Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Car Accident Scotland - Sat 29th August 2009

I am driving from Glasgow to Fort William on Saturday 29th August and at 2.30pm (approx.) I am hit by a car which is came at me on my side of the road. The car had overtaken a caravan on a bend and the driver was making an escape from a police car.



The head on accident happened at Onich and I was thank fully driving at around 35mph in a 40mph limit section of this twisty road. A red car is seen on my side of the road coming round a corner at speed and I know there is no way I am going to avoid it. I remain calm break and try to move to the left but I just know it is going to hit me and I say "silent goodbyes" to the world. The next minute there is a large bang and my airbag is in front of me but I am still alive. There is a terrible smell and I see a car spinning to my right hand side and then another green car lands by my door blocking any escape through this door.

29-8-09

I see a lovely lady rushing to my rescue (she has come from the caravan) and she is in the car beside me helping me to get out of the crushed driver's compartment. This is not at all easy and with smoke around I am apprehensive of fire but there is no fuel smell. With her great assistance and encouragement I get out but my rib cage is sore.

I realise the enormity of the accident with the front wheel of the offending car lodged beneath my door which made my car look as if it had two wheels. I was alive and I have been ever so lucky.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Munich, Germany - July 2009

I was on the 8.30am flight out of Stansted on Tuesday June 30th 2009 and bound for Munich (7th largest airport in Europe) and arrived there at 10.50am (local time) on a lovely hot morning. It was a €10 ticket to take me on the S-Bahn 1 into the City and then the U-Bahn 6 (underground) to Harras (a lovely quiet area of the City) where I was staying at the K+K Hotel am Harras. All went according to plan and a lovely room at this four star hotel was ready for me. With some 47,000 beds available the City offers a wide range of accommodation for all tastes and budgets.

Travelling on public transport in Germany is a sheer delight as every thing is so efficient and clean. As the underground was immediately outside the hotel I got the train to Marienplatz and had a look round the City and its lovely buildings. Louise and Grant were travelling from Edinburgh and were due to arrive at the airport at 4.50pm and we were to meet up at Marienplatz after they checked into their hotel.

In July last year I had stayed a few days with Louise and Grant in a flat they had rented in the City and had a great time in this lovely City and a days visit to Tegernsee where Grant and I got to the top of Mt. Wallberg at 1,722m. Grant is to be in the City once again to “worship at the alter of hops” and make an in depth study of beer halls, gardens and monasteries!! He is an expert on Bavarian beers so here again I was hoping to “sup a few”. While waiting I did decide to visit a couple of our old haunts to try out the beers.

Grant and Louise are to be in the City until Tuesday 7th July when they return home and I leave on Sunday 5th July for three days in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, returning to the UK on Thursday 8th July. We are in the City to have an enjoyable and relaxing time, visit some of our old haunts and find new ones, in the City and out with. Tollwood Summer Festival 2009 (18/6 – 12/7/09) was on at the Olympiapark and we did enjoy a lovely evening there on Thursday 2nd July. Our visit to the Marrakech Tent (part of the festival) was very memorable. The park was created for the 20th Summer Olympic Games in 1972. This is a beautiful sports landscape with sweeping roofs, a 290 metre high tower and an artificial lake. On Saturday 4th July we started at the Waldwirtschaft Großhesselohe (Wa-Wi.) beer garden, above the ISAR Gorge, south of Munich, famous for its Jazz. We wandered down stream to visit Grant’s mate at the Seehaus Hinterbrühl and went to watch rafts (the Bavarian pastime of Floßfahrt) race down the River Isar where lots of people were having ever so much fun. The Isar River comes down from the north mountains to flow through the city to the south. The river’s banks and floodplains are ideal for walking, bicycling, jogging, relaxing and sunbathing.

Munich and Bavaria is a great place to visit all year round but May to September is the main tourist season. More than 60 million people from all over the world visit Munich, the capital of Bavaria, every year. It is the most visited city in Germany. Bavaria is Germany’s largest and most southerly state (sprawls over 70,550sq.km.) – “the land of Lederhosen and laptops.” Munich has a population of 1.5million people and is one of Europe’s busiest and liveliest places – “Munich Sparkles”. High quality art and music offered by internationally renowned museums and world famous orchestras attract enthusiasts of all countries. Few cities in the world offer so many star-studded classical concerts. Shopping facilities are wonderful with such a relaxed atmosphere. It boasts 58 theatres, 46 museums, 82 cinemas and 130 libraries and is a powerhouse of the IT and film industries, BMW, and Siemens but its centre retains a small-town feel. Munich is twinned with Edinburgh.

In Munich or in Bavaria you are never far away from a jar of amber ale. Internationally Munich is undoubtedly the Number One beer metropolis. Beer is Germany’s favourite drink and German brewers turn out around 4,000 distinctively different beers from some 1,300 breweries. More beer is consumed in Bavaria than anywhere else in Germany. German beers enjoy a loyal following around the world.

Most towns and larger villages have a brewery. There are spring and autumn beer festivals in virtually every town in Bavaria. ‘Prost’ is the toast. The Mass is a tankard that holds a litre. Beer has become an art form and is served with the greatest of care in specially designed elegant glasses for different styles of beer, suited to gracing the most sophisticated of dining tables. Beer in Germany may only be brewed using barley, hops, yeast and water. Brews are broadly divided into two categories – bottom fermented or top fermented – which simply means the yeast works from the bottom or at the top. Most German beer is bottom fermented.

Munich Oktoberfest began in 1810 and is the world’s “biggest keg party” for 16 full days between Sept and October each year. It starts on the 3rd Saturday in September, 19th this year. There are some 3,000 “Sister” – Oktoberfests spread out all around the world. If you cannot make the festival, you can still enjoy beers by the City’s six local beermeisters in a boisterous beer hall or a convivial beer garden.

Monasteries have produced some fine quality brews since medieval times and today’s monks very much continue to hold this tradition. Eleven German monasteries continue to produce beer. Kloster Weltenburg nr. Kelheim, north of Munich is the world’s oldest monastery brewery. Benedictines in Andechs nr. Munich produces Doppelbock Dunkel which is among the world’s best. Grant says it is the best although he does have another favourite - Augustiner. Founded in the 10th Century this lovely hilltop monastery has long been a place of pilgrimage, although more visitors come to “slurp” the Benedictines’ fabled beers. The nearby Braustuberl is the monks’ beer hall and garden. There are six varieties of beer on offer from the rich and velvety Doppelbock dark to the fresh unfiltered Weissbier. We enjoyed our visit here last year and again this year. Grant had such a thirst that he got to the hilltop (having walked from the station some three quarters of an hour away) ahead of me.

The world’s oldest brewery established in 1040 is the Weihenstephan Benedictine monastery in Freising, which is believed to be the oldest working brewery in the world. It is now part of the University of Applied Sciences, where the brewers go to get trained.

We take enjoyment in visiting beer halls and beer gardens and here are some in the City:
• Waldwirtschaft (Grobhesselohe) – a favourite with Grant and here top Jazz bands play all summer.
• Augustiner Braustuben (Hackerbrucke) – This is a very enjoyable beer hall with roof terrace selling Augustiner, one of Germany’s best beers and the food is traditional, tasty, plentiful, well priced with excellent service. My second visit and I look forward to going back.
• Andechser am Dom
• Braunauer Hof
• Hofbrauhaus (Marienplatz) – one of the few bustling beer halls left in the City. This is a traditional beer hall and beer garden for up to 3,000 guests. Probably the most famous beer hall in the world. I found the food good and if you want to dance this is the place to go.
• Hirschgarten – seats some 8,300 drinkers at one time.
• Augustiner-Grossgaststatte
• Hofbraukeller
• Augistiner Ustiner am Platz - another favourite in the centre of the City.
• Ayinger am Platzl (also just opposite the Hofbrauhaus)
• Viktualienmarkt - a good beer garden selling good beer in the City Centre Market area by Marienplatz.
• Löwenbräukeller
• Augustiner Bräustuben, part of the brewery complex, no 1 beer hall.
• Paulaner Keller
• Paulaner Bräuhaus
• Zum Flaucher
• Menterschweige
• Michaeligarten
• Fasanarie
• Hinterbruhl
• Franziskaner Keller
• TaxisGarten
• Weisses Bräuhaus
• Jodlerwirt
• Franziskaner Garten
• Harlaching Einkehr

This year we spent a day in the Englischer Garden, the biggest City owned park in Europe. Created around 1789 it stretches to 373 hectares (900 acres). Here there are a number of beer gardens:
• Chinesischer Turm – very famous beer garden and restaurant and enjoyable. The Chinese Tower was built over 200 years ago.
• Aumeister
• Seehaus – viewed by many as a tranquil island in midst of the pulsating city district of “Schwabing”and located on the shores of Kleinhesseloher lake.
• Hirschau – our first visit and very enjoyable.
• Osterwald-Garten
Further a field there are:
• SchloBgastatatte Leutstetten
• Waldwirtschaft GroBhesselohe
• Bräustüberl Tegernsee

Giant Breweries in Bavaria are:
• Paulaner
• Lowenbrau
• Hofbrau

As already mentioned there are over 4,000 different types of beer but here I mention a few:
• Pilsner (Pils) - most commonly drunk beer. Fermented beer of the lager type. Light coloured with a strong hoppy taste and aroma and a long dry finish.
• Hell or Helles – delivers a mild hop character with a touch of malt sweetness and is pale or light in colour.
• Weizenbier
• Maibock – spring beer. Actually called Starkbier in Munich, brewed for lent. The best is brewed and sold at the Paulaner Keller.
• Doppelbock – very alcoholic, smooth and complex and can be light or dark in colour.
• WeiBbier – a wheat beer. Available in two varieties – Hefe (cloudy) where the yeast is retained and Kristall (clear) when the yeast is removed. Both are full flavoured, spicy with a complex taste.
• Weizenbock – strong winter wheat beer with malt and fruit flavours.
• Berliner Weisse – white beer.
• Dunkles Weiß
• Dunkel – dark lager beer and brewed using aromatic malts. Tawny to black in colour, it has a full bodied flavour that is refreshing, enjoyable and full of character. Consumption, if slurping rather than sipping, needs to be watched!!
• Festbier – amber appearance and full flavour with a delicate malt sweetness.
• Bockbier – smooth, malty and warming – a delicious winter beer.
• Schwarzbeir – dark beer top fermented.
• Rauchbier – light smokiness.
• Spezi
• Kellerbier
• Alt – like the UK ales being amber in colour, smooth and well balanced.
• Kulmbach (nr. Bayreuth) comes up with the strongest beer in the world at 22% proof.

If you have not been to Germany then I would recommend that you do give it a try. Berlin is another City I would like to visit.

10th July 2009

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Exploring New Zealand

Stuart and I came to New Zealand with a sight seeing plan plus a number of activities to undertake. We would like to share these with you.

The accommodation we choose, all done over the internet, was all wonderful as was the generosity and friendliness of all the proprietors. We made Evans Bay Homestay and Leisha in Wellington our “base camp” for exploring the North and South Islands. Our car hire worked out well and the two ferry crossings on lovely calm days were wonderful. We travelled some 1,200kms on the South Island and a further 1,000kms on the North Island. Our scenic air travel was 225kms, our tramping 220kms and our two ferry crossings a further 184kms, making a total of 629kms. All along the way we saw some wonderful scenery as we travelled on some 13 State Highways. We had sunshine everywhere we went. We saw very little rain and experienced a fresh fall of snow on the high mountains in Torgariro National Park, which only added to the unique beauty of this stunning area which had a massive impact on us.

The kindness, friendliness, helpfulness and honesty of all the people were tremendous and everyone is so proud of their country/adopted country.

We did ever so much and here I am only recording our main activities and sight seeing and putting these in my order of preference; which I want to say was very difficult to do. Perhaps on another day I might well change the order!!

Activities/Sight Seeing

1 – The Tongariro Alpine Crossing ("TAC")
The TAC is known widely as “The Best One Day Walk” in NZ and is a world-renowned trek. The 18.5 kilometre track starts from Mangatefipo car park 6kms off the SH47 and from here it is a gentle introduction up the Mangatepopo valley and then it is a steep climb to the saddle with Mt. Ngauruhoe 2,387m to your right.

The Crossing is a superb full-day walk, taking in spectacular volcantic terrain – an active crater, lava flows, steam vents, and emerald lakes. The route traverses rough ground and a harsh environment for colonising plants.

It is so difficult to describe the beauty and great inspiration of this alpine crossing. Hundreds of people accompanied us on the crossing and two full busses left the National Park Backpackers on the morning of 10th April 2009. This is described as one of the best one day alpine treks in the world from alpine meadow to mountain summit with stunning volcanic features along the way. We did it in 6hrs. 40 minutes, starting the walk at 7.50am and finishing at 2.30pm. Along the way we chatted to people from all over the world who were here, like us to do this famous tramp. A bus took us to the start of the walk and at 3pm took us back.
It is a challenge, an adventure and an unforgettable experience. The vivid memories of these magic vistas will remain with me always and will be cherished.
2. – Scenic flight around Mt Cook and Mt Tasman and over the Franz Joseph and Fox glaciers It was on a lovely sunny, clear and calm day on Monday 20th April that we were fortunate to do this trip with an experienced and skilful pilot, Murray Bowes. We left Hokitika at10am and we soon rose to11,500 feet on this 140 mile journey at speeds of between 80/100mph. We were back at 11.30am. The views were staggering to say the least as was the experience. It will never be forgotten.
3 – Abel Tasman Coastal Track Here we took a jet boat from Kaiteriteri to Medlands Beach (Bark Bay) and then walked back on the Abel Tasman Coastal Path to Marahau taking us four and a half hours to walk some 25kms. The views were magic all the way along.
4 – Day’s Fishing on Ngongotana Stream, in Rotorua With Graham Butcher as our guide we fished for some six hours on this wonderful stream on Tuesday 14th April which was full of big trout but as Graham said, “very difficult to catch.” Four were pulled out between 2.5lbs and 4lbs. It was a beautiful day and we had a packed lunch and beers cooling in the water – what more does one need? We were in heaven.
5 - Interisland Ferry between Wellington and Picton and the return journey. This must be one of the most spectacular ferry crossings in the world. We were fortunate to experience the crossing twice with good weather on both occasions. A lovely experience.
6 - Huka Falls A natural phenomenon. The mighty Waikato River, NZ’s largest, gushes through a narrow chasm not long after the outlet from Lake Taupo. 300,000lrs of water per second hurtles through the narrow channel that makes the waterfall the most visited attraction in NZ.
7 – Arthur’s Pass and the two track walks – Devils Punchbowl Track & Bridal Veil Track On a wet morning in Greymouth on Sunday 19th April we crossed Arthur’s Pass to Arthur’s Pass Village and into sunshine where we did two short track walks. The first, the Devils Punchbowl took us to a most beautiful waterfall and the second; the Bridal Veil was through mountain beech forest. Tracks from here can take you as far as Mt.Tasman and Mt. Cook. The grandeur of this vast and austere mountain and river landscapes holds you in awe.
8 - Drive from Wellington to Wanganui and then to Tongariro National Park Before Wanganui and after the town we were fascinated by the numbers of small and large glacial mounds we saw; miles and miles of them. Trees were shedding their leaves and lovely autumn colours were in view. Numerous poplars were seen, many planted in straight lines but others having grown wild. We were now on the SH4 by the mighty Whanganui River and this timeless river finds its origin high on Mt Tongariro, starting as an alpine stream and gathering waters from Mt. Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu. As it descends through the central volcanic plateau it sweeps in a huge northern arc towards Taumaranui, then winding its way to its exit into the Tasman Sea at Wanganui. It is the first big river we see and we are fascinated by it.
9 - Pancake Rocks We pass through the beautiful Paparoa National Park and stop at Punakaiki and here we view the unusual volcanic rock formations known as the “Pancake Rocks” and the blowholes formed by the lava tubes. Shoots of water fly high up into the air from these tubes at high tide and we did see this happening.
10 – Hangi Feast and the Geyser A night at ‘TE PUIA’ in Rotorua where we had an in-depth experience of the customs and traditions of the Maori people, a hangi-cooked feast and contemporary Maori dishes. The evening ended at 9pm after a visit to view POHUTA, the famous geyser on the site.
11 – Wai o Tapu Thermal Park This is NZ’s most colourful and diverse volcanic area and here we walked round the stunning geothermal activity and unforgettable vistas.
12 – Walk to Tama Lakes Due to snow and ice conditions (we did not have winter gear) our attempt to get to the top of Mt Ruapehu (at 2,797metres is the highest point on the North Island) on the morning of 11th April was abandoned and we headed for the Tama Lakes which is a 17kms tramp which we did in 4.45hours. The track takes you between Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu and the two lakes, lower and upper, occupy several old explosion craters on the Tama Saddle. The views all around are stunning.
13 - Drive down the Buller River Valley to Westport and the West Coast Highway to Greymouth We pass through vestiges of the Great Southern Rainforest, some wonderful views of mountain tops and deep valleys and gorges. The swift flowing Buller River provides you with superb vistas at every turn. We see large cattle and deer farms along the route. At Tiroroa we marvel at the framed old photographs of the Lower Buller Gorge where it is still the same single track road carved out from the stone cliffs above you and down to the river some 20/30 feet below. When this large river is in full flood the water level can rise to, and above the road level, a sight that must be very frightening to see. You then come to the full beauty of the West Coast which is rugged and storm ravaged. This must rank as one of the best Coastal Drives in the world.
14 – Walk in Redwoods We chose the Tokorangi Pa Track at 11.5kms. We started our walk at 11am and we were finished by 1.45pm. This was ever so enjoyable. The forest is famous for its magnificent stands of towering Californian Coastal Redwoods at around 219ft. They were massive and everywhere through the forest, hence the name "Redwoods". (In America their lifespan is 600 years and they grow as tall as 360ft). Here you are able to experience some of the finest walking and mountain bike trails in the world.
15 – Polynesian Spa, Rotorua This was just a wonderful experience as we tried the four Lakeside Pools at temperatures of 36, 38, 40, and 42c. Yes we were able to stay in the 42c and Stuart had a brief nap in the 38c pool until a bus load of Japanese ladies came along and took over the pool!! We were here for two enjoyable hours on the evening of Tuesday 14th April looking up to the star lit sky.
16 - Drive along the Queen Charlotte Driveway between Picton and Havelock This was our first introduction to the South Island and we found the scenery spectacular. We stop for a quick walk at Cullen Point. We have lunch in Havelock, the green lipped mussel capital of the world. It is a seaport, tucked away in a sheltered cove at the head of the Pelorus Sound. It was once a thriving gold-mining town but now thrives on riches from the sea. We have lunch at The Clansman as it is flying the Scottish flag and the taste of the mussels is superb.
17 - Reefton (Town of Light) A delightful place with such clear visibility of all the mountains that circle in the background.

Food and Drink
Best Beer – Mac’s Black & Monteith’s Hearty Black.
Best white wine – Brightwater Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2008- makes you mouth zing.
Best red wine – As to reds our favourite was Pinot Noir, which exudes freshness, oozing charm with generous cherry and raspberry fruit, a silky mouth-feel and great length of flavour. Here a favourite was Rimu Grove 2005. (We only drank NZ wines and beers as they were all so good.)
Best lunch – Boat Shed Café & Restaurant, Nelson with views to Tasman Sea and Abel Tasman in background. Nelson scallops and blue nose cod was washed down with Sauvignon Blanc on a lovely hot day.
Best Pub – Sprig & Fern Tavern, Nelson
Best Dinner – Hopgoods, Nelson but the Station Café Restaurant at National Park Village takes a lot of beating. We had two meals in both. Bistro 1284 in Rotorua was excellent as were all the other restaurants we visited.

Any Downside
Absolutely none.

27th April 2009

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Bavarian Alps - Garmisch-Partenkirchen

It was 9am on Sunday 5th July 2009 and I was on my way to the nearby railway station to catch the S 7 to Hauptbahnhof Central Station and my main line train to Garmisch- Partenkirchen. I caught the 10.32am train and was in the town at 12.05pm (trains run on time in Germany and this form of travel is very enjoyable) and a five minute walk took me to the Hotel Roter Hahn where I was to be resident for the next three nights. Julie and Stephan Emslander were the owners (Julie was born in Vancouver, Canada) who were extremely helpful and I did enjoy my stay at the hotel with excellent breakfasts, a lovely indoor swimming pool and sauna. The town itself and surrounding countryside is beautiful. People are ever so nice and all speak good English.

By 12.30pm I was out of the hotel and as it was a sunny day but alas heavy clouds were also to be seen, I was on my way to try to get to the top of The Wank at 1,780m. The paths up to the top and at the top were excellent. I had hoped to do a lot of walking at the top but this was not possible as heavy cloud descended and it began to rain. I took shelter in the Café at the top of the mountain and enjoyed two beers as I studied all the great mountains and valleys all around me. It was a beautiful sight and Garmisch-Partenkirchen could be clearly seen below.

Looking across to The Zugspitze, Massif, 2,964m (Germany's highest mountain) I was totally amazed at the sheer bulk of this mountain. To get to its top was my target and I had only Monday and Tuesday to do this. Another target was Scheinbergspitze at 1,926m but this would be a bonus.

Bus services in the town were free to visitors and in the evening I did explore the town with its many lovely shops and restaurants/bars. I was away to bed early after preparing my clothes and walking kit for Monday.

I was wakened by the noise of heavy rain and on drawing back the curtains I saw heavy cloud on The Zugspitze and all other surrounding mountains. Alas it was not going to be a day to walk. I finished writing my post cards and did further reading as to the best way to get to the top of the two mountains. I also went to the Tourist Information Centre and enquired as to groups going up The Zugspitze the next day and I was advised this was not happening. Previous enquires revealed a cost of E284 for a mountain guide and you would also have to pay the costs of any mountain train or cable car needed to come down. No way was I going to pay such an amount.

I went to Maronis Café Bar Restaurant and had a vegetarian lunch and two glasses of Hacker-Pschorr beer. I went for a swim and sauna at the hotel and had an early night as a hard day lay ahead.

It was dry but there was cloud high up on the mountains on Tuesday morning so after breakfast at 7.30am I was away to The Zugspitze and I enjoyed the lovely scenery. The way up is along the Rein valley going through the Partnach gorge and at its exit you continue on the right side up to the Bock hut. Cloud came and went and near the top of the mountain with lots of ski runs were the restaurant Sonn-Alpin and a lovely small church which I took a photograph of and this is included in the slide show. Here you have an option to take the cable car (Gletscherbahn) to the top. This is the Zugspitzplatt at 2,600m and this is where the cogwheel train terminates. Getting a train to this height is a marvelous achievement of engineering.

The cloud alas prevented photographs from being taken and at the top it was dense cloud with some rain and it was very cold. Free internet access (Germany’s highest internet terminal) at the top permitted me to update my blog. I visited the HIGHEST Beer Garden in Germany – “The Gipfelalm” and had soup (Festtagssuppe, Maultaschen, GriebkloBchen, MarkkloBchen) and two small glasses of Lowenbrau Dunkel.

I could get the cable car to Zugspitzplatt and then the mountain cogwheel train down or an almost vertical drop by another cable car to Eibsee. Feeling very brave I opted for the cable car to Eibsee and this took all of 12 minutes to get to the bottom. A lot of the way down was in cloud which was a shame for all who had been to the top and also saw nothing. At Eibsee there was a short wait for a train and this took me along the valley floor back to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. I had a meal at the Siagoon Express with a couple of Aktienbrauerel Kaufbeyren Helles beers and this was so enjoyable. I had a swim and sauna and got to bed by midnight. My dream of walking on the top of The Zugspitze had been accomplished. Tomorrow, Wednesday at 9.10am I would be on the train back to Munich and then on my flight back to Stansted in the UK.

8th July 2009

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Great British Beer Festival

Great British Beer Festival
4th to 8th August 2009
Earls Court, London


On Wednesday 5th August I left Chester on the 8.55am train bound for Crewe with a quick change and onto the Manchester train bound for Euston. I was there bang on time at 11:05am and armed with a day pass (now £5.60) I was on the underground and bound for Earls Court Tube Station and then a short walk to the Conference Centre. I was there for 11.45am but with large queues waiting to enter at Noon I thought I would go for something to eat ahead of my beer tasting activities!! Again I went to the Dragon King which serves delicious Chinese food.

My Late Aunt Jessie used to live in Earls Cross Road and the number 165 springs to mind. It was a second floor flat so I am very familiar with the area having last visited it at Xmas 2008.

By the time I entered the beer festival, at the back of 1pm, it is very busy and having paid my £10 entrance fee (£8 to members) and a £3 deposit on my pint glass I am well ready for an afternoon of “sampling”. Where do you start? I decided to go in an anti-clockwise route all around the Hall. This is Britain’s biggest beer festival and brings together a wide range of real ales, ciders, parries and international beers. (See – www.gbbf.org.uk). Some 64,000 people did attend the event.

By the back of 2pm I had sampled a fair few and was merry as was the rest of the continually growing crowd. My favourite was Tom Paine at 5.5% and brewed by Harveys and was a premium dry hopped bitter named after the radical Tom Paine who lived in Lewes, East Sussex in the Late 18th Century. Other beers I remember tasting and enjoying were:
• Midsummer Witch
• Bishops Finger
• Stairway to Heaven
• Highgate – Dark Mild
• Hanged Monk
• Flight of Fancy
• Swift One

By 4pm after my second circuit of this massive hall I did decide to exit as a third circuit could prove fatal!!

If you have not visited this great event before put it in your dairy for next year would be my recommendation. (www.eco.co.uk)

10th August 2009

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Ultimate Everest Trek Get Together

1st & 2nd August 2009
Hathersage, Peak District

This has been the second annual get together of the Group and a great time was had by all despite a wet day on Saturday but a nice sunny day on Sunday.

We met for morning coffee at a café in Hathersage all six of us (Steve, Roger, Geoff, Glyn, Dave and I) Stuart was to travel down by train from Manchester to join us in the evening for our meal at the Scotsmans Pack.

At the back of 10am we were away on our 12 mile walk taking in Stanage Edge and Stanage Pole and by 3pm we were back in Hathersage and at the Scotsmans Pack for our first pint, more would follow in the evening. Our bunkhouse was at Abney some three miles away so we left to check it out, have a shower and change before getting back to this nice pub at around 6pm. We all enjoyed a nice meal and it was great to catch up. Stuart had brought his photographs of the trek and this brought back so many happy memories of the trek we all enjoyed. It was back to the bunkhouse for a few more drinks, discussions, laughs and in the early hours silence at last fell!!

It was up at 7am, all packed and at the back of 8am we were having breakfast in an excellent café at the swimming pool in Hathersage. Our walk was to see the two Derwent Dams and on finishing this we all went to see the Dambusters Exhibition, in one of the Towers of the Derwent Dam. Coffees were had at a local pub and by 3pm we had said all our goodbyes and all were heading home after a great two days of laughs and camaraderie.

Dave and Glyn are to organise next year’s event in the South Downs in early June and invites will be issued to all to attend. I am attaching a small slide show of the event.

Best wishes, Fraser.
3rd August 2009

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge Saturday 18th July 2009

Introduction

The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge Walk from Horton in Ribblesdale comprising Pen-y-ghent 694m (2,277ft), Whernside 736m (2,415ft) and Ingleborough 723m (2,372ft) is one of the oldest established walks in the UK. These peaks form part of the Pennine range, and encircle the head of the valley of the River Ribble, in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Despite its popularity however, The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge Walk remains 'unofficial'. It is not marked on Ordnance Survey maps for the area and it is not marked on the ground.
By tradition the grueling 37.5km (23.5 miles) must be completed within 12 hours though the actual time taken will vary depending on the stamina of the individual and the prevailing weather conditions.
The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge Walk is a rugged, high mountain walk over a variety of terrains and should not be underestimated. It also includes three big climbs totaling 1586m (5,202ft) of ascent with the last climb up onto Ingleborough - when the legs are tired, with perhaps a couple of hurting blisters and the spirit is weak - being particularly steep. As with all mountainous areas, the weather can change frequently and very quickly. Prior to our Group’s challenge on Saturday 18th July 2009 there was continuous heavy rain for the previous two days so we knew we were up against stamina sapping bogs and the difficulties of crossing perhaps a number of beck’s in full flood flow.

The Group

The Group and the event were skillfully organized by Anna Cross (from Edinburgh) and most members were raising monies for various charities. Gareth Williams, owner of Striding Ahead LLP., was the “Leader” for the day and here Anna did chosen wisely as Gareth knows the route “with his eyes closed” and if anyone was to get the Group round within the twelve hour window he would.
At 8.30am on a nice dry morning we set of from the bunkhouse at Horton in Ribblesdale (see Group photograph in slide show) for what we knew would be a hard walk due to under foot conditions and a number had never walked over twenty miles or attempted three mountains in pervious walking activities.
The Group got on well with lots of laughs along the way. Other groups were ahead of us and others behind, as this massive line of people made their way round this famous route. One poor man slipped on an under water boulder as he thought he had made it safely across a fast flowing and flooded stream. The only sympathy he gained from a crowd of onlookers was for all to burst out laughing and think to themselves - “I am only so glad it is not me having an early very cold bath”. Another two people were seen up to their waists in black peat bogs, being hauled out by walking friends.

The End Result

Our Group got round very much unscathed and with only seconds to go the last member crossed the line within the twelve hour dead line. Yes we had done it.
There was a pub by our finishing line and here we all celebrated a wonderful and special day. For me I completed my third challenge in eleven hours nineteen minutes and I had done this with a wonderful Group. Special thanks to Anna for coming up with the suggestion and for making all the arrangements and to Gareth for getting us all round in one piece and within the twelve hour window. Thank you also to all the great people who supported this charity raising event.
A small slide show of pictures taken along the way can be seen.
18-7-09

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Remote Emergency Care Course June 2009

Everyone walking or trekking in remote areas should attend this excellent course - "Remote Emergency Care" - which I attended in Manchester over the weekend of 27th and 28th June 2009. The course was taken by Will Skaskiw who is an experienced trainer and all participants very much enjoyed the two days where we did carry out live drama situations as to every possible accident situation. Active participation and discussion is encouraged by Will and he has a wealth of knowledge which he readily imparts. I came away from the course feeling good as I now know a lot more about "First Aid" and how to tackle accidents, that we all know can occur at the most unexpected of times. My view is that we all have a "duty of care" to help people who are in distress and not walk away from the situation not wanting to get involved.

Will's next course is at Hebden Bridge on 8th and 9th August 2009 - see Notice of Course which is included in the slide show. A further course on 17th and 18th October, will be held at The Conference Centre, Chancellor’s Hotel, Manchester - Address: Chancellors Way, Moseley Road, Manchester, M14 6NN. Traing Expertise is the Training Provider, Remote Emergency Care the certification body and Will Skaskiw the trainer, working for Training Expertise.

Please make contact with me should you want further information. There is a small slide show on my blog on the course.

Best wishes, Fraser.
29th June 2009.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The ZUGSPITZ 2,964m

It is Tuesday 7th July 2009 and I am at the top of The Zugspitz at 2,964m the highest mountain in Germany!! It was an early breakfast and the top of the mountain is covered in cloud and there is some rain but not too cold. Alas so far no views but I need to imagine these!! I have visited the highest Beer Garden in Germany - "The Gipelalm"- "Prost" Herr Cunningham!! I have had a warm soup - Festtagssuppe, Maultaschen, GrieBkloBchen, MarkkloBchen- many apologies if I got the spelling wrong!!

This is the second challenge of my Charity Fund Raising activities complete and I want to thank all the people who have supported me and who have already paid over their money in cash, cheques, direct to the bank and over the internet through JustGiving. Just magic by all of you and thanks ever so much. Sheila, thanks for your message and donation. Did not get an opportunity to say thank you before I left 4 Germany but will send an e-mail when I get home.

The 3 Peaks Challenge now to complete with a Charity Raising Group from Edinburgh but Gareth the Leader of the Group says that I will do the walk within 12 hours!!

"Prost "to all, from Germany.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Update to The Parish Walk, Isle of Man

The Parish Walk, Isle of Man
85 miles in 24 hours 20th June 2009


Yes I did it. It was so hard and it took me 23.37.11 hours. 187 people finished the 85 mile race and I was joint 181 with Paul. Some 1,620 began the race at 8am on Saturday morning and it was excellent weather for the 24 hours. This is a big event on this lovely Island where the community is totally involved. I met so many nice people along the route all giving you moral support. At Bride I passed a house where the owners where handing out mugs of green pea soup, it was fantastic as it was a late hour at night. Along the way families were handing out all sorts of food and drinks which was greatly appreciated. The streach of the walk from Maughold to Lonan -11.5 miles - in the darkness was hard but at around 3.15am on a still morning the dawn began to appear and with it the Dawn Chorus, a perfect tonic for me to continue this hard race and to finish it within the 24 hour window. My plan worked and I achieved my goal. Thank you to the Ryder family, my back up team of Michelle and Gerry whose support from Peel was sheer magic.

Thanks also to the organisors of this great walk.

I will be back next year!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

My Next 3 Treks

The Parish Walk, Isle of Man
85 miles in 24 hours 20th June 2009
The Zugspitze, Germany
4th July 2009
Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge
18th July 2009


The current economic conditions make it very difficult for charities to raise monies for all the good work they do and I greatly appreciate all the generous support I have received from backers for good causes over the years. 2009 is a special year for me and once again I would like to back a worthy charity in the form of The Children’s Adventure Farm Trust. Here all the money I raise will go to kids and young people who do need help in life.



Can I walk 85 miles in 24 hours? This I do not know but I have done two 40 mile walks and I have trained hard. There are some 1,600 entrants for this walk round the coast of Isle on Man so I will have plenty of company as I try my very best to get round. In July I am endeavouring to get to the top of The Zugspitze with its towering summit at 2,916m (9,720ft) on the frontier between Austria and Germany . It is Germany ’s highest mountain. Later in July I am going to attempt the Yorkshire three Peaks Challenge, walking to the tops of Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-Y-Ghent in twelve hours.



The Children’s Adventure Farm Trust is an amazing charity based in Cheshire . They provide holidays and day trips to approximately 3,000 terminally ill, disabled and disadvantaged children each year. The children visiting The Adventure Farm have such difficult lives, facing challenges on a daily basis that most of us couldn’t imagine. The Adventure Farm gives these children the opportunity to be children – to laugh, to play and to have fun. Their aim is to give these children memories of childhood which they can treasure in their darkest times, but they can only do this with our help. The charity must raise £750,000 in 2009 in order to provide these life-changing opportunities to children in desperate need. They receive no government funding and rely entirely on donations from the public. I feel honoured to be working with this wonderful charity, and I hope you can help me to raise vital funds which will change the lives of these children who deserve the very best.

Donations can be made by clicking here


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Thursday, 21 May 2009

Welcome to The World of GT!

Buttermere Trip - 14-15th May 2009

I am privileged to be invited to the Grant Thornton (“GT”) activity trip to Buttermere in the Lake District over the two days – 14th and 15th May 2009. Our hosts are entertaining clients in the Bridge Hotel and Sir Chris Bonington, CBE is to address the audience on his climbing experiences before dinner on Thursday 14th and then is to join us on the Via Ferrata up to the top of Honister Crag (2,126ft) on Friday morning.

We have three great guides in Paul, Adam and Chris who will accompany participants on the various hard/easy optional walks on Thursday and Friday. The hard walk on Thursday left the hotel at 10am on a dry but windy morning and we were all immediately into a steep climb up to High Snockrigg (526m) and then on to Robinson (737m). In the col at Littledale Edge (in a sheltered hollow) we enjoyed a brief lunch stop and then it was up to Hindscarth (727m). We traversed along the ridge to Dale Head (753m) and enjoyed the great views all around. It was then down to Honister Slate Mine where Rob kindly arranged teas at the cafe. Here there were options for all, get the bus back, do a lower walk by Warnscale Bottom and Buttermere Lake or ascend Hay Stacks (597m) on the way back to the hotel. This later route was a total of 20kms. All had to be back for 6pm at the latest and this was achieved as the presentation by Sir Chris Bonington CBE was to commence at 6.30pm. This was a wonderful occasion to have such an icon of world mountaineering and expeditions in our midst and sharing with us his experiences on Mt Everest and many of the other great climbs and expeditions he lead. Conversation flowed over a magic dinner and afterwards in the lounge where all continued to enjoy themselves and reminisce on a wonderful day.

Friday was the Via Ferrata, up the precipitous face of Honister Crag (facing north) to its summit at 2,126 feet at Honister Slate Mine, Borrowdale. Breakfast was at 8am and it was a start at the back of 9am after harnessing up, sling over shoulder for the ZIP WIRE and helmet for the great “unknown” that lay ahead! The party was expertly briefed on safety and procedures as how to clip on/clip of the cable that follows the routes to the top.

There is the option of two routes and there are escape routes should you wish to opt out. The time duration to get from the bottom to the top is around three hours.

This is a working slate mine and although frightening to look down the location is very special and is the only such Via Ferrata facility in the UK. It is a very popular venue and another three parties were to use the facilities today in addition to ourselves. The face of Honister Crag was conquered by Sir Chris Bonington CBE (his first visit here and he loved it) and the GT party and we were at the top at around 12 noon. Views from the top are awesome to say the least!

After refreshments at the café guests said their goodbyes and expressed their thanks to our marvelous hosts. The two days were organized by Caryll Rowland and all arrangements were spot on. What a wonderful way to spend two days. Thank you GT ever so much.

The slide show is photographs taken by Adam, Michael and Fraser. On the zip wire it is a blur due to the speed of individuals as they made their decent!

Fraser Mackay
18-5-09

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Walk - 9th May 2009

Lancaster to Waterfoot
41 miles in 11.32 hours

With my entry now one of 1,620 entries taking part in this year’s Isle of Man Parish Walk on 20th June 2009 (85 miles in 24 hours) I thought I would get a further practice walk in and with my friend Heather Birch suggesting this “easy” route I leave the famous City of Lancaster at 9.15am on Saturday and walk through the Trough of Bowland, Clitheroe, Accrington with the final destination being Waterfoot.

On leaving Lancaster I see this massive hill looming in the distance, yes you are right we did go over it, and many more followed. There was a slight breeze but it was dry and sunny and the noises from birds and animals were wonderful as you made your way through this stunning scenary.

We had one short coffee break and another short lunch break lasting in total some 28 minutes and all other intake was on the hoof. The weather forecast did state that rain would arrive in the afternoon and at around 2pm the heavens opened and to make matters worse there was a driving wind as we were making the ascent of yet another hill with no shelter what so ever. However at around 4pm it all suddenly stopped with sunshine appearing as we passed through Waddington; what a lovely village.

Light was fading and at 9.15pm we finished in good shape with no pains and no blisters. If this was on the Isle of Man we would now be looking forward to doing a further 44 miles!!

Key Statistics
Walking for 11.32 hours
28 minutes stopping time
41 miles total distance
The ascent was a staggering 6,938 feet and a decent of 6,400ft
Calories lost 3,307
Average speed 3.5mph Max speed 6.1mph (On this performance we would be 28minutes outside the finishing time for The Parish Walk).

Fraser Mackay
12-5-09

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Travel In New Zealand

Like so many other things in life the way you travel in New Zealand is personal choice. However you need to realise it is bigger in land size than the UK and perhaps the most sensible way is to arrive by air to Auckland and make your exit flight through Christchurch both International Airports. Excellent Domestic Airports exist and they should not be forgotten about if you are doing long distances.

We looked closely at the motor home versus car hire and linking up with homestays, B&B, motels and hotels and opted for the car hire option as we saw this as a faster way to get from A to B and it would give us the opportunity to discover real New Zealand families across the North and South Islands. We did hire with Nationwide and we received excellent service.

Trains are another option and as we all know this is a very relaxing way to travel. The Overlander departs from Auckland and Wellington and you can stop in Tongariro National Park. This is a twelve hour journey and along the way you can also stop in Palmerston North, Marton, Ohakune, Hamilton, Pukekohe and other smaller stations. There is also the Tranzcoastal linking Picton with Christchurch. A number of stations are stopped at along the route. There is a link up with the Interislander ferry between Wellington and Picton. The TranzAlpine, one of the world’s great train journeys (ranked 8th in world in Wanderlust Travel Awards 2009) links Christchurch to Greymouth and again stops at a number of stations including Arthur’s Pass along the way. You can book online at www.tranzsenic.co.nz

A good ferry service connects the North and South Islands and while there are I think three different ferry companies operating (3/4 crossings each day with the 92kms crossing taking 3 hours) we utilised Interislander and details can be gained at www.interislander.co.nz To me this must be one of the most spectacular cruises in the world. Rather than take our car from the North Island to South Island we organised another car to pick up at Picton, thus not having to pay the vehicle charge on the ferry.

InterCity bus services are available – see www.intercity.co.nz
For backpackers there is the Magic Bus – see wwwmagicbus.co.nz , the New Zealand Adventure Bus – see www.straytravel.com or Kiwi Experience – see www.KiwiExperience.com We found taxi hire very reliable and reasonably priced.

www.newzealand.com is a good website to begin your adventure investigations – good luck.

Fraser Mackay 27-4-09

Distances – New Zealand

London to Singapore.........10,885kms
Singapore to Melbourne......6,027kms
Melboure to Wellington.......2,594kms
Wellington to Sydney..........2,233kms
Sydney to Hong Kong..........7,371kms
Hong Kong to London..........9,646kms
Chester/London/Chester.......645kms

Road Distances
North Island.........................1,000kms (SCM - 650kms – Napier)
South Island......................... 1,200kms
Senic Flight............................ 225kms
Ferry Crossing........................184kms
Tramping.................................220kms


We were lucky to be able to tramp in a number of locations:

  • Mt Victoria, Wellington
  • The Tongariro Alpine Crossing, National Park
  • Tama Lakes Track, National Park
  • Taupahi Reserve Track, Turangi
  • Tokorangi Pa Track, The Redwoods, Whakarewarewa Forest
  • The Queen Charlotte Track
  • Abel Tasman Coastal Track (our longest at 25kms.)
  • Devils Punchbowl & Bridal Veil Tracks, Arthur’s Pass National Park
  • Arnott Heights & Grey River, Greymouth.

Conclusion
All in all we did travel some 42,230kms (26,240 miles) in our “all action” holiday.

27th April 2009

Thursday, 30 April 2009

NZ Update from Fraser 24/04/09

Friday 24th April is a nice dry morning but with a haze once again and I am up and about at 6am as I have a lot to do and achieve. I have an early breakfast and I am away on the hotel’s courtesy bus bound for the Star Ferry at 9am.

“In Hong Kong, once you live it, you are sure to love it!” Population 6.9million + and returned to Chinese sovereignty on 1st July 1997. It is a vibrant and exciting city and lives 24hours each day and has something to suit every taste and interest. This is my third visit. In March 1983 I had stayed at the Hilton Hotel and in November 1999 I had stayed at the Renaissance Harbour View Hotel, both on Hong Kong Island.

It is a walk to Jardine House and yes BofS is still on the 15th Floor, Clifford Chance are now occupying 4 floors, Jardine Matheson Ltd are on the 48th and there are a lot more taller Towers all around than when I first came to Hong Kong in March 1983. I pass the central Post Office as I make my way to the HSBC building to change some currency. It is then on to Hong Kong Park, up to the top of the garden's viewing tower and I visit the Aviary with its interesting varieties of birds. I pop into Pacific Place, look round the shops on four floors and great food hall based on the lower ground floor. I check out the MTR at Admiralty and get an underground map and timetable. On my way back I walk through the lovely Zoological and Botanical Gardens.

Hong Kong is the Culinary Capital of Asia so you will find an incredible variety of cuisines. I have lunch and a couple of beers on Caine Road which is excellent with good and chatty service from the young waiters who run the restaurant. It is then down hill to find Lan Kwai Fong. I have a “Happy Hour” pint in the Hong Kong Brew House. I have a good look round Lan Kwai Fong, a buzzing centre for clubs, bars and restaurants. There is a lovely party atmosphere here and you are being enticed into every restaurant, such a shame I have already eaten. I move on to Li Yuen Street and look at the many stalls selling clothing, accessories and domestic goods. The place is very busy. I then walk back to the hotel as this is a complete new part of the city to me and I am able to soak in the noisy atmosphere of the busy streets all around. I could have well jumped on a tram as they cost HK$2 no matter how far you travel. You get on at the back of the tram and pay at the front when you leave. It is the only double-decker tram fleet operating in the world. I am having a shower at 5.30pm. I go to Pacific Plaza which is beside my hotel and to the Tak Hing Yuen Seafood Restaurant for my evening meal, where I struggle a little to order as the menu is in Chinese but the Head of the restaurant sorts me out and I have a great meal. The restaurant is on three floors and it is buzzing with groups cooking their own meals at many tables. As far as I can see I am the only European in the place. I pay HK$ 266 which included a 10% tip. I have an early night.

I am again up at 6am on Saturday 25th April but it is a wet morning and by 11am there is a thunder storm. There is light rain as I leave the hotel around 12.30pm but this has cleared up by 2pm. I return to the hotel after lunch and I have a shower and change and at 4pm I am on the courtesy bus bound for Admiralty and then a walk to Causeway Bay through Wan Chai by Lockhart Road, where I am meeting Dan in Dickens Bar in the Excelsior Hotel at 7pm.

Dan arrives bang on time and I am introduced to Paul who like Dan is a BA pilot and lives in Tokyo. After some drinks we go for a Chinese meal to Cheung Kee (Peking Cuisine) and then go to a bar to watch the West Ham v Chelsea game which Chelsea win 1-0. As a BIG Chelsea fan Dan is very happy. The area is buzzing with night life and we go on to have some more drinks in different bars. I hail a taxi which costs me HK$60 (this is very reasonable as it is taking me from one side of the city to the other) to my hotel but for Dan and Paul it is a short walk back to the Excelsior. We all had a very enjoyable night.

Alas Sunday 26th April is another wet morning so I see little point in going out. So my intended walking exploits on different Islands must wait for another visit. With all my packing done I need to vacate my room by 12 noon. I am going to park myself on the 28th floor lounge with views across the busy harbour, read the papers and my books and just relax; something I am trying very hard to achieve. At 2pm I order a seafood lunch with house white wine and this is served to me in the lounge. I am to be picked up at 7.30pm by Tour East and taken to International Departures at Terminal 1 and my flight is at 11.15pm local time. The bus arrives early and I am first on. I spot a man coming out of the hotel I think I know and as he passes me in the darkness of the bus I put my hand on his shoulder and I ask him “are you Bob Jackson from Glasgow?” and yes it was!! What a great surprise to both of us. Bob had been in Singapore and then took a cruise to Hong Kong and like me he was on his way to Heathrow and then flying to Glasgow. We chatted all the way to the Airport and marvelled at the structures of buildings and the road and rail infrastructure. We crossed Tsing Yi Bridge the world’s longest road-and-rail suspension bridge. This graceful 2.2kms is one of the landmarks of Hong Kong. Bob was travelling with Virgin and I was with BA so we said our goodbyes as we were going to different entrance points and different leaving gates.

Getting your luggage and seat allocation was so simple. Pre-book your seat on-line 24hrs or later, before departure, and you join a separate queue and then passing through security and customs was so simple. The airport itself (ranked 3rd in world 91.3%-Wanderlust 2009) is beautiful and efficient with free internet access. There are plenty shops and restaurants. The flight left at 11.45pm local time (there was a slight delay due to a communication fault) but we landed at 5am at Heathrow (local time) bang on time as the captain had said we would. It had been a good flight with good communication, food, drinks and service. I watched two films, Slumdog Millionaire and The Orphanage. We flew on a Boeing 747-400 at 38,000feet, at a speed of 504mph and an outside temperature of -67c. We landed at Terminal 5, so it was a case of coming down two sets of escalators, getting a shuttle train, up two sets of escalators and through passport control to collect your luggage. On checking with Airport Information there was no free internet services. I was on the 490 bus at 6am bound for Twickenham. My great adventure to New Zealand was over – I had a magic time.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

NZ Update from Fraser 24/04/09

We left Nelson at 10am on Wednesday 22nd April on another lovely sunny morning and we were on our way through Havelock bound for Picton. We arrived at 11.45am returned our car and we were on the Interislander ferry at 12 noon and we were away at 1.10pm. It was a calm day so the crossing was very enjoyable. On arrival in Wellington at 4.30pm our new hired car awaited us and we were back with Leisha at 5.30pm and lovely canapés once again awaited us. We caught up on what had happen since we left and Leisha was kind enough to arrange a taxi to take us into the city centre and booked another taxi for me at 4am as I was catching a flight to Sydney next morning at 6am.

We had to celebrate our last night in this tremendous country and this we did with some “blanks” as to full details of where we had been and what time we did get home. The taxi driver made a number of suggestions as to possible restaurants and we were grateful for this.

We started our night at Hummingbird Bar/Café where we had Black Mac’s and then it was on to the Malt House where we were recommended to try an Invercargill Pitch Black Stout but alas this had run out. What was the alternative? Three Boys Oyster Stout from Christchurch was recommended and this came in a 500ml bottle and costing NZ$27 for two bottles which was an ace beer. Classic Bennett’s Black, brewed in Wellington was also tried and enjoyed. It was then on to “fratelli fresh italian” restaurant for a most enjoyable meal. Other locations followed and eventually we got a taxi home at a time we are unable to recollect!!

My taxi took me to the airport on Thursday 23rd April and at 6am I was away on a Boeing 737-400. It was a good flight to Sydney taking some three hours ten minutes. I watched the Frost/Nixon film. Sydney airport was excellent with free internet screens. It was then an eight and a half hour flight to Hong Kong and I was in the airport at 5.30pm local time. I watched two films Appaloosa and The Wrestler. We flew in a Boeing 747-400 at a height of 34,000 feet, a speed of 566mph and an outside temperature of -40c. My transfer to Hotel Jen, a 280 bedded business hotel in the Western District on Hong Kong Island, went well and I was allocated a room on the 17th floor with a harbour view. A bottle of wine in my room awaited me as part of the agreed deal. On the 28th floor there was a gym and an outside swimming pool. Do I go for a swim or do I have my wine was the question and I think you know which option I did opt for!! I did a washing (as I had been doing all trip -"travel light") and hung this on the clothes line in the bathroom. By 10.30pm I was in bed somewhat tired as it had been all go since going to bed in Nelson, many, many hours ago!!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

NZ Update from Fraser 22/04/09

We are up early on the morning of Friday April 17th and we are bound for a day in the Abel Tasman National Park with us walking a stretch of the Coastal Track, our goal. We travel by car to Kaiteriteri and then we take a scenic boat tour to Medlands Beach which is at Bark Bay and the boat puts us ashore to walk back to Marahau, some 25kms and we do it in 4.5hours. We are back at 3pm having commenced our boat trip at 9.30am. It is a wonderful walk along the Coastal Track with stunning views of yellow beaches and lush sub tropical native forests. To do the whole Abel Tasman Coastal Track takes 3/4days depending on your walking ability. A bus picks us up at 4pm and takes us back to Kaiteriteri and to our car. We come back to our motel to shower and change and we are once again at Hopgoods for an 8.30pm meal. Here we meet Shirley and Noel, wine growers from Blenheim and after our meal we all go to Sprig & Fern Tavern for a drink. We have a great night and then it is a short walk back to our motel. Next morning Saturday 18th April sees us shopping in Nelson after breakfast and visiting the famous Nelson Saturday Market, where we have homemade pies (made by a lady originally from Uphall, West Lothian) before leaving at 12 noon, bound for the West Coast and Greymouth. We need to continue on the SH6 from Nelson to Murchison and onwards to the south of Westport; a road that has a good surface but you need to be careful of the many single track bridge crossings, some controlled by traffic lights but others that have no lights and in some instances there is also a rail line on the same deck. We pass through vestiges of the Great Southern Rainforest, some wonderful views of mountain tops and deep valleys and gorges. The swift flowing Buller River provides you with superb vistas at every turn. We see large cattle and deer farms along the route. At Tiroroa we stop for coffee and carrot cake and marvel at the framed old photographs of the Lower Buller Gorge where it is still the same single track road carved out from the stone cliffs above you and down to the river some 20/30 feet below. When this large river is in full flood the water level can rise to, and above the road level, a sight that must be very frightening to see. You then come to the full beauty of the West Coast which is rugged and storm ravaged. This must be one of the TOP Coastal drives in the world. We pass through the beautiful Paparoa National Park and stop at Punakaiki and here we view the unusual volcanic rock formations known as the “Pancake Rocks” and the blowholes formed by the lava tubes. Shoots of water fly high up into the air from these tubes at high tide and we did see this happening. At 5pm we arrive at our homestay B&B “Ardwyn House” and we are greeted by Mary Owen (yes we were right in thinking she has relatives in Wales) and we are offered tea and biscuits which we readily accept. After unpacking we take a trip to the town and have a drink and then have our evening meal in Steamers.

Sunday 19th April sees it raining in Greymouth so we depart after a lovely breakfast bound for Arthur’s Pass where we find super dry conditions and sunshine. Here we undertake two tramps to Devils Punchbowl, where we discover a beautiful waterfall, and then on the Bridal Veil Track through mountain beech forest; this taking us some two and a quarter hours. By 5pm we are back in Greymouth and once again we enjoy tea and biscuits from Mary. Tonight we go to town to enjoy a steak meal at Speights Ale House where beer, food, wine and service are excellent.

Monday 20th April heralds a lovely sunny morning so we are on the telephone to Murray Bowes, owner and pilot at Wilderness Wings based at Hokitika, to see if he can fly us down to Mt Cook, Mt Tasman, the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers. The answer is yes and we agree to drive down to Hokitika for around 9.45am. By 10am we have met Murray, we have provided all necessary information and we are fastening our seat belts ready for take off in this small five seater plane. It is a very short take off and we are in the air. Murray points out all the interesting features as we make our journey. The views all around are staggering as are a number of rivers we look down on. Soon we are over the glaciers and right in front of us are Mt. Tasman (3,498m) and Mt. Cook (Aoraki) (3,754m) which we circle and take some wonderful photographs of. We are soon on our way back to Hokitika airport. We have travelled some 160 miles at a speed of around 80mph on our outward journey and 170mph on the way back. We have reached a height of 11,500 feet and the whole flight was just a magic experience never to be forgotten. We were in the “Air” from 10.00am until 11.30am and we say our sincere thanks to Murray for such a wonderful trip.

By 12.15pm we are back to Greymouth, change and walk to the top of the hill that looks over the town. We return along the flood wall to the harbour and talk to fishermen who are fishing on the harbour walls. Tonight we are going on Monteith’s Brewery Tour at 6pm with a BBQ in town later in the evening. As we are great fans of Monteith’s Hearty Black this turns out to be a good night and we, like other participants, do enjoy ourselves. The "Tasting Session" of all the beers is enjoyed by all where you are permitted to "pull" your own drink and seconds. Thanks Monteith's. Mary is still up by a roaring fire so we open a bottle of red wine as a night cap and we chat to Mary as to her coming to New Zealand from Birmingham as a young lady, meeting her husband, a commercial fisherman with his own boat, and bringing up a family of four daughters. She is now a granny and in the quiet months she does travel abroad on holiday and to see her family. This is a lady who needs to be admired for all her achievements, a true sense of adventure and tremendous spirit.

At 9am on Tuesday 21st April we say goodbye to Mary (we have so much enjoyed our stay) and we travel by the SH7 to Reefton, a delightful place with such clear visability of all the mountains that circle in the background, where we join the SH69 which takes us to the SH6 and back to Murchison, Richmond and on to Nelson where once again we are staying at the Palms Motel. We are in Nelson by 12.30pm and we find our room ready for us. We then walk by the river and harbour areas. We have an enjoyable lunch in the Boat Shed Restaurant overlooking the entrance to the harbour and then make our way back to the town centre to do some shopping. In the evening we have a meal in Mac’s restaurant where a jazz band is playing. The venue is good as is the food, service and the band. We are back to the Motel by 10.30pm and to bed. Our supply of Black Mac has disappeared from the fridge as Stuart enjoyed this with his bath, playing with his duck, earlier in the evening!! Tomorrow we are bound for Picton, a three hour Interislander ferry to Wellington, an overnight stay with Leisha and then on 23rd April Stuart is bound for Manchester and I go to Hong Kong. Thanks to all the lovely people we stayed with along the way and who we met on walks, in bars, garages, supermarkets and restaurants. You could not come to a nicer or friendlier country. Thanks ever so much New Zealand.

NZ Update from Fraser 21/04/09

At 10am on Wednesday 15th April we leave Ngongotaha after a lovely breakfast, say or goodbyes to Lyndsay and Graham for a wonderful stay – it was” home from home”. Lyndsay had given us smoked trout to take with us so this was going to be our evening meal on reaching Wellington. It is another lovely hot morning with mists having already risen from Lake Rotorua, the surrounding hills and mountains. At 11am we arrive at Wai-O-Tapu (Sacred Waters) which is NZ’s most colourful and diverse volcanic area and here we walked round the stunning geothermal activity and unforgettable vistas. On our exit by car we go to see the mud baths bubbling away. By 12.15pm we are on our way again bound for Lake Taupo and it is our intention to stop at Turangi for a quick shop at New World supermarket and then have a picnic. Picnic sites are seen all over NZ as you make your way along the state highways. We stop and have our picnic by the Tongariro River (our second visit) and very much enjoy this in the hot sunshine. We are soon on our way again continuing on the SH1 all the way back to Wellington; a journey of some 455kms. We find ourselves on the SH3 – “shit how did this happen?” We had a laugh corrected the position and put it down to wanting to add to our listing of state highways by driving on the SH3, SH46 and SH47!!

We had estimated our arrival time in Wellington at around 7pm and this was the time Leisha opened the door to welcome us back. Our ordinary salad was titivated by her with lots of ingredients and with the smoked trout this is just a lovely meal. We update Leisha as to our exploits over a few glasses of red wine. By 10.30pm we are away to bed as next day is a busy and early morning for us. Leisha insists that she is also up to make breakfast. We need to refuel the car, deliver this back to Mike at Nationwide Car Rental, be driven to the ferry terminal and book in; all before 8am as the Interislander ferry leaves for the South Island at 8.30am. We save money by not taking the car on the ferry. Mike has booked us on the ferry and has arranged a new car for us on our arrival at Picton some three hours later. Mike thanks ever so much for your help here.

At 11.30am we arrive in Picton pick up our new car and we are on our way to Nelson where we are to stay for two nights. We stop for lunch in Havelock, the green lipped mussel capital of the world. It is a seaport, tucked away in a sheltered cove at the head of the Pelorus Sound. It was once a thriving gold-mining town but now thrives on riches from the sea. We have lunch at The Clansman as it is flying the Scottish flag and the taste of the mussels is superb. We stop for a quick walk at Cullen Point and admire the beautiful scenery. By 3pm we are in Nelson and our stay is at Palms Motel where we get a warm greeting and information from Rosemary. Our apartment with two bedrooms, bathroom and a lounge/kitchen is very comfortable. We go for a walk into the town and discover The Sprig & Fern Tavern and Hopgood’s Restaurant & Bar, said to be the best in town and we enjoy a lovely dinner. Hopgood's is so good and the service from Kate is excellent, that we book again for the following night. Tomorrow Friday 17th April we are bound for the Abel Tasman National Park.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

NZ Update from Fraser 14/04/09

At 10am on Sunday 12th April we left the National Park Village having said all our goodbyes; it had been a great experience. We were on the SH47 and on our way to Turangi the centre of trout fishing in NZ. We firstly call at the i - site, Visitor Centre for information and also buy a few presents. These information centres are so efficient with excellent information, mostly all free and such helpful staff always with a smile on their face. Here we did a walk on the Tongariro River for 1.5hrs and from bridges we could see large trout on the bottom of the river. It was another beautiful hot day. It was then on through Taupo and at 1.15pm we stopped at the Huka Falls, a natural phenomenon. The mighty Waikato River, NZ’s largest, gushes through a narrow chasm not long after the outlet from Lake Taupo. 300,000lrs of water per second hurtles through the narrow channel that makes the waterfall the most visited attraction in NZ.

Then it was on to Rotorua and to our B&B on Lake Rotorua at Ngongotaha, arriving at 3.30pm and being shown round our lovely facilities with magic panoramic views of the lake and hills/mountains in the background. At 5pm with other guests we are treated to canapés and lovely chilled NZ white wine. At 7.30pm we were at Bistro 1284 which is Rotorua’s best restaurant (2001-08) where once again we sampled Monteith’s Hearty Black (5.2%), just a spectacular brew. Monday 13th April was yet another fine morning so I was up early for my shower. As well as having tea/coffee making facilities in the bedrooms, guests also have the same facility in the lounge which I took advantage of to read the books and information leaflets (in abundance), as I like a cup of tea before breakfast. Breakfast is set out on a massive table and most of the treats that await you are home made. Five of us are having breakfast and conversation is free flowing as everyone is interested in what the other parties are doing and making recommendations as what to see and do. After home made cereal and fresh fruit with yoghurt, Lyndsay has suggested crepes with bacon and fresh mushrooms. Sounded delicious to me and yes it was. You could have had anything you wanted and Graham provided a constant suppy of fresh toast/tea. Do you want to leave the table? No is the answer. Stuart made the comment "that you had enough breakfast not to need lunch," and Stuart does like his lunch as well!! At 10am it was away to the famous Whakarewarewa Forest and the intention was to hire bikes for part of the day. However with names such as Grinder, Double Down, Rock Drop, Sidewinder and The Dipper, we opted to walk instead and chose the Tokorangi Pa Track at 11.5kms. We started our walk at 11am and we were finished by 1.45pm. This was ever so enjoyable. The forest is famous for its magnificent stands of towering Californian Coastal Redwoods at around 219ft. They were massive and everywhere through the forest, hence the name "Redwoods". (In America their lifespan is 600 years and they grow as tall as 360ft). Here you are able to experience some of the finest walking and mountain bike trails in the world. Back “home” it was a walk on the lake front and up the Waiteti stream which is some 50 yards from Lakeside Lodge. Lyndsay had organised a night at ‘TE PUIA’ in Rotorua (she also had offered us alternatives) where we had an in-depth experience of the customs and traditions of the Maori people, a hangi-cooked feast and contemporary Maori dishes. The evening ended at 9pm after a visit to view POHUTA, the famous geyser on the site.

On Tuesday 14th April it was an early rise and we were fishing on the Waiteti stream at 7am with Graham. After another lovely breakfast (Stuart fancied an omlette as Leisha had showed him the way she cooked these, so Lyndsay told him to get on with it in the kitchen which he did and the end result was ace) it was a day’s fishing on the Ngongotaha stream which has its source in Paradise Valley. It was a lovely day and the location was wonderful. We were armed with a large picnic and beers were placed in the stream to be kept cool. What more does a fisherman need? We saw another three fishermen all day. Four BIG trout (2.5lbs/4lbs) were “pulled off” the river by 4.30pm and we were to have some of these for breakfast the following morning. Another great day, so a massive thank you to Graham for taking us to his special fishing location where lots of trout can be seen in the lovely clear water but take note, they are not easy to catch. 7pm saw us at the famous Polynesian Spa, overlooking Lake Rotorua. We tried out all 4 Lakeside pools (36c/42c) in this world top ten (medical and thermal) Spa and enjoyed the occasion, looking up to the star lit sky. Stuart had a brief snooze at 38c but was disturbed by a bus load of noisy Japanese women who took over the pool. It was then on to the Japanese Restaurant in Rotorua on Eat Street. The end of a great time in this lovely area. Thanks Lyndsay and Graham for sharing your lovely home and friendship with us. Tomorrow it is back to Wellington, some 455kms away.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Update from Fraser in NZ

Monday, April 6th 2009 was the start of my adventure to New Zealand and I was bound for Monteagle House, Twickenham and then catching the 490 bus to Heathrow,Terminal 4 to check in my kit bag and I was carrying my small rucksack and laptop, so very much travelling light as I would be buying some gear in New Zealand and I would gain reading material! Bang on time at 9.30pm I left Heathrow bound for the Lion City – Singapore. After a good flight, but ever so tight seats (thank goodness there was a free seat between me and the young lady travelling back to Singapore from Nice) I arrived at 8.45am (UK time) and 17.05pm Tuesday 7th April local time and thus some 12 hours in the “Air”.

On arriving in Changi Airport, Singapore I went straight to Transfers, was seen in minutes, told and explained how to get to my departure gate and at the same time the clerk also booked me on the Melbourne to Wellington flight and I was also given a boarding pass for this flight. Numerous airport Officials were seen helping passengers with queries. You only needed to look at an information screen and staff asked if they could help. There were electric plugs available at various points to plug in your laptop and use the internet. Internet screens were seen all around with the connection being free. Instruction leaflets were available detailing how to surf wirelessly! There were also two free internet screens in your gate boarding lounge. In the Wanderlust Awards (2009) the airport is voted number one in the world, a position it has retained since the awards began, and I would certainly agree with this.

The journey from Singapore to Melbourne on a Boeing 747-400 was a good one with dinner and a light breakfast being served in the 6hrs journey. I got into Melbourne on Wednesday 8th April at 4am local time and then it was a 3.5hrs onward journey in a Boeing 737-800 to Wellington. Here I had lunch and was able to look down on snow covered Mt. Cook and many other mountains, valleys and rivers as we flew over South Island. I have been in the “AIR” for a total of 22hrs with all flights being on time. I enjoyed the following films and did some reading but did not sleep:

• Reader
• Revolution Road
• Defiance
• Body of Lies.

Stuart was at Wellington Airport at 17.00pm to meet me and take me to our Homestay, B&B where we had drinks and canapés with Leisha, the proprietor. The B&B is in a lovely location on Evans Bay and we got a lift into town from John (a cousin of Leisha) and had a lovely meal in Monsoon Poon. We got a taxi back home. We had some wine and we were in bed by 12.30am.

Our alarm went of at 6.45am on Thursday 9th April and before breakfast it was an early morning brisk walk to the top Mt. Victoria and from here you saw the city below, the stunning harbour and surrounding rolling hills. In the woods on this mountain side was where terrified hobbits hid from Black Riders but none were around today! After a lovely breakfast from Leisha we were on our way, did a shop for "essentials" at New World, before heading north on the SH1 by way of Levin and at Bulls we went onto the SH3 to Wanganui. A short distance out of the town we stopped for lunch. Before Wanganui and after the town we were facinated by the numbers of small and large glacial mounds we saw; miles and miles of them. Trees were sheading their leaves and lovely autumn colours were in view. Numerous poplars were seen, many planted in straight lines but others having grown wild. We were now on the SH4 by the mighty Whanganui River and this timeless river finds its origin high on Mt Tongariro, starting as an alpine stream and gathering waters from Mt. Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu. As it decends through the central volcanic plateau it sweeps in a hugh northern arc towards Taumaranui, then winding its way to its exit into the Tasman Sea at Wanganui. It is the first big river we see and we are fascinated by it.

We are bound for the Tongariro National Park where we are staying in the National Park Village at the National Park Backpackers for three nights. This accommodation was recommended to us by Veronica and we so much enjoyed our stay here. We did the Tongariro Alpine Crossing on Friday 10th April and enjoyed every minute of it. A fall of snow two days earlier covered all the mountains and it was just a magic tramp. I never saw so many people on a walk. We met a lovely and very fit English girl called Kay at breakfast (now living in NZ and loving it) who walked with us and had done the walk the previous year. She was so impressed with her first walk that she was back for a second time. This is a 17kms tramp and we did it in 6hrs. 40 minutes, starting the walk at 7.50am and finishing at 2.30pm. Along the way we chatted to people from all over the world who were here, like us to do this famous alpine crossing. A bus took us to the start of the walk and at 3pm took us back where we enjoyed a pint or two at the Schnapps Bar. Our evening meal was at The Station Café, Bar & Restaurant which was excellent. Here we enjoyed our meal with Kay and Maria, a girl who was on holiday in NZ from Canada.

I am up at 5.30am to go through my kit, plan the route for the next part of our journey and decide on a route we could take if we were to climb Mt Ruapehu and what were the alternatives for the day if we could not? Kay was going kayaking on the Whanganui River and had offered us the opportunity to do likewise but we had chickened out due to lack of experience in such an activity. We had wanted to have a go at getting to the top of Mt. Ruapehu at 2,797m, the highest point on the North Island, but on checking this out first thing at the chair lift on Thursday 9th April we were told the top was ice bound and as we were not fully equipped for snow and ice activities we decided to return to Whakapapa village, park our car and then walk to the two Tama Lakes, some 17kms there and back. The Tama Lakes occupy old explosion craters on the Tama Saddle between Mr Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe so another wonderful tramp was in store for us. It was a lovely day once again so we set of at 10.45 am and firstly visit the Tawhai Falls which tumble over the edge of an ancient lava flow. At 12.30pm we had reached the Lower Lake. Here we had a short break for lunch with just stunning views all around. At 1.15pm we were looking down onto the Upper Lake with its lovely blue water. For the first time cloud had lifted from Mt. Ngauruhoe 2,291m (Mt. Doom) and we just stared at it in all its glory. On our way back the views of Mt. Ruapehu were just stunning. By 3.30pm we were back to our car, another lovely day spent in this stunning part of NZ. There is so much to do and see here that you could spend two weeks and not see all of it. Today Sunday 12th April we move on by way of SH47, SH41 (very briefly), SH1, and SH5 to Turangi, Taupo, and Rotorua to our destination at Ngongotaha where we are staying with Lyndsay and Graham Butcher at Lakeside Lodge. This is just a lovely country.

Monday, 6 April 2009

New Zealand “Land of The Long White Cloud”

8th April to 23rd April 2009
“TRAVEL LIGHT”

The secret is to travel light and do not take items you do not need. If absolutely necessary you can purchase items at your holiday destination. As this is a business, walking, fishing and sight seeing trip I am listing all items under one section but will list necessary items under each activity category. Again it might be necessary to hire certain items. It is essential that you pack your case and flight bags for the individual trip/trek you are undertaking. Feed back on what I detail would be appreciated.

Suggested “kit”:
• Case or kit bag with rucksack or use rucksack as hand luggage. (Check the carriers’ weight limits as to hold and cabin luggage limits.)
• Address tickets for case and hand luggage. (Distinguishing feature on hold luggage for easy recognition on retrieval).
• Code locks for luggage.
• Travel documents or confirmations, ticket(s) for car park, passport, driving license, Nat Ins Card and Insurance Policy.
• Currency plus credit cards. Also some sterling for flight out & return to UK. (Carry US$ as an emergency reserve).
• Book(s)/jot pad/pens for reading etc.
• Codes for access to internet/internet addresses and make sure you know how to link up to the internet from your laptop.
• Reading Glasses/driving glasses/sunglasses/goggles.
• Any necessary medical supplies in appropriate plastic bag if carried in hand luggage. Make sure that you have the right maximum content for each item if carried in your hand luggage.
• No dangerous items in hand luggage.
• Water & snacks - once into departure lounge.
• Mobile (be able to use abroad) + charger. Restrict your incoming calls if abroad. Contact your provider.
• Camera(s) + charger(s).
• Give consideration to what other essentials you should have in your hand luggage should your case/kit bag not arrive at your destination.

Clothes/Shoes – (where possible to be non-iron and easy to dry).
• Shirts (3)
• T-shirts (3)
• Shorts (2)
• Padded pants or shorts for biking (1)
• Swimming shorts (1)
• Socks (3)
• Pants (3)
• Waterproof jacket & trousers (1)
• Jackets (1)
• Trousers (same colour) (2)
• Belt (1)
• Shoes (trainers) (1)
• Sandals for walking and for B&Bs/swimming pool (1)

Toiletries
• Toilet Bag
• Razor & Foam(1+1)
• Tooth brush & paste (1+1)
• Deodorant (Body + Underarm) (2)
• Hair gel (1)
• Soap/Shower Gel (2)
• Sun cream & after sun (1+1)
• Shampoo (1)
• Insect repellent (1)
• Scissors (1)
• Nail file (1)
• Bath foam (1)
• Medical requirements (Personal + consult doctor for jabs etc.)
• Tissues (2)
• Wet wipes (1)
• Lip salve (1)
• Hand gel (1)
• Travel wash for washing clothes. (1)

Reading
• Books (2)
• Magazines
• Maps (1)
• Walk details (2)
• Project Folder (1)
• Addresses to send post cards – as necessary
• Pen and paper etc. (1+1)

Other Items
• Sunglasses (1)
• Alarm Clock (1)
• Torch (1)
• Fresh Air (1)
• Reading Glasses (1)
• Driving Glasses (1)
• Goggles (1)
• Needle & Thread (1)
• Bag for dirty washing (1)
• Ipod (1)
• Cameras (2) + storage + charger.
• Worldwide electrical plug adapter.

Business
• Files as needed.
• Contact data base.
• E-mail access codes/addresses.
• Mobile & charger.
• Laptop.

Walking Gear
• Boots. (1)
• Approach shoes. (1)
• Socks. (2)
• Lining socks. (2)
• Trousers. (1)
• Shorts. (1)
• Tops. (2)
• Waterproof jacket & trousers. (1+1)
• Base Layer top & bottoms. (1+1)
• Compass. (1)
• Face towel. (1)
• Binoculars. (1)
• Walking Poles. (2)
• Rucksack & liner. (1+1)
• Water Bottle. (1)
• First Aid Kit (1)
• Multi tool or pocket knife. (1)
• Gloves. (1)
• Blister Pack. (1)
• Poly Bags for rubbish. (2/3)
• Head torch. (1)
• Bandana. (1)
• Hat. (2)
• Mountain watch.
• Thermostat.


Fishing Gear
• We are going to hire the necessary fishing gear.

Fraser Mackay
6-4-09

Saturday, 4 April 2009

New Zealand (“NZ”) ITINERARY

“Think Quality not Quantity”

NZ is breathtaking beautiful, a recreational wonderland, and is one of the great tourist destinations of the world and in making contact with the following people, all have one comment- being the best place they have been, they want to return or have done so and still want to go back; with the South Island being more spectacular than the North Island:
• Julie Roberts
• Gareth Williams
• Steve Hopkins
• Rob Richardson/Simon Carruthers
• Dawn & Dan Bodey
• Roger Brown
• Veronica Brown (from NZ).
Thank you all ever so much for all the information, books, maps and recommendations.

Many people think NZ is two small Islands of the coast of Australia but they are wrong. It is “adrift” in the South Pacific Ocean some 2,000kms east of Australia. In total NZ is an area of some 268,704 sq km and with a coastline of 15,134km in length. Mountain ranges run for most of its length. Mt Egmont or Tananaki is one of the most beautiful in the world. Mt Cook (also known as the “Cloud Piercer”) is the highest at 3,754mitres (12,313ft). Tasman Glazier, nudging one side of the mountain is one of the largest glaciers outside the Himalayas. Mt Cook National Park covers approx. 700sq km (270sq miles). NZ has more national parks (as a % of the country’s land area) than any other country in the world. NZ consists of 3 main islands:
1. North Island (“NI”) (44,197sq miles) some 70%+ of population live here.
2. South Island (“SI”) (58,170sq miles)
3. Stewart Island (676sq miles)
4. There are also Antarctic Islands and the Chatham Islands.
NZ is thus bigger than the UK and this was taken into account when we agreed our itinerary. The distance between the very north of the NI and the southern tip of the SI is over 1,600km. The population is just 4.3m approx.and some 40m approx of sheep!! Best time to visit is January to April each year. Tourism is a BIG earner with around 2m visitors a year. It is one of the safest countries in the world for travellers but of course usual precautions should be taken.

“Essentials to do in NZ”

• Drink local wines/beers – D.B. Lion, Steinlager and Monteiths. Lots of local boutique brewery labels (Mac’s). There are plenty places to try them which sounds good. Coruba Rum-you must try (Julie).
• Eat a NZ delicacy – Bluff oysters, Nelson scallops, West Coast Whitebait, or the king – “Toheroa” (a type of clam dug from the sands of Ninety Mile Beach), green-lipped mussels, crayfish, Canterbury lamb and pavlova dessert – “yum” I here Stuart say!!
• Gourmet meal - Hangi Feast, a traditional Maori feast (meat and vegetables are steamed for hours in an earth oven).
• Climb a mountain/walk a trail – perhaps two/three. There is not a better place on earth than NZ for hiking, which is called “tramping”. www.alpineguides.co.nz www.ultimatehikes.co.nz
Steve/Roger have mentioned a number of trails but alas on this trip we will not have the time to do them:
• Milford and Kepler tracks
• Humpridge track
• Queen Charlotte track
• Abel Tasman track
• Glenorchy…Rees/Dart track
• Inspect a thermal area – Rotorua.
• Do a train journey – Arthur’s Pass.
• Do a boat/kayak journey – Milford Sound.
• Visit a museum – Canterbury Museum (NZ history and ethnology). Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington is the finest (National Museum of Art, History and Maori Culture).
• Stroll along a beach – Tahunanui Beach Reserve nr Nelson.
• Visit a flea market – Nelson – a Saturday morning.
• Whale watching – Kaikoura. www.whalewatch.co.nz
• Fishing – Lake Taupo/Rotorua.
• Take a 4 wheel drive safari.
• Take a gondola trip. Mt Ngonotaha by gondola before a lugeride all the way downhill!!
• Try a bike ride:
o www.cyclingnz.com
o www.pedaltours.co.nz
The Whakarewarewa State Forest Park has 10 of the best mountain bike trails in NZ. Hire bikes at Rotorua Cycle Centre.

Our 14 days on the Road - Brief Overview

We realised we just cannot see all of the Islands and we do not want to spend all our time travelling so after a lot of research and spot on comments from Veronica, we have now agreed our route and booked all our accommodation to maximise this wonderful opportunity. Yes we have opted for a Mondeo car rather than a Motorhome!! All of this has been done on the internet. We want to thank all the wonderful people who we have made contact with and who are welcoming us with loads of suggestions as to what to do. Leisha who owns the B&B at Evans Bay, Wellington is picking us up at the airport. We know what car she owns and we know how she will be wearing a red jacket – what a lovely way to be welcomed into the country!! She also says the weather “is just beautiful at the moment”.

We will be in Wellington on the night of 8th April and on the 9th we leave for Tongariro National Park, a World Heritage Area and Mordor in The Lord of the Rings trilogy of movies; and stay here for the night’s of 9th,10th and 11th. We are staying at the National Park Backpackers were Anna has been so helpful. Our key activity is to undertake the TONGARIRO CROSSING see http://www.tongarirocrossing.org.nz & www.whakapapa.co.uk This is a one day’s hike of 8 hrs and is the “icing on the cake”. It is a 16km (10mile) hike that traverses the mountains, passing craters and brilliantly coloured lakes, and is generally considered one of the finest walks in NZ. Here I quote Steve, – “Just happened to be the No1 highlight!...absolutely stunning with fantastic views of Mt Ngauruhoe...Mt Doom in Lord of the Rings”. Hopefully we can also get to the top of Mt Ngauruhoe!!

On 12th April we leave for Rotorua and stay the nights of 12th, 13th and 14th with Lyndsay and Graham Butcher at Ngongotaha Lakeside Lodge, proud winners of the NZ AA “Spirit of Hospitality” Award 2007. Lyndsay says “NZ is only one sleep away from the UK”. This is a three hour journey with a lake edge drive to the town of Taupo. Lake Taupo is the largest lake in NZ (covering some 619sq.km.). We will check out Huka Falls on the way. We are already booked into a Hangi evening!! Graham is a keen fisherman so our equipment, licenses and day’s fishing is in place. The average size of rainbows is 4lbs!! We will see boiling mud pools, erupting geysers, silica terraces, explore live volcanoes, lakes, mountains, rivers and streams, forests, wild life parks with a choice of adventure activities. Rotorua is the spiritual home of the Maori people so this is where we can best experience their culture and traditions.

On the 15th we are back to stay with Leisha as this is near the ferry crossing to Picton on the SI. Ferries both ways are already booked so we will be in Nelson on the 16th and 17th and staying with Cheryl and Robyn at the Palms Motel. It takes 3hours to cross between NI and SI. This is one of the most dangerous stretches of water in the world and is 20km wide.

The northern end of the South Island (Marlborough) is one of the most pleasant spots on earth. Nelson, the area’s main city, is one of the sunniest spots in NZ and is one of the most attractive cities with many gardens and with wonderful views of the Tasman Bay. The whole of the town reflects the nautical flavour of the name.
What can we do?
• Visit a vineyard. Some 40 wineries including Cloudy Bay. www.nelsonwines.co.nz
• Boutique beers brewed by Mac’s (delicious stout-like beer called “Black Mac”). www.macs.co.nz Tastings/tours $3/7.
• Surrounded by lovely beeches so visit one. Tahunanui Beach Reserve or Separation Point and runs westward past Takaka and is known as Golden Bay.
• Dry-fly fishing. Brown Trout Heaven (freshwater fishing operators) www.browntroutheaven.co.nz

Where to eat?

Waterfront restaurants serving locally caught seafood.
• Smokehouse Café with great food and views up the estuary and across to the Richmond Ranges.
• Smokehouse Restaurant in Mapua – top-notch fish.
• Lambretta’s Café – Bar (Italian).

On 18th, 19th and 20th we are staying with Mary Owen at Ardwyn House in Greymouth. From this base we have a number of options.
What can we do?
• Visit the Franz Josef and Fox (slightly larger) glaziers.
• We can fly over Mt Cook and land on the glaziers. www.skiplanes.co.nz
• Climb to Muller Hut 1,768m (5,800ft).
• Walk on The Hooker Valley Track 12km (8miles).
• Visit Mt Cook Village www.mtcook.com
• Walk in Arthur’s Pass National Park.
• Go over Arthur’s Pass to Christchurch by Tranz-Alpine Express train (231km.) or by car.
(We will have now run out of time to go further south and alas we cannot go down to Queenstown or visit Fiordland. Queenstown is an alpine town and is the adventure capital of NZ and this is where you get the ultimate adrenaline rush!!. It is surrounded by stunning mountain scenery. It is a most remarkable place and some travel magazines have ranked it 3rd as a world destination. Visit Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound (“Eighth wonder of the World”). Of all the glories of NZ, Fiordland is surely the most magnificent. It is the country’s largest National Park (also a world heritage park) and at 1,251,924ha it is one of the largest in the world.) If we were lucky enough to return to NZ this is the area we would next discover.

We make our way back as far as Nelson on the 21st and are staying at the Palms Motel. On 22nd April we are back with Leisha at Evans Bay and on 23rd April we both leave NZ. Stuart is making his way directly to Manchester (he has been in NZ a week longer than me and has work assignments there) whereas I am staying three nights in the Hotel Jen on Victoria Island in Hong Kong and I arrive back at Heathrow at 0505am on Monday 27th April.
Thank you for taking an interest in our adventure and please make e-mail contact if you want any of our vast research information – fm@uwclub.net .

Fraser Mackay
3-4-09

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

WINTER SKILLS WEEKEND CAIRNGORMS, 6th/8th March 2009

In February 2008 (15th/17th) I organized a Group of seven people, led by Gareth Williams, owner of Striding Ahead LLP. and we all enjoyed our initial Winter Skills weekend in Fort William, experiencing snow and ice activities on Aonach Mor 1,221metres and in Glen Coe on Buachaille Etive Mor 1,022metres . Added to a wonderful weekend we were able to see a Broken Spectre which lasted all of 5 minutes. I have been looking for a Broken Spectre for many a year, so this was a very special occasion for me and the rest of the Group.

We were fortunate again to have gained the experienced skills of Gareth this year to lead us on the various activities during the weekend. Gareth is highly experienced as a Mountain Leader who has many years of knowledge in the outdoor world, at home and abroad, including Climbing, Trekking and Caving in the Himalayas and Alps. Both Gareth and the other Striding Ahead LLP team members are also fully qualified in the necessary First Aid skills as well being fully insured. There was a Group of nine.


WHAT HAPPENED?

We all arrived safely in Aviemore at 6.20pm on Friday 6th March and after a kit inspection to ensure crampons did fit boots etc. we went out to a local restaurant/pub where Gareth Williams went over the activities we were to undertake in the course of the next two days. The hope was that we might be able to climb Cairn Gorm and at 1,244metres it is the 6th highest mountain in the UK. The weather report for the weekend was also discussed and then sometime was spent on discussing avalanches, where they are likely to happen and how best to avoid them. After our discussion and question session we all enjoyed a lovely dinner with excellent and friendly service in the Winking Owl.

It was up early on Saturday morning for breakfast at 7.45am and we were away walking from the car park at 9am and we were active on the lower slopes of Cairn Gorm (initially in Coire an Lochain but later in the day climbing over Fiacaill Coire an t-Sneachda and into Coire t-Sneachda and descending in thawing snow conditions through the ski runs and under the Mountain Railway back to Coire Cas car park) until 3pm with all of us very much enjoying the activities of the day. It was cold and it did snow for most of the day.

Saturday 7th March 2009 included:
• Ice axe and crampon skills
• Ice axe self arrest drills
• Step kicking and cutting
• Avalanche awareness (The Squeeze Test, Snow Pit Analysis, The Walking Shear Test and The Hasty Pit), on both days the degree of this hazard was 3 (considerable) meaning the snowpack is moderately to weakly bonded on many steep slopes.
• Movement on snow slopes.
• Construction of an emergency shelter – Group effort in creating a Sitting Shelter. Tiring work but very quiet and relaxing when inside the shelter.
• We discussed A Shovel-Up and The Snow Grave.
• Rope use with anchors and belays.
• Buried axe anchor.
• Rope around snow bollard.

We were back at our B&B at 4pm for a welcomed shower and we went out for an evening meal at 7pm which was followed by drinks at the Cairngorm Hotel, listening to music played by a live band that were very good.

We were all packed up and down for breakfast again at 7.45am. It was snowing heavily so we were somewhat apprehensive about getting up to the slopes once again. It was a 9.30am start on a cold and snowy morning that we made our way up to Fiacaill Coire an t-Sneachda passing the ski runs.

Conditions had changed so dramatically from the previous evening where we had made our decent in thawing conditions and the path was virtually turning into a very wet one. While it was raining heavily around midnight in Aviemore it would have been snowing here and over the night period this soft and wet slushy surface had changed to that of a totally frozen and slippery surface with a good two to three inches of snow on top of it.

In addition to falling snow high winds whipped up snow spin drift and as we were making our way up the mountain side there were periods of whiteouts and people had to stop rather than be blown over. In these prevailing conditions we dug individual safety platforms in the show, sat in this level hole on the deep snow slope and fitted our crampons to our boots. This needs to be done as fast as is possible as with your gloves being taken of, your hands soon get very cold and become sore and are virtually no good to you. Goggles are essential in these conditions and all of us were wearing them. Gareth wanted all walking poles to be tied to our rucksacks and he wanted us now to use our walking axes, these to be held correctly in the upper hand (skills we had learnt the previous day) as we made our way up the steep ridge. From time to time we would see glimpses of the valleys below but for most of the time we were in snow spin drift as the wind furiously hurled this from the easterly mountain slopes and moved it in clouds of spin drift to the westerly sides of the numerous slopes all around. It is the accumulation of this frozen snow that creates the avalanche. We were in the middle of a white wilderness with very few people being brave enough to be on the slopes in these real winter conditions. This is what we came to Aviemore for and we were well on our way to the top of the mountain.

We estimated steady wind speeds of 50mph and severe gusts of up to 60mph and a wind chill factor of -13 degrees centigrade. It was cold but we were all in good spirit and we topped the mountain (Cairn Gorm) at approximately 11.50am. For some it was their first Munro and their first full walk in crampons. We did not stay long at the top and Gareth (armed with compass) led us down to the Ptarmigan Restaurant (closed due to the weather conditions) where we tried our best to take shelter and eat our frozen lunch as spin drift circled all around. At 1pm we were on the move again down the slopes of Coire Cas and by 2pm we were back in the car park.

Sunday 8th March 2009 included:
- Winter navigation.
- Weather and conditions.
- Security on steep ground.
- Avalanche awareness and route planning.
- Summit ascent. Here we went to the top of Cairn Gorm in blizzard conditions.
- Weekend debrief.

At 2.50pm we said goodbye to Aviemore and to Rachel and Joe who were traveling south by train. A road sign advised that the A9 was closed due to deep snow and an earlier road accident. At Newtonmore there was no alternative but to go by Fort William, Glen Coe (would the road be open?), Loch Lomond, Glasgow and then join the M74/M6. This we did with clear roads and we had a welcome stop at Tyndrum for fish and chips. Lee Gilmour a veteran along with myself from the first trip in 2008 had earlier in the day mentioned how he had enjoyed the fish and chips last year at Tyndrum – he was now getting his wish!! By 10pm we were back at Gareth’s home in Kendal where the group were splitting into two cars and heading south. We said our goodbyes and Steve and I were home in Chester by midnight.

It had been an excellent weekend, a great Group, a totally “down to earth leader”, with masses of enthusiasm and ever so fit. We all learnt so much giving us such more confidence to go out into the hills and to enjoy winter conditions. I would like to thank all of you who participated in a very special weekend. I hope to place a slideshow of photographs for the events of 2008 and 2009 on this website in early course.

Fraser Mackay
9-3-09.

Useful websites:
www.cairngormmountain.org.uk
www.aviemoreonline.com
www.cairngorm.com
www.glenmorelodge.org.uk

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