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

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)

• 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)

• 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.

• 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

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”.
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.
• 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:
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 & 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 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.
• Boutique beers brewed by Mac’s (delicious stout-like beer called “Black Mac”). 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)

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.
• Climb to Muller Hut 1,768m (5,800ft).
• Walk on The Hooker Valley Track 12km (8miles).
• Visit Mt Cook Village
• 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 – .

Fraser Mackay

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Henry Garcia Tours Madeira
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Rachid Imerhane
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Bayhead Self Catering, Isle of Harris