought Marino socks and a kooky necklace.

Day 11

Early start to catch the ferry across the Cooks Strait leaving the North Island behind us. Huge ferry. Had seats in the posh lounge which gave us loads of food and drink. Amazing views as we went through Queen Charlotte Sound. It was like being in the Norwegian fjords. I actually enjoyed being on a boat!!

February in New Zealand 2019 Travelling and printing workshop

Auckland Day 1-3

Wow I’m really half way round the world! Auckland is amazing as a capital city – vibrant, buzzing around the harbour area. I managed to check my bags into the apartment as it was early, decided to check out the free walking tour and ended up joining it. Glad I did as although I was tired this was so interesting- some history, some tips, lots of architectural beauties, Albert Park, the red light area of old and some politics. It made me feel orientated.  The apartment was lovely with a balcony in the business district. Coffee across the street was recommended by the gorgeous taxi driver and cake was delicious. Day 2 started with a visit to the Auckland Art Gallery- just loved it – mostly contemporary NZ art but also some historic Maori portraits. Also went to two smaller galleries before Laura and Audrey arrived. Spent the evening in the harbour and marina area and ate at the Swashbuckler Inn as recommended by Linda and Andre whom had been Laury’s host in the Northlands -our second cousins on mum’s side. Great seafood. Day 3 Sunday – we took the hop on off bus across the city and stopped at Parnell a quaint suburb with some character. Stumbled across a market for dogs- stalls selling everything for dogs and there were lots of happy little twee dogs there! Strange. Some lovely art galleries one full of stunning glass called the Black Door Gallery. Went searching for a food market but failed to find it. Wandered into a school for blind with fab staircase. It’s blistering hot about 29 degrees. Next was the War Memorial Museum just for the views across the city and a coffee stop then walked to the amazing Botanical Gardens. I really liked them and the fernery-some stunning tropical flowers. Had dinner by the wharf and a real ale in the Brew on the Quay pub before dropping into bed – not sleeping too good.

Day 4 Auckland to Whitianga

Early start to catch the ferry to Coromandel. Watched the huge liners and tiny looking ferries manoeuvring around each other. Fab journey across Auckland bay and past the islands. Actually enjoyed being on the water. There was a bus waiting up the hill from the old wooden jetty after a spectacular view of the coast as we came in. A lady I’d been talking to was invited up to the captains area and dragged me along too. Not sure why that happened, but it was great. Then we transferred to a minibus to go to Whitianga. The trip was sensational through very windy hilly roads with amazing forests full of indigenous trees and palms, so lush, quite overwhelming. I loved it. At Whitianga we drove past a gorgeous beach to the harbour and marina to the apartment. A walk round the town and along the beach was so lovely. The buildings are flat roofed and mostly single storey. Some streets have more quirky bungalows but the shops in the town are as in America in the mid West. I talked to a bone carver and he showed me his process from cow bone to jewellery- yes I bought a Maori symbol as a necklace. Fascinating. Had Hokies and chips from the chippy back at my lovely apartment. It’s huge and overlooks the local rugby pitch. Had a swim in the pool and relaxed with a glass of wine on the balcony.

Day 5 Whitianga and Hakui printing workshop

Up early for breakfast in Cafe Nina- eggs Benedict was delicious. Walked to ferry to get across the estuary. Swirling strong current. Drew in the sunshine whilst waiting for my lift. Wondered if it would all come together. It did. Kay arrived and off we went. Picked upbJan on the way. Drove 45 minutes south to Taurua then off into the bush to a little remote village hall. I met the other artists and the tutor Carole Shepheard. Most of them knew each other as they were part of a printing group that met fortnightly. I was given a quick crash course to get me up to speed. The theme was cells and I had done some lovely drawings of microscopic cells. We were using water based inks and soaked the paper in large water baths. It was a little frustrating as Carole was in great demand for printing help. I had some very quiet waits, but I did get my 2 background plates ready and I did a dry point etching on acrylic and printed it on lovely paper with red ink. Near the end I printed the first background and it was a disaster as the paper welded itself to the plate of cardboard and shellac. Kay dropped me by a beach so I could have a short walk to the ferry. I had gunard and chips and a glass of wine in the apartment.

Day 6 Whitianga and Hakui printing workshop

Another hot day and an early morning ferry trip to meet Kay on the other side at Ferry Landing. The ladies were very welcoming and I had to make a new background plate on acrylic using some interesting wheel etching tools and sandpaper. It turned out really good to my surprise and printed well in different colours. The other background cardboard plate also stuck to the paper and it felt disastrous. We worked out that there was something wrong with the shellac solution Carole had given me. I managed an offset overprinting of 2 plates which I was pleased with on larger paper although very gentle colour. I ended up being pleased with my work although really frustrated at times. Some of the others’ work was stunning. I was really tired as I had not slept well since arriving in NZ. I walked to the supermarket and bought some cheese and biscuits for tea after a walk on the beach.

Needed to pack up my little rucksack ready for an early start in the morning, I felt very contented at this apartment.