The big smoke – Auckland

It’s a rare treat for me to stay on the 17th floor of a downtown hotel in Auckland. However, my daughter Sarah was visiting Auckland from the USA on business, so I was quick to offer to be her chef and chauffeur so I could spend some precious time with her during her flying visit. Being late to bed and up at the crack of dawn (not because of my duties, but because I take a night or two to settle in a new place) provided some photographic rewards.

city view

city view hand held

city at dawn

harbour view at dawn

 

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Fabulous Fremantle

We became great fans of the Perth train service – frequent, clean and comfortable – and that’s how we travelled to Fremantle. It was Show Day at Perth and the trains were packed. It comes as a shock to realise you are now old enough for someone to stand up and give you a seat. I was quick to take up the gracious offer of a  young woman who gave me her seat – and then noticed others rapidly followed suit in giving up their seats to older souls. Top marks to the people of Perth for charm.

Fremantle, too, is a place of great charm – beautifully detailed facades on buildings and prettily presented shop windows. I revelled in the opportunity to indulge myself in contemporary Aboriginal art exhibitions. The boomerangs in airport gift shops do not do justice to the range of techniques, colours and styles represented in the art works being produced by the Aboriginals of West Australia – large canvases, intricate patterns on some works and more primitive styles on others. Iggy took himself off to the Maritime Museum in Perth and gave that the big thumbs up, too.

art gallery in Fremantle

bike

Fremantle building

Fremantle street from Round House

looking out to Indian Ocean from Round House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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King’s Park, Perth’s must-see destination

If you can handle the vertical climb up Mount Street (Iggy managed this while pushing Andrew in his stroller) the reward is phenomenal. King's Park is a Perth must-see. The aerial walkway takes you through the tree tops, with views out over the water and into the bush below.

If you can handle the vertical climb up Mount Street (Iggy managed this while pushing Andrew in his stroller) the reward is phenomenal. King’s Park is a Perth must-see. The aerial walkway takes you through the tree tops, with views out over the water and into the bush below.

At the entry to the walkway is an ancient baobob tree.

At the entry to the walkway is an ancient baobob tree.

The walkway provides a view over Perth's historic Swan brewery.

The walkway provides a view over Perth’s historic Swan brewery.

An ankle biter noticed two little piles of writhing bugs closer to her eye level than ours. She looked up, saying brightly "They are entwined." Elegantly apt vocabulary. Well done to the parents and/or teachers who introduced her to the wonderful world of books.

An ankle biter noticed two little piles of writhing bugs closer to her eye level than ours. She looked up, saying brightly “They are entwined.” Elegantly apt vocabulary. Well done to the parents and/or teachers who introduced her to the wonderful world of books.

Around about then, I discovered how easy it was to take photos of myself with the new iphone. Indulging in such vanity could become addictive - not.

Around about then, I discovered how easy it was to take photos of myself with the new iphone. Indulging in such vanity could become addictive – not. But it does give me the opportunity to rave on again about my Aussie hat.

En route, I discovered bronze leaf sculptures laid into rock at ground level. Intriguing.

En route, I discovered bronze leaf sculptures laid into rock at ground level. Intriguing.

The King's Park gift shop stocked great cards...

The King’s Park gift shop stocked great cards…

 

... and spectacular gift ware.

… and spectacular gift ware.

 

 

 

 

 

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Picturesque Perth

The reason for our visit to Perth was to meet our grandson Andrew, aged five months, and his mother Donna, who came from London to spend time with family there. Being a grandmother registers high on my reason for being, so we could almost leave it at that. However, let's look around picturesque Perth as well.

The reason for our visit to Perth was to meet our grandson Andrew, aged five months, and his mother Donna, who came from London to spend time with family there. Being a grandmother registers high on my reason for being, so we could almost leave it at that. However, let’s look around picturesque Perth as well.

A short train trip to the aviation museum at Bull Creek was on Iggy's must-do list. He was impressed by the collection of aircraft, including the Catalina, an aircraft my father flew during World War II.

A short train trip to the aviation museum at Bull Creek was on Iggy’s must-do list. He was impressed by the collection of aircraft, including the Catalina, an aircraft my father flew during World War II. We were also impressed by the train service – clean, frequent and quiet and a great way to see the scenery.

For me, food experiences are an important feature of great travel experiences. Donna took us to The Boatshed, an elegant restaurant on the Swan River. I don't usually have dessert. but was glad I changed the routine for this dish of creamy mousse encasing rhubarb, topped with sorbet and served with a swoosh of apple puree.

For me, food experiences are an important feature of great travel experiences. Donna took us to The Boatshed, an elegant restaurant on the Swan River. I don’t usually have dessert. but was glad I changed the routine for this dreamy dish of creamy mousse encasing rhubarb, topped with sorbet and served with a swoosh of apple puree. Delectable. Otherwise, Iggy and I ate on a budget. We recommend the $8 (Australian) steak and fried onion sandwich served at The Green Room at the bus station – about the only place open when we went looking for lunch on a public holiday. The slab of steak in the sandwich was generous.

Government House is representative of the charming brick buildings to be found in Perth. Right in the middle of Perth, the gardens at Government House were worth wandering through.

Government House is representative of the charming brick buildings to be found in Perth. Right in the middle of Perth, the gardens at Government House were worth wandering through.

While the shopping malls did not light our fire (similar shops here in NZ), the alleys off the main mall area were pretty.

While the shopping malls did not light our fire (similar shops here in NZ), the alleys off the main mall area were pretty.

Perth's sunny weather made a change from Hamilton's cooler climate. We were glad we had taken our Aussie hats (made in New Zealand!) with us.

Perth’s sunny weather made a pleasant change from Hamilton’s cooler climate. We were glad we had taken our Aussie hats (made in New Zealand!) with us.

We couldn't get away from the fact that watching Andrew learning to crawl was one of Perth's big attractions.

We couldn’t get away from the fact that watching Andrew learning to crawl was one of Perth’s big attractions.

- and I'll always remember those cuddles from a snuggly little man!

– and I’ll always remember those cuddles from a snuggly little man!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Brisbane’s South Bank – a cultural highlight

Having family in Brisbane provided Iggy and me with the strongest motivation to visit this Queensland city. Somehow I had formed the impression that the city was a stop-off point for Surfers Paradise and Noosa – a transit lounge for melanoma seekers. I did not expect Brisbane to become one of my favourite cities in the world. And – apart from the lure of family – why has Brisbane become a favourite destination? Because of South Bank.

South Bank, across a walking bridge from Brisbane's city centre.

South Bank, across a walking bridge from Brisbane’s city centre.

South Bank is on the site of the World Expo 88. It opened to the public as a cultural precinct in June 1992. A pleasant ride on the Brisbane River by City Cat is an easy way of reaching South Bank, where there are shops, a beach, an auditorium, a conservatorium, a gallery of traditional art, a gallery of contemporary art, a library, café, book shop and more.

Iggy is happy to take a break in the café - sheltered above and on three sides while open on its fourth side - while I indulge in the contemporary art exhibitions.

Iggy is happy to take a break in the café – sheltered above and on three sides while open on its fourth side – while I indulge in the contemporary art exhibitions.

Looking out from the open side of the café.

Looking out from the open side of the café.

He usually joins me in my favourite book shop in the whole world.

He usually joins me in my favourite book shop in the whole world. I don’t think we have ever managed to leave this shop empty handed.

It's worth a look around the corner at the selection of books for all ages and the beautiful gift wrap.

It’s worth a look around the corner at the selection of books for all ages and the beautiful gift wrap.

The shop by the contemporary art gallery stocks art books and high quality, novel gifts.

The shop by the contemporary art gallery stocks art books and high quality, novel gifts.

After being absorbed in a rich display of Aboriginal art, we crossed the bridge to the city side and made our way to the station for an easy train ride out to the airport. Off to Perth!

After I had my fix of magnificent Aboriginal art, brilliantly exhibited in the gallery of contemporary art, we crossed the bridge to the city side where this charming colonial building took my eye. From here, we made our way to the station for an easy train ride out to the airport. Off to Perth!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Breakfast in Brisbane

As we were heading from Hamilton, NZ, to Perth, Australia, it seemed like a good idea to visit Iggy’s daughter Amanda in Brisbane.

Amanda hosting us for breakfast at one of her favourite Brisbane cafes, Shucked.

Amanda hosting us for breakfast at one of her favourite Brisbane cafes, Shucked.

Street art on a corrugated iron warehouse wall forms the background to Iggy.

Street art on a corrugated iron wall forms the background to Iggy.

The café carries off an eclectic style. Beside us there was a birthday party, with the group seated on upside down plastic crates around tiled coffee tables.

The café carries off an eclectic style. My grandparents served condiments in little dishes – but probably not in a corrugated iron warehouse. Beside us there was a birthday party, with the group seated on upside down plastic crates around tiled coffee tables.

We left Hamilton at 2.30am and, expecting not to be served breakfast on our budget fare flight, had McDonalds for breakfast at Auckland Airport. We were then served a delicious breakfast midway between Auckland and Brisbane, followed by our magnificent meal at Shucked. Good thing that a hearty breakfast is considered to be healthy!

Amanda's Eggs Benedict.

Amanda’s Eggs Benedict.

Iggy's Ricotta Hotcakes. The strawberry season has not quite started in New Zealand so the strawberries on the side were a treat.

Iggy’s Ricotta Hotcakes with Marscapone. The strawberry season has not quite started in New Zealand so the strawberries on the side were a treat.

I was rapt with my choice - Huevos Rancheros with Chorizo and Salsa. Unspeakably good! Can anyone provide me with a tried and tested recipe for this dish. I would like to eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I was rapt with my choice – Huevos Rancheros with Chorizo and Salsa. Unspeakably good! Can anyone provide me with a tried and tested recipe for this dish? I would like to eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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Blustery fun on Ninety Mile Beach

Daniel drove us down the Te Pahu stream to the sand dunes at the end of Ninety Mile Beach.

Daniel drove us down the stream to the sand dunes at the end of Ninety Mile Beach.

Ninety Mile Beach is, in fact, about 55 miles long. Stockmen reckoned they drove their animals about 30 miles in a day. As it took them three days to drive the stock along Ninety Mile Beach, by definition (they calculated) the beach must be 90 miles long.

After a lesson on dune boarding the young and the superactive members of the tour trudged up to the top of the dunes.

After Daniel’s lesson on dune boarding the young and the super-active members of the tour trudged up to the top of the dunes. I thought the top of the dunes looked vertical, but sand does not stay put at 90 degrees, the experts tell me. Iggy says the “angle of repose” for sand is 34 degrees, but will go to 45 degrees if it is wet. 34 degrees looked steep enough to me.

Speed fiend Iggy dune boarded right from the top. His reward was sand through every fibre of his being.

Speed fiend Iggy dune boarded right from the top. His reward was sand through every fibre of his being.

The learner slopes were steep enough for me.

The learner slopes were fun enough for me.

We had to wait for the tide to go out so that when the coach drove us down the beach we could get around a rocky headland. In the meantime, we chatted with the fishermen who hauled in this catch, plus some, in the forty five minutes we had been playing on the sand dunes. Notice the mako (shark) in the background.

We had to wait for the tide to go out so that when the coach drove us down the beach we would be able to get around a rocky headland. In the meantime, we chatted with the fishermen who hauled in this catch, plus some, in the forty five minutes we had been playing on the sand dunes. Notice the mako (shark) in the background.

Watching the sand gust along the beach and the waves crash to shore was mesmerising. I stopped, I breathed, I absorbed the utter removal from my life of work and the busy-ness of our lives - and I discovered during these moments the benefits of moving far from life's usual routines.

Watching the sand gust along the beach and the waves crash to shore was mesmerising. I stopped, I breathed, I realised I was far from civilisation and on holiday. I grinned broadly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cape Reinga – where the spirits depart for the homeland

Kupe, the earliest known voyager from Hawaiiki, the homeland of the Maori people, named Cape Reinga Te Rerenga Wairua, the path of the spirits. After the death of a Maori person, the spirit leaves from Cape Reinga, the northern most point of New Zealand. As it reaches the Three Kings Islands, the spirit turns to wave a final farewell and returns to distant Hawaiiki.

Daniel, our driver, instilled in us a respect for the deeply spiritual nature of the area. He made it clear that no food or drink was to be taken beyond the carpark and all rubbish was to be brought back to the coach. To discourage picnicking, there are no rubbish bins. There is something special about a spot like this – a dynamic vista, beautiful plantings, immaculate pathways, tourists galore – and not a pay and display machine, ice-cream vendor, coffee van or merchandise shop in sight. The magnificence of the place was all we needed.

When you look out from Cape Reinga, you can see the waves coming from two opposing directions – from the Tasman Sea on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. Sometimes, there is a distinct line where the two oceans meet.

A blustery walk from the bus to the lighthouse.

A blustery walk from the bus to the lighthouse.

Iggy looks out from the Cape Reinga lighthouse.

Iggy looks out from the Cape Reinga lighthouse.

Iggy took a photo similar to this one at Bluff, the southernmost point of the South Island. So here I am at the northernmost point of the North Island.

Iggy took a photo similar to this one at Bluff, the southernmost point of the South Island. So here I am at the northernmost point of the North Island.

 

 

 

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The start of a day on an Explore NZ tour bus

Daniel the driver picked us up from Club Paihia in Dune Rider at an hour of the morning when I am more usually opening one eyelid at a time. Dune Rider is a specially converted vehicle with a truck front and a coach body, purpose built for the day's travels that were ahead of us. The coach seating is sloped to allow all passengers to see out the panoramic front window.

Daniel our driver picked us up from Club Paihia in Dune Rider at a time when I am more usually still snoozing. Dune Rider is a specially converted vehicle with a truck front and a coach body, purpose-built for the Northland tour. 

Before we embark on our travellers’ tales, let me introduce Daniel. I am a generally a bit apprehensive about being a coach passenger – vivid memories of Auckland bus drivers running red lights and jolting to a halt when I was a regular bus passenger commuter. Daniel’s calm and considerate driving quickly quelled any fears. Also, I can be tetchy about tour commentaries – especially about those sparse on fact and overloaded with wisecracks and cheap shots. Daniel, however, provided a most eloquent commentary – knowledgeable, interesting and friendly. His deep spiritual connection with the land added a rich dimension to the tour. We were in the best possible hands for an 11 hour journey.
First stop Taipa. Ahhh! coffee! We picked up our packed lunches and were on our way.

First stop Taipa. Ahhh! coffee!

Our packed lunches were ready to be picked up at Taipa. Once again, Explore NZ got it right – grainy bread sandwich with lots of meat and salad filling, bottled water, a piece of fruit and some slice – pretty much exactly what I would have chosen for myself. (I promise, I have no personal connection in any way with Explore NZ. I am just a happy customer!)

Next stop - the Gumdiggers Park.

Next stop – the Gumdiggers Park.

The English call them Wellingtons or wellies – and we call them gumboots. Why? Because these were the boots that gum diggers wore, of course! How did I reach this age without knowing that before?

Through the manuka bush ...

Through the manuka bush …

...to an ancient kauri log, estimated to be between 100,000 and 150,000 years old. The log has a girth of around nine metres.

…to an ancient kauri log, estimated to be between 100,000 and 150,000 years old. The log has a girth of around nine metres.

Apparently, in all the buried forests in this area, the trees have fallen in the same direction. Mysterious. The most popular theory is that the kauri forests were felled by tsunami or meteorite strikes. The chemistry of the peat swamps has preserved rather than fossilised the fallen trees.

When kauri trees lose their branches, the sap drips to the ground and hardens, becoming the prized amber coloured kauri gum. The English immigrants dug the peat swamps for buried kauri gum and exported it back their homeland as it was used to make varnish, linoleum and perfumes. The images below show the well ventilated shelters where the gum diggers would have lived.

4 Gumdiggers hut

6 Gumdiggers

The sieves used for washing the peat off the pieces of kauri gum found by the gum diggers.

The sieves used for washing the peat off the pieces of kauri gum found by the gum diggers.

The walk through the trees and past the gum diggers' accommodation comes out at a clearing where there are native kauri, manuka and ferns.

The walk through the trees and past the gum diggers’ accommodation came out at a clearing where there are young kauri, manuka and ferns.

I had not previously heard of Gumdiggers Park. When I asked others on the tour what was the highlight of their day, Gumdiggers Park rated the top mention.

Our next stop was a better known New Zealand landmark – the northern most tip of the country, Cape Reinga.

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A stroll around Paihia

Just a couple of minutes from Club Paihia is a wonderful variety of scenic treats – historic buildings, the sea, and some peculiarly Paihia features.

St Paul's Church, built in 1925 on the site of New Zealand's first mission station. The mission was founded by Englishman, Rev'd Henry Williams.

St Paul’s Church, built in 1925 on the site of New Zealand’s first mission station. The mission was founded by Englishman, Rev’d Henry Williams.

The Paihia public toilets, or - in Maori - wharepaku. Whare means house. It's anyone's guess what paku means! Take a close look at the stylish planter bowls on the building's roof.

The Paihia public toilets, or – in Maori – wharepaku. Whare means house. It’s anyone’s guess what paku means! Take a close look at the stylish planter bowls on the building’s roof and front wall.

The roof of the Paihia public toilets.

The roof of the Paihia public toilets.

The view to the north.

The view to the north.

Along the beach.

Along the beach.

 A cottage garden surrounds the Paihia Library which is housed in the historic Williams homestead.


A cottage garden surrounds the Paihia Library which is housed in the historic Williams homestead.

We weren’t in Paihia to shop – so it was something of a sad relief when a gloriously hued jacket made of handwoven fabrics and felt, displayed in an art gallery window, proved to be the wrong size. Go to Creative Get Up to see Sandra Thompson’s finely handcrafted wearable art.

Couldn't you just see me in this? I swear, I would wear it everywhere I went.

Couldn’t you just see me in this? I swear, I would wear it everywhere I went.

We were happy to fend for ourselves food-wise. However, an advertisement for seafood chowder lured us back to The Pier one evening. The chowder was packed with seafood and served with crispy garlic bread and a generous bowl of steamed fresh mussels. Washed down with a large glass of the house red, it was a most satisfying and economic dinner out (less than $30 for us both for food and drink).

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