New Zealand, through the eyes of my Grandmother – Part 2

Continuing on from last week, if you haven’t read it yet, you can check out last week’s post here.

Tell me about some memorable holidays you have had in New Zealand

3 sons and 4 grandchildren later….

In 1989 your Granddad and I packed up the car and headed away on a trip around the South Island.

It was a trip that took us down The West Coast and back up The East Coast, visiting many beautiful New Zealand places; Picton, The Buller Gorge, Greymouth, The Glaciers at Franz and Fox, Punakaiki and Hokitika.

We stopped in Okarito to look for white herons but only found wasps!

Lake Matheson, a Mirror Lake, near Fox Glacier on the West Coast

We then headed onto Queenstown. There we took a ride on the gondola and had a meal at the top with million dollar views. We also took a cruise on The Earnslaw (which is notorious for its black smoke) to Walter Peak Station. We did a trip out to Arrowtown and Glenorchy and even did a day trip by bus to Milford Sound.

I have always thought this photo was so funny.  Taken on the Earnslaw, which is notorious for its black smoke.  It looks like Granddad has the smoke is coming out of his ears!

We then made our way back up the country travelling through Lake Tekapo and Fairlie with a side trip to Akaroa. We stayed a couple of nights in Christchurch. The night before we left there was quite a big storm. It turned very cold and we woke the next morning to see the Southern Alps covered in snow. 

A sight to behold! 

We headed back to Picton, spending a night in Kaikoura on the way. The Kaikoura Ranges were also covered in snow – a perfect finish to our South Island Odyssey.

I remembered thinking back to the trip we had done to Canada the year before when we went to Banff and I thought Queenstown and surroundings were much prettier.

In 2010 we did another trip around the South Island. This time on a group trip. It included a trip to Doubtful Sounds which was lovely – crossing Lake Manapouri then over a pass to the Sound – in the rain! When we got onto the boat though, the sun came out. We got right out to the Tasman in beautiful calm weather. On the way back they beached the boat on the shore, turned the engines off and told us not to talk.  Nothing to hear but the lapping of the water on the shore. 

Magical! 

That’s what they call the Sound of Silence. 

On the way back to Te Anau we stopped at the Manapouri Power Station and got on a bus that took us 2 kilometres under ground.  I HATED it and couldn’t wait to get back up into daylight. It was so dark and damp and surrounded by solid rock. The power station was impressive but I couldn’t imagine how people (some girls doing clerical work as well) could bear to spend their days under ground.  I remember my mum did a trip there in the 70’s and she loved it! 

Not for me. 

From Queenstown we went to Cromwell and the Clyde Dam and then crossed the Maniototo Plain. It’s unusual, scrubby, rocky country. The wind was so strong our poor lady driver had trouble keeping the little bus on the road and she had sore arms for days. 

One of the best things about that trip was we got very friendly with the couple running it and kept in touch with them for quite a long time after. 

You have now lived in Aotearoa for over 70 years. Is there anywhere you haven’t been that you would love to see?

I have just been listening to a chap being interviewed about Great Barrier Island. It sounds like somewhere really different and I would like to see it, though I guess I never will.  A half hour flight or a 4 1/2 hour ferry trip from Auckland. It’s a semi tropical place with a very laid back life style. 

Maybe you could do the trip on my behalf?

Do you have any travel tips or advise for kiwi’s or foreigners who are wanting to explore ‘The Long White Cloud?”

The best way to see the West Coast is in the rain! It makes the scenery mystical!

Next week I will begin my Queenstown Series. My husband and I have just recently returned from a 6 day trip in this stunning place where we celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary.

New Zealand, through the eyes of my Grandmother – Part 1

I thought I would try something a little different in this post. Instead of sharing a travel story of mine, I have interviewed my Grandmother. She is, after all, my biggest fan, and editor (Thanks Granny!) Today I share some of her stories and experiences of Aotearoa.

Tell me about your journey to New Zealand

The first trip I did to New Zealand was with my mother after finishing school in June 1948.  I turned 19 in July and we sailed from Vancouver on the first post-war trip of the Aorangi in September of that year.  The ship had been refitted after service as a troop ship during the war.  She was 13,000 tons which seems minuscule compared to the floating apartment buildings you see now, but she was comfortable and I would describe the atmosphere on board as gracious. 

The Aorangi

The trip took 2 1/2 weeks from Vancouver to Auckland and life onboard was very relaxed and pleasant; gorgeous weather, sparkling deep blue seas and plenty of entertainment. We made some good friends during the voyage and some of those friendships lasted many years.  One of the girls I met then was my matron-of- honour at my wedding.

Life on the Ocean Wave

It took a week to the first port of Honolulu with an overnight stay and another week to Suva in Fiji. It got a bit cooler as we got nearer NZ and we arrived in Auckland on a grey day in October.

What were your first impressions of New Zealand?

I seem to remember we approached Auckland on a rather dreary day in early October and we gathered at the rail for our first sight of Godzone. People were asking where others were bound for and when someone said ‘Wellington’ there was a general expression of sympathy and I thought what an awful place Wellington must be.

Arriving in Auckland I felt I had landed in a place where time had stood still.  The Harbour Bridge had not been built. There was nothing much to buy in the shops and people had to have overseas funds to buy a new car.  Carpets and other furnishings had to be ordered and came by sea from the UK etc. after a long wait. There were even still some of the same people in the shops that were there when my mum left more than 20 years earlier.

Even her postman was still the same!

My first experience of Wellington was 18 months later when I returned to New Zealand to marry after a shipboard romance. Wellington put on a perfect day with the sun glinting on the harbour and the surrounding hills looking like they had been sprinkled by some giant hand with colourful little houses (“little boxes on the hillside” as the song went.) I fell in love with it then and there and have loved it ever since.

Tell me about some memorable holidays you have had in New Zealand

In 1948, my mother and I took a little trip to Rotorua. We stayed in a guest house – no motels in those days. We did a trip to Whakarewarewa and also to see the Aratiatia Rapids.  I remember the tour guide/bus driver saying as we walked through scrubby bushes to the Rapids “This is Injun Country”. 

On one of the days we were on the bus going to the Whakarewarewa Village and noticed a Maori lady sitting near us stripping flax. The following day we did a sightseeing trip to the village and lo and behold, here was our lady from the bus as our guide for the day. She turned out to be none other than the famous Guide Rangi. She was a very well educated lady with a beautiful speaking voice and very knowledgeable about Maori culture.  It wasn’t till later that we realised she was really quite famous and had guided tourists from all over the world. 

We felt very privileged to have met her.

Guide Rangi

To be continued next week.

Searching for Seals

In February, when we were in Kaikoura, I went on a massive walk in the morning out to Ohau to see the seal colony.

There were 2 seals.

Recently (thanks Facebook) I learnt that Turakirae Head Reserve in Wainuiomata is home to the largest seal colony in Wellington.

So off we went.

Our walk took us past farm land, green pastures with sheep, framed with huge cliffs. There were even some little lambs, bless them, it’s not lamb season, they will be so cold.

On the other side of us we have the coast, dotted with flax and tussock near the shoreline. I really enjoy the scenery. It’s not what you would describe as being pretty, and I am sure there are people who wouldn’t be able to see the appeal. It’s wild and rugged, but also untouched and beautiful in it’s own way.

The signpost said it would be an hour’s walk but it only took us half that. The walk is flat, but quite challenging. It starts out easy, walking along gritty sand, but this changes into gravel, then shingle, then rocks and at the end we found ourselves having to Macgyver over and around boulders and scrub.

Our efforts were rewarded though, there are plenty of seals here and lots of big boulders to sit upon and just watch. Our furry friends aren’t particularly active. The sun is out, so they seem pretty happy just lying around sunning themselves.

They take no notice of us.

It’s quite an exposed place and we experience a lot of different weather on this walk; bright blue skies, eerie misty weather with sun breaking through the clouds, a sun shower, followed by a beautiful rainbow and then just rain.

Persistent heavy rain.

There is no shelter, nowhere to hide, we just have to take it. But it’s these types of experiences, being exposed to the elements, that I find really invigorating – when I know there are dry clothes and a hot shower available at the end of it!

If your looking for a local adventure and don’t mind a bit of ‘rock climbing’ you should check out this place.

The Bucket List

2020 started over 5 months ago, but in someways it feels like it is just beginning. As with all new starts, its time to start dreaming (and planning) those adventures that will leave you with lifetime memories.

Not sure where to start? I thought I would share my top 5 New Zealand bucket list items. (In no particular order)

Doubtful Sounds Overnight Cruise

I have been fortunate enough to have done an overnight cruise in Milford Sounds. To this day, it remains one of the most magical and memorable travel experiences I have ever had.

There is something about the fiords that makes you marvel at creation. They make you feel so small, in a good way, where you are reminded of just how awesome mother nature is. Combine that with the stillness and silence of the place and your are in for a real treat.

Doubtful Sounds is less visited by tourists, much larger and very quiet. I want to kayak next to huge fiords again, count shooting stars at night and watch the sun rise in the sounds.

Who could imagine anything better?

Star Gazing in a Dark Sky Reserve

I have always had a fascination with stars. They are so mysterious and magical. We live in a world with so much light pollution that our night sky is very different to what our ancestors would have looked upon. Fortunately there are still areas in the world where the magic of the milky way and shooting stars that make you gasp can be seen.

New Zealand has 2 official dark sky reserves, including the world’s biggest – the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve in Canterbury. At Lake Tekapo you will find Mt. John Observatory where you can partake in a variety of star gazing experiences (currently closed due to Covid-19).

The star gazing experience that’s on my bucket list though is Lake Tekapo’s Soak in the Stars experience at Tekapo Springs. Imagine floating in a natural hot pool, gazing up at the milky way. I am sure it would leave me breathless.

Stewart Island

Following on from my fascination with stars and the night sky, I would love to see the Aurora Polaris. I am sure many of you have heard of the Northern lights, but you don’t have to head all the way to Alaska or Scandinavia. The Aurora Australis, also known as the Southern Lights, can be seen from parts of New Zealand, including Stewart Island. I don’t know about you, but for me, all those colours dancing about in the sky and witnessing this natural phenomena is most definitely a bucket list item.

Stewart Island is 80% national park, making it an excellent place for bush walks and seeing some of our native wildlife including the kiwi. I can’t wait for the opportunity to explore this place.

Swim with Dolphins

This experience has been on my bucket list for the last few years. I have made 2 attempts at this so far. The first one I had lined up was in Tauranga but I had to cancel that last minute as my husband had a small motorbike accident a week before we were due to depart. I then made a second attempt earlier in the year on our south island trip, you can read about that here and here.

As with any wild animal encounter, there is always an element of chance and luck. This is part of what makes the occurrence so special. On this trip, we didn’t get to swim with dolphins, but we did get to observe the little, rare Hector’s dolphin in it’s natural habitat which was pretty special.

I am not sure when, but I will definitely be making another stop at E-Ko Tours in Picton for another chance at swimming with dolphins. I really love the care and commitment this company has for protecting our environment.

Multi Day Able Tasman Kayak

In 2000 I tramped Able Tasman on a school trip. I then went straight onto a family holiday in Rarotonga. I remember thinking that the beaches at Able Tasman were more amazing. And that’s saying something because the beaches in Raro are beautiful.

In 2012, I did a half day Able Tasman Kayak with my husband. Clear water, blue sunny skies and stunning beaches. I can’t get enough. I have my eye on this 5 day kayak trip with Able Tasman Kayaks. Bring it on!

What’s on your bucket list?

Our Backyard

Exactly one year ago today, I was in Italy.

In Tuscany, to be more precise. Exploring hill top towns, indulging in gorgeous food and enjoying the simple things in life.

How different the world of travel looks now. Over the last few months we have watched the impact of Covid 19, seen it spread it’s way around the world, literary putting whole countries into lockdown.

With international travel looking like it will be off the cards for sometime, I am really hoping that Kiwi’s will use this as an opportunity to explore their backyard.

An adventure holiday, a relaxing holiday, a nature holiday, a gastronomic holiday; mountains, lakes, glaciers, beaches, caves, forests. Whatever type of holiday or experiance you are looking for, you will find it right here in Aotearoa.

As New Zealanders, we are so lucky. We live in such a diverse, beautiful land. People travel thousands of miles to see this place and we have it right here on our doorstep.

There has never been a better time to explore your back yard.

With the impacts of lockdown, I have begun to see incredible deals popping up around the country and already have 2 trips locked in.

In July, my husband and I celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary. We are heading to Queenstown, staying at a beautiful boutique hotel that looks out over the shotover river. I got it at an incredible price of $110 per night. Check out Nugget Point Hotel Queenstown for some awesome deals.

In September we are ticking of a bucket list item, that, to be honest, I never really thought we would do. When I saw that Wharekauhau in the Wairarapa were having a ‘back you backyard’ special, I couldn’t help but book it.

There are so many awesome experiences out there to be had.

Where are you heading to next?

Leave me a comment below. I would love to know what part of the Long White Cloud you are planing to explore next.

The Sky Tower

Auckland.

The City of Sails.

A place that I have been many times, but never really as a tourist. My time there has always been short, in transit to an overseas country or a quick visit for a concert . My most recent trip was the same – an overnight stop on my way to an island paradise, also known as Waiheke Island.

Although  I only had an evening there, I made sure I ticked off the most  touristy thing I could do – The Sky Tower.  The needle point structure stands 328 meters tall and offers uninterrupted views  across the city and out to the Hauraki Gulf.  

The Sky Tower was certainly a trip worth making, but also a challenge. You see, I don’t like heights. I am fine with natural heights, but man made heights, like sky towers, that’s another story. My knees buckle, my heart starts racing and my body seizes up, refusing to move. But I’m all about giving things a go, so up I went. (Although I can assure you that swimming with sharks will not help you overcome your fear of them.)

I jumped in the elevator to take me to the top. The doors to the elevator were glass but I didn’t really notice as the lift shaft was dark and enclosed. But on my way up, without warning, I went from being in the safe little cocoon of the elevator to being able to see straight out (and down) across the city when I passed the section of the lift shaft that was also glass. The shock of it was responsible for the little scream I let out!

Then the doors to the elevator opened, I had made it to the observation deck. Now the hard part, leaving the elevator and walking out towards the edge.  I forced myself to exit and headed straight to the railings. The place is completely enclosed and there is nowhere for you to actually fall, but still, I had to hold onto the railings. I am pleased they were there, completely unnecessary but very reassuring.  Slowly I was able to make my way around the observation deck and eventually, even let go of the railing to take some photos.

For those who are brave, there are sections of floor you can walk across that are just glass, giving you a perfect view of the city 220 meters below. I was not one of these people. Despite signs assuring me the glass was very think and just as safe and the rest of the floor, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t force my feet to stand on it.

With uninterrupted views, it was the perfect place to watch the sun setting behind the Waitakere Ranges. I watched the golden glow slowly slip behind the ranges, taking us from dusk to night.

Just beautiful.

It’s not often I find the time to watch a sunset. I need to do it more often.

From the observation deck I was able to spot my next stop, the Noodle Night Market. A pop up food festival that runs in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Celebrating the tastes of Asia, there was a range of delicious food, lanterns and music to be enjoyed under the stars.

With my tofu pancake in hand, I sat down on the grass to enjoy my picnic dinner. Fresh and spicy (like, way spicier than I had expected) it was a memorable dish that left a zing in my mouth long after I had finished my meal.

All the food was served in packaging that was either compostable or recyclable.  It was refreshing to go to an event where there wasn’t a sea of plastic everywhere. We need more events like these.

I’m not really a city person, I would choose nature over a city centre any day, but my evening in Auckland made me realise there is much more for me to discover here. It’s a place that I’m sure will be calling me again, and next time I answer, I will be sure to stay for longer.

Details

The Sky Tower is open 365 days a year (weather permitting) and is located on the corner or Victoria and Federal Streets. Tickets can be purchased in advance online and will cost you $32NZD (adult ticket price) For an extra $4NZD you can upgrade to a Sun & Stars ticket which allows you a second entry within 24 hours so you can view the city by day and night. With 2 restaurants and a café, you can even enjoy the views with a glass of wine or a meal.

The Noodle Night Markets are pop up food festivals  operating in New Zealand’s 3 major cities; Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Visit their website for more information.

Where it all began

Aotearoa.

The Long White Cloud.

Spectacular.

Picturesque.

Home.

There’s an old saying, ‘don’t leave home till you’ve seen the country’ made famous in a NZ tourism commercial in the mid 1980’s.

I am fortunate enough to have spent a few weeks traveling around both the North and South Island on the back of our motorbike. It gave me a taste of this beautiful country and has left me wanting more.

In May 2019, my husband and I embarked on an adventure – a 6 week trip around Europe.

We ate our way around Italy – I may have over indulged on truffles in Tuscany (but oh so good.) We witnessed Petrucci winning his first MotoGP in Mugello and kayaked through the canals of Venice at sunset.

In Slovenia and Croatia we enjoyed the great outdoors, motorcycling some spectacular alpine passes. I experienced the magical Lake Bled from a paddleboard and walked the city walls of Dubrovnik.

Istanbul was exotic: a cruise down the Bosphorus Strait in a luxury yacht, eating our way across European and Asian Istanbul, visiting mosques and doing a terrible job at bartering at The Grand Bazaar.

My blog is called ‘Exploring the Long White Cloud’ so you may be wondering why I am mentioning my trip to Europe? Here’s the thing; while our trip was amazing (and yes I do mean this, it was wonderful), whenever I am overseas, my thoughts always come back to New Zealand. Why? Because it has stolen my heart. I feel so lucky to call this place home and that I want to experience more of it.

It truly is spectacular.

People travel 1000’s of kilometers to visit NZ and I have it right here on my back door. I want to take advantage of that. When we were in Europe, everywhere we went, the people we met – they all wanted to know about New Zealand. The best places to visit, our top tips and if there were any snakes. And fortunately, we had ‘seen the country’.

Such a diverse land; beautiful beaches, lush forests, spectacular glaciers, breathtaking mountain ranges. It has it all.

Although Slovenia comes in at a close second, I think New Zealand will always be my favourite place. With a desire to experience more of my beautiful homeland, I decided that 2020 will be a year of explorations and blogging.

So click ‘follow’ and come join me on my adventures. Let me show you this beautiful land. I am sure you will fall in love with Aotearoa, the Long White Cloud, just like I have.