Category Archives: scenery

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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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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Hamilton Lake in autumn

Hamilton has a reputation for being foggy – a comment that is made as if by way of criticism. I love the way the fog tosses its gauzy throw over the landscape – a flattering soft focus. There will be a post one day soon on Hamilton in the fog, but not today. Today was clear – a soft light where the stillness and reflections were pure and the spirits received a top up to carry them through the bleaker days to come.

reflected reeds

lake 1

walkway

in the distance

autumn colours

It is a flat, scenic and easy walk around the lake – about one hour. There is free parking at and beyond the Verandah Restaurant.

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Waikato Explorer – a river boat breakfast

What a peaceful way to start the day. BNI Legends combined business with pleasure recently, having their weekly meeting aboard Waikato Explorer, skippered by our BNI colleague, Darren Mills.

What a peaceful way to start the day. Members of BNI Legends combined business with pleasure recently, having our weekly breakfast meeting aboard Waikato Explorer, skippered by our BNI colleague, Darren Mills.

Making our way to Waikato Explorer was easy. Park in the main Hamilton Gardens car park and follow the sign down the river path ...

Making our way to Waikato Explorer was easy. There was ample parking in the main Hamilton Gardens car park and we followed the sign down the river path …

...and there she is.

…and there she was.

Adam from Hogs Breath Café, Jethro of JG Landcare and Alan of Coffee News took a seat.

Adam from Hogs Breath Café, Jethro of JG Landcare and Alan of Coffee News took a seat. They didn’t have to wait too long for their yummy Kerr and Ladbrook breakfast – and the coffee was fantastic.

Others enjoyed being able to stretch their legs.

Others enjoyed being able to stretch their legs.

All of us enjoyed such an up-close-and-personal view of the river.

All of us enjoyed the up-close-and-personal view of the river.

Hasn't Darren got the work place with the best view of us all? No wonder he loves going to play - I mean work - each day.

Hasn’t Darren got the work place with the best view of us all? No wonder he loves going to play – I mean work – each day.

Weekend scheduled cruises on Waikato Explorer leave Hamilton Gardens at 12.30pm and 2.30pm every Saturday and Sunday. Charter options can be arranged any day of the week on request. The boat is licensed to take up to 87 passengers and has the capacity for up to 50 seated diners. With a fully-licensed bar and a range of menu items, the Waikato Explorer is well set up as a venue for all kinds of events, from club outings to specialty cruises to major events such as weddings, birthdays and anniversaries. It was certainly an enjoyable and novel venue for our BNI business networking meeting. With the river filling a little since the autumn rain came to the Waikato, Darren is able to venture further afield these days. He mentioned Narrows Landing today. Looks like we’ll have to explore our beautiful Waikato River again soon!

 

 

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Perfect Day at the Poor Knights marine reserve

Expectations were high as we boarded the tour boat named Perfect Day.

Two of my offspring raved about their trips to the marine reserve off the Poor Knights islands. Expectations were high as we boarded the tour boat named Perfect Day.

Skipper Luke welcomed us aboard at the marina in Tutukaka, delivering the funniest safety briefing I have ever heard – so clever that I can still tell you exactly how the life-jacket goes on (both sides labelled “front”). It was somewhat less amusing when, within minutes, we were thumping through the four-five metre swell. Usually the first to become sea-sick, I did myself proud, eyes fixed on the horizon, gulping in the fresh air and moving with the boat’s rise-and-crash-rise-and-crash for the one hour “cruise”.

We were promised the crashing would stop when we pulled into a bay beside one of the islands of the Poor Knights group.

The crashing stopped when we pulled into a bay beside one of the islands of the Poor Knights group.

The descriptions I had heard of the super-clear water were not exaggerated. This image, taken from the top floor of Perfect Day, looks down past the kelp through five to six metres of water to the sea floor.

The descriptions I had heard of the super-clear water were not exaggerated. This image, taken from the top floor of Perfect Day when we anchored in the bay , shows kelp and the sea floor five to six metres below the surface. 

The crew helped us into wetsuits and issued fins, masks and snorkels, so that we could jump in off the back of the boat and discover the secrets of the reserve for ourselves. Getting up close and personal with a school of electric blue fish and following a large snapper just below us was magic. Because no-one is allowed to catch fish in the reserve, the fish are plentiful and fairly tame.

Clever tourists successfully paddle-boarded around the bay. I enjoyed sharing one of the boat's tandem kayaks with one of the Flying Rotarians.

Clever tourists successfully paddle-boarded around the bay (paddle boards also provided by Perfect Day). For me, a circuit in one of the tandem kayaks did the trick.

The rocking of the boat at anchor caught me off guard - and that's where the series of paper bags came into the story. Iggy takes over the photography for this post at this point, while I felt like I was going to die then began to wish I would. Iggy labelled this charming picture of me "Crook as a crab".

Suddenly, my perfect half-day was over. The rocking of the boat at anchor caught me off guard – and that’s where the series of paper bags came into the story. Iggy took over the photography for this blog post at this point, while I felt like I was going to die – then began to wish I would. Iggy labelled this flattering picture of me “Crook as a crab”.

The boat ventured in through quite a narrow opening to end up inside the Rikoriko Cave, the world's largest sea-cave. Through the railings, I managed a glimpse of its beautiful colours.

Anchor up, the boat ventured in through quite a narrow opening to end up inside the nearby Rikoriko Cave, the world’s largest sea-cave. Through the railings, I managed a glimpse of its beautiful colours.

Commentary about the islands followed the visit to the sea-cave. When you see an image like this, you realise that for most of the passengers, it really was a perfect day.

Commentary about the islands followed the visit to the sea-cave. When you see an image like this, you realise that for most of the passengers, it really was a perfect day.

 

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Whangarei tour

A brisk constitutional up 53 steps to a look out on the Tutukaka coastline was the first activity on our International Flying Rotarians weekend in Northland.

A brisk constitutional up 53 steps to a look out on the Tutukaka coastline was the first activity on our International Fellowship of Flying Rotarians weekend in Northland.

From the top, we looked back at the beach on one side ...

From the top, we looked back at the beach on one side …

...and coastline on the other.

…and coastline on the other.

 

Our host Lance told us about the dry stone walls which stretch for kilometres along the roadside and across farmland on the road between Whangarei and Tutukaka. Apparently the walls were built by Dalmatian settlers around 150 years ago. The purpose was two-fold - to clear farmland of volcanic stone so that it could be used for pasture and to create fields for the animals. Other settlers made life hard for the Dalmations as they did not like the way the Dalmations worked too hard!

Our host Lance told us about the dry stone walls which stretch for kilometres along the roadside and across farmland on the road between Whangarei and Tutukaka. Apparently the walls were built by Dalmatian settlers around 150 years ago. The purpose was two-fold – to clear farmland of volcanic stone so that it could be used for pasture and to create fields for the animals. Other settlers made life hard for the Dalmations as they did not like the way the Dalmations worked too hard!

 

Our next stopover, on the outskirts of Whangarei and only a few minutes easy walk from the carpark were the Whangarei Falls.

Our next stopover, on the outskirts of Whangarei and only a few minutes easy walk from the carpark were the Whangarei Falls.

 

The coach then took us to a lookout from where we looked down on Whangarei city ...

The coach then took us to a lookout from where we looked down on Whangarei city …

... and back over the parched Northland countryside. Dry dust filled the air, so the area lacked its usual clear visibility.

… and back over the parched Northland countryside. Dry dust filled the air, so the area lacked its usual clear visibility.

 

 

 

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Waikato drought

Our memories of the New Zealand summer are of day after day of baking  in the glorious sun. After such a non-event summer last year, our spirits were uplifted when there were forecasts of a real Kiwi summer this year – and it is joyful to wake to blue skies on a warm morning. However, the effects of the long dry are now affecting every one of us – hand-held hoses only for watering the garden and the threat of expensive produce in the year ahead as production costs soar with the extreme summer temperatures. It is years since we have seen such sun-bleached landscape, with plants going to seed and turning brown ahead of autumn. Yesterday there was 1mm of drizzle – the first “rain” in many weeks. Farmers report that they need 150 times this much rain over a seven day period to regenerate their pastures.

drought 1

seed head 1

seed head 2

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