The Secret Diary of Adrian Petford Aged 39¾

The eureka moment

Posted in Uncategorized by Adrian Petford on August 1st, 2011

Lots of good ideas for things to see and do are all very well, but it doesn’t help if they don’t seem to fit together into any logical sequence, despite weeks of brainstorming. Thankfully, last week the moment came when everything finally clicked into place and I now have a really good itinerary planned for my New Zealand road tour.

Instead of driving all the way down to the South Island only to come back, I’m now flying directly from Auckland to Blenheim, taking a second car hire from there which I’ll then use to tour the area before heading back northwards by ferry and road. Those nice people at New Zealand Rent a Car have even done both hires as a bundled deal and waived the relocation fee for the second car which will be one-way finishing in Auckland at the end of the trip.

After a relentlessly busy few weeks, I can hardly believe the day of departure has finally arrived. My suitcases are packed and I’m now desperately double-double-double-checking I haven’t forgotten anything before I fly out tonight!

Three weeks to go…

Posted in Uncategorized by Adrian Petford on July 11th, 2011

It’s more than a little unsettling to think that exactly three weeks tonight, I’ll be jetting off on my next epic adventure. So much (still) to do, so little time!

I’m still trying to get a grip on some definite plans for my New Zealand tour. On Chris’ advice, I’ve decided to drop Queenstown as it’ll be the height of ski season so accommodation will be severely limited and at premium prices. Also weather may be a major factor in getting around down there. Could be snow! If you’re not a fan of the white stuff, Queenstown shows itself off much better in summer.

At the moment, I’m thinking of spending a few days in Napier, then heading south to Wellington, crossing to the South Island and then travelling down the east coast to Kaikoura for whale watching. I’m looking to stop in Blenheim on the way back to visit the Omaka Aviation Heritage Museum, then back over to the North Island and heading back to Auckland, probably with a stop or two on the way. That should take care of my two weeks on the road nicely!

Five weeks to go…

Posted in Uncategorized by Adrian Petford on June 27th, 2011

Things are progressing nicely. My Australian visa was approved within a few hours and I have also booked the flights. I managed to get exactly the times, routings and flight numbers I wanted and will once again be travelling with Emirates. I used Expedia.co.uk to book as I found they offered by far the broadest range of flight options as well as other extras which could easily be added. The last of the boring formalities, travel insurance, is also sorted so I’m now free to organise all the fun stuff!

In terms of a hotel for my Sydney stopover, it was between the Radisson Sydney Hotel and Suites recommended by Steve and the Holiday Inn Old Sydney which was favoured by Bevis. Adjacent to Chinatown, The Radisson as a business-orientated hotel were very quick to accommodate my requests for early check in (and very early check out!) whereas the Holiday Inn boasts a wonderful location in The Rocks area, right next to the Harbour Bridge and along from Sydney Opera House. Bevis and Steve have been invaluable for their advice on the hotels and what to see and do in Sydney; I rate both their opinions highly so it was a difficult choice. In the end, I chose The Radisson simply on cost. At around half the price of the Holiday Inn, still for a 4-star hotel, I felt the premium price tag of the latter was out of my reach despite the spectacular harbour views. The Radisson is well placed in the central business district, close to Darling Harbour and many of the attractions. As I plan to spend a day in both The Rocks and the central city area, I don’t think it’ll ultimately matter too much where I’m based.

Sadly I don’t think I’ll be able to do the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb on medical grounds, as I’m still recovering from an operation I had earlier this year. The Sydney Tower looks like it could be a more sedate alternative. The lengths I’ll go to for a good photograph! As well as The Rocks, packed with places of historical interest, and Sydney Opera House I’m also considering a harbour tour by seaplane. Bevis says visiting Manly is a must!

As for New Zealand, I’m still lacking that spark of inspiration which will cause everything else to fall into place. It will come in a flash at some point, but hasn’t as yet. Since I started planning this trip, there have been several new aftershocks from the earthquakes in Christchurch, so I think being based there is definitely off the itinerary this time around. Instead of starting in Christchurch, driving across the country through Arthurs Pass, then travelling down the west coast to take in the glaciers, Milford Sound, Te Anau, Queenstown and Wanaka, I may just fly in and out of Queenstown, from where I’ll still be able to do most of that. I also like the idea of spending some time in Wellington, going across the Cook Strait on the Interislander ferry and then down the east coast of the South Island from Picton to Kaikoura on the TranzCoastal scenic train. Kaikoura is renowned for its whale watching, which is something I’d like to experience and the rail route is another of New Zealand’s great train journeys.

New Zealand Trip Number 7… and AUSTRALIA!

Posted in Uncategorized by Adrian Petford on May 22nd, 2011

It looks like my seventh trip to New Zealand is finally brewing for August. After my plans were aborted by unforeseen circumstances last year, I’m really looking forward to being back in my “second home”! Due to existing commitments just before, I’m going to have to alter the dates slightly from my standard schedule, so will be starting out on a Monday this time. This would have meant an arrival in Auckland on the following Wednesday. Midweek isn’t ideal as all of my friends will be working, so this has forced me to be more creative and the result is… Australia!

The dates lend themselves perfectly to a few days in Sydney, a wonderful city I’ve always wanted to visit but have only ever marvelled at out of aeroplane windows on previous trips. I’ve considered an Australian stopover before, but the routings have never quite worked out – this time it looks like I can do it. One of my earliest memories is of travelling to Manchester Airport as a very small child in the early seventies to pick up my beloved Auntie Eunice, returning home from Australia where she’d emigrated – by boat as a “ten pound Pom” – a decade or so before. Ever since then I’ve always had a fascination with Australia and now I can’t wait to see it for the first time!

I’m sticking to the same routings as two years ago and will be flying with Emirates again, after their outstanding service on the previous trip. The first leg is 7 hours from Birmingham to Dubai by Boeing 777, followed by 14 hours on the Airbus A380 travelling from Dubai to Sydney. Airbus A380s will be essential for these longer flights in both directions this time; my days of stifling cramp on A340s or 777s for hour after hour are over. After 3 days in Sydney, I’ll catch the equivalent last leg (3 hours) of the A380 flight to Auckland on the Saturday. I’ll then have a full three weeks in New Zealand before heading home by the same route.

Everything is still in the very early stages of planning so far and as usual I’m a bit lacking in ideas at this point. In New Zealand, I’ll be going on a road tour for a week or two, possibly to the South Island again plus I’ll be able to attend my niece Chevelle’s 6th birthday party which will be really fun. Essentials for Sydney are the Harbour Bridge (Yes, I will be climbing it if they’ll let me!) and the Opera House. Not sure beyond that, although I’m sure Lonely Planet will save the day as usual!

But for now, it’s getting all the travel arrangements sorted. I’ve just applied for my Australian e-visa so once that’s gone through I’ll be able to book the flights!

The big freeze – International Antarctic Centre

Posted in Uncategorized by Adrian Petford on August 28th, 2009

I’ve been quite surprised by how many people seem to be reading my blog. Calling home I was amused when my Mum told me my cousin had said she would print off the blog so Mum could read it!

I have always had an interest in heroic feats of exploration, particularly from history and so Christchurch’s International Antarctic Centre was a must see this time. On my last visit it was too far out from the city centre to get to and so I went to the very good Antarctic section of Canterbury Museum instead but this time I had the opportunity to spend the whole day at the centre if I wished.

International Antarctic Centre, Christchurch – 20-Aug-2009
International Antarctic Centre, Christchurch – 20-Aug-2009

Adjacent to Christchurch airport, the International Antarctic Centre is in a very unusual and striking looking building. It’s not just for show or the tourists either; Christchurch has a pre-eminent role in scientific and exploration work in Antarctica and servicing the various international bases, so much so that it’s known as “the gateway to the Antarctic.”

I was amused to see the pay stations in the car park had penguins on top of them! Pay being the operative word in the case of the Antarctic Centre, as I discovered. As well as a very high ticket price you have to pay a premium to park. Oh well, if it’s being used for the research the centre does and their penguin colony I don’t begrudge it too much.

I’d arrived about 11.30am and paid to park up to 5.00pm which would, I hoped give me more than enough time to see everything. I went for the full works ticket which gives you a ride in a Hagglund Antarctic vehicle and unlimited access to everything inside the centre plus a half hour behind the scenes tour of the penguin attraction. I also booked an electronic information guide to take around with me. Walking right in I was impressed, the first section was all about the challenges of flying to Antarctica!

Replica of Scott Base, New Zealand's station in Antarctica – 20-Aug-2009
Replica of Scott Base, New Zealand’s station in Antarctica – 20-Aug-2009

Then it was into a section called The Four Seasons which contained replicas of Captain Scott’s hut and the entrance to New Zealand’s Scott Base. This section was fascinating. I loved seeing the information about how the new base had been built, the daily photos sent in from Antarctica and a look at the base’s notice board! Although a lot of the science they do goes over my head, I’m enthralled at how people manage to live and work on the bases there for up to six months at a time.

An authentic Antarctic storm is recreated at the International Antarctic Centre – 20-Aug-2009
An authentic Antarctic storm is recreated at the International Antarctic Centre – 20-Aug-2009

There was a countdown clock in the next section and the attendant was calling people in saying “the next storm is due in five minutes”! So we had to don rubber overshoes and heavy winter jackets before going into a chamber full of genuine snow and ice in which an Antarctic storm would be simulated! This was really well done and I’m glad I experienced it, although it was so cold and unsettling I don’t think I’d go through it again! There are viewing ports into this part for the faint-hearted to watch from outside! Then no sooner was that over than it was time to go and watch the penguins (which are mostly little blue penguins, the same as at Oamaru) being fed at 1.30pm. This was really entertaining and fun. The guide gave a good commentary as the penguins waddled over and had the fish handed out to them. I was impressed that a lot of these penguins are being looked after in captivity because they are injured or disabled and wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild.

Feeding the penguins, International Antarctic Centre – 20-Aug-2009
Feeding the penguins, International Antarctic Centre – 20-Aug-2009
Little blue penguins, International Antarctic Centre – 20-Aug-2009
Little blue penguins, International Antarctic Centre – 20-Aug-2009

The feeding took place until 2.00pm when, conveniently it was time for me to go on my behind the scenes penguin tour. This was brilliant and taken by the same guide as we’d just seen feed them. We went down into the lab and had a chance to see the penguins in action from close up. A couple of them seemed very interested in our group and the children there got to feed them. It was fascinating to hear about their work raising the penguins at the centre.

Little blue penguin, International Antarctic Centre. The penguins here are injured or disabled and cannot survive in the wild – 20-Aug-2009
Little blue penguin, International Antarctic Centre. The penguins here are injured or disabled and cannot survive in the wild – 20-Aug-2009
Behind the scenes at the penguin colony, International Antarctic Centre – 20-Aug-2009
Behind the scenes at the penguin colony, International Antarctic Centre – 20-Aug-2009

After this it was into another hall where I saw part of a documentary about life through Antarctica’s long winter season where the sun never rises and also some of the satellite equipment being used on the bases. There was so much information to digest at the Antarctic Centre I’d pretty much reached information overload by now so didn’t take much more in, but it is somewhere I’ll definitely go again so not really a problem. I only used my electronic guide twice. The rest of this hall was devoted to science and natural history in Antarctica. Then the next section was an overhead screen with a video presentation detailing the natural history of the continent. This I did take in as it was well presented and snappy. Then, finally it was into a screening room where a massive screen was showing seventeen minutes of footage from Antarctica set to music. This was very spectacular. It featured Captain Scott’s grave and I was also surprised to see how much of Antarctica isn’t actually snow covered.

Hagglund Antarctic vehicle, International Antarctic Centre – 20-Aug-2009
Hagglund Antarctic vehicle, International Antarctic Centre – 20-Aug-2009

By 4.30pm I’d finished. What a brilliant attraction. I knew it was highly regarded but it was much better than even I’d expected and well worth the high admission price. The only thing that remained was the Hagglund ride. In the end I was tired and put off by the fact it said you had to be physically capable of getting in and out of the vehicle quickly, plus it looked like I was the only one waiting to go on the ride. Next time, I think. On the way out I saw the Hagglund depart absolutely packed with people. Oh well, at least I got a photo of it. You always have to leave something to do next time!

I said goodbye to Lynne and Robert the next morning. They have been very hospitable and I’ve really enjoyed staying at the 306 on Riccarton motel. It’s probably the best motel I’ve ever stayed in over here and I’ll definitely try to come back next time I’m in Christchurch.

On the flight back up to Auckland I got some great photos of the Southern Alps, Marlborough Sounds, Kapiti Island and the middle of the North Island from the air.

The flight north. The Southern Alps from the air – 21-Aug-2009
The flight north. The Southern Alps from the air – 21-Aug-2009
The flight north. Marlborough Sounds from the air – 21-Aug-2009
The flight north. Marlborough Sounds from the air – 21-Aug-2009

With the long road trip over, I was looking forward to spending my last weekend back on familiar ground in Auckland and enjoying some home comforts again!

Akaroa – parlez-vous Français?

Posted in Uncategorized by Adrian Petford on August 28th, 2009

By Wednesday I was seriously flagging. After almost two weeks of living out of a suitcase and non-stop activity I really felt I just had to have a rest. I considered slobbing around relaxing in the unit but as soon as I saw the brilliant blue sky outside I just knew I had to do something. But what?

Steve and Cherie had recommended the run out to Akaroa as a nice drive and Lynne at the motel had suggested it as a good day trip, but it was only really worth doing in nice weather. As it was such a lovely day I thought this would be a good bet. It was low key, not too taking (it’s about 85km away from Christchurch) and would be good use of the time rather than charging around trying to fit as many different things into the day as possible. I set out just after 10.00am and was soon on the road to Akaroa. I’m getting quite good at navigating around Christchurch now, although it does help that the city is largely laid out in logical blocks.

It was, indeed, a lovely drive, very picturesque. I saw the Port Hills and drove on alternately straight and winding roads out onto Banks Peninsula. It took around an hour and I really enjoyed looking at the awesome scenery from a largely empty road. This area was originally populated by French settlers and that history was evident in a lot of the place names and the French character which comes over, which I suspect is quite intentional and for the benefit of the tourists, at least to some extent.

Akaroa harbour – 19-Aug-2009
Akaroa harbour – 19-Aug-2009

There were some stunning views going down over the mountains towards Akaroa. The Hilltop Café sat on the best one and was even heralded with a sign (“The best view of Akaroa. Don’t miss it!”) around the previous corner! Sadly I did miss it, but noted to myself to stop there on the way back!

I reached Akaroa and immediately noticed what a quaint historical town it was, lots of old and very pretty houses and buildings.

The Gaiety Theatre, Rue Jolie, Akaroa built in 1879 – 19-Aug-2009
The Gaiety Theatre, Rue Jolie, Akaroa built in 1879 – 19-Aug-2009
Coronation Library, Rue Jolie, Akaroa built in 1875 – 19-Aug-2009
Coronation Library, Rue Jolie, Akaroa built in 1875 – 19-Aug-2009
Akaroa is full of interesting old houses, this one on Rue Jolie – 19-Aug-2009
Akaroa is full of interesting old houses, this one on Rue Jolie – 19-Aug-2009
Akaroa is full of interesting old houses, this one on Rue Jolie – 19-Aug-2009
Akaroa is full of interesting old houses, this one on Rue Jolie – 19-Aug-2009

The signs at the petrol station I stopped at on the way in were bilingual in French and English. I carried on along the road to the picture postcard views of the harbour front.

It was so hot and sunny I took my jumper off and ended up in just my summer jacket and shirtsleeves. Sometimes I can’t quite believe it’s meant to be winter here. The harbour front was unbelievably nice, very quaint, very French and showing itself off very well amidst the spectacular scenery of the bay. I thought before I looked around too much I’d better have lunch, so stopped at the bakery and cafe for refreshment.

While sitting there, I listened in to a conversation between two locals about genealogy which was interesting to hear considering the unique history of settlement in this area. There are Tricoleur flags and blue, white and red bunting flying in many places in Akaroa and a lot of the cafes, restaurants and shops play up the French stereotypes. It’s really strange seeing a French-style cafe in the middle of all the exotic palm trees! There are several monuments to the French settlers and some of the street names are French (Rue Jolie being the one that sticks in my mind!).

Fire and Ice, Church Street. Akaroa was established by French settlers and evidence of French culture is everywhere – 19-Aug-2009
Fire and Ice, Church Street. Akaroa was established by French settlers and evidence of French culture is everywhere – 19-Aug-2009

A shop called “Fire and Ice” had a Tricoleur flying alongside the Southern Cross and a ramshackle bicycle outside proudly displaying its “Open” sign. I was also interested to learn, from a statue in tribute to him, that the captain of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton’s ship came from Akaroa.

Once I’d finished my lunch I walked right along the harbour front, looked at the lighthouse and took in anything interesting in the side streets. I also browsed the gift shops. A few were closed until next summer! One owner said that in winter Akaroa’s population is only about 500, but that can swell to 10,000 in summer! There were some very interesting little shops full of unusual souvenirs and bric-a-brac.

Beach Road, Akaroa – 19-Aug-2009
Beach Road, Akaroa – 19-Aug-2009
Beach Road, Akaroa – 19-Aug-2009
Beach Road, Akaroa – 19-Aug-2009
Beach Road, Akaroa – 19-Aug-2009
Beach Road, Akaroa – 19-Aug-2009
French Bay, Akaroa – 19-Aug-2009
French Bay, Akaroa – 19-Aug-2009

Usually once I’ve had a look around a place, I race off to my next destination but today I actually took the time to spend a few hours just sitting by the harbour front considering my thoughts and it was a great way to relax. I watched children feeding the seagulls and the boats out in the harbour just floating there; occasionally changing position but generally being as lethargic as I was. So I did get my relaxation time, but in a beautiful place that made full use of the day as well.

Childrens Bay, Akaroa – 19-Aug-2009
Childrens Bay, Akaroa – 19-Aug-2009
French Bay, Akaroa – 19-Aug-2009
French Bay, Akaroa – 19-Aug-2009
French Bay, Akaroa – 19-Aug-2009
French Bay, Akaroa – 19-Aug-2009
French Bay, Akaroa – 19-Aug-2009
French Bay, Akaroa – 19-Aug-2009

I left about 3.30pm wanting to enjoy the scenery on the way back while it was still light, which I did. I stopped several times for photos, including at the Hilltop Café which was indeed the best view of Akaroa and unmissable!

From coast to coast – Christchurch to Greymouth on the TranzAlpine

Posted in Uncategorized by Adrian Petford on August 28th, 2009

On Tuesday I did the TranzAlpine train which runs from Christchurch on the west coast to Greymouth on the east, right through the spectacular Southern Alps. It’s billed as one of the world’s great train journeys and the idea of doing it was actually what caused all my other plans for this trip to fall into place around it, so my expectations were high for something truly amazing. The train goes there and back and takes a whole day, so I had a very early start for its depature at 8.10am. The motel’s hosts, Robert and Lynne had very kindly offered to give me a lift to the station and back which was brilliant and solved a lot of problems for me. Robert had said it was best to get there as early as possible as the TranzAlpine is a very busy and full train. I thought it would be quiet in winter, but I’m glad I took his advice as it was absolutely packed out. The train is very well set up for the scenic journey with large windows, a commentary throughout and an outdoor observation deck.

The day was overcast with a grey sky – one thing you can never guarantee is the weather, it’s just the luck of the draw on whatever day you pick to go – so I was concerned the journey wouldn’t be at its best. As we left Christchurch and journeyed over the plains, it seemed to get worse with fog getting thicker and thicker. You couldn’t see very far from the track on either side. Oh well, I thought, it looks like I’ll have to make the best of this and just go again in summer. The very informative commentary got started as we passed though the fog; shame we couldn’t see any of the things being mentioned, but much to my relief they said that we would be getting out of the fog and into the scenery once we were off the Canterbury plains. Phew!

View from the TranzAlpine train – 18-Aug-2009
View from the TranzAlpine train – 18-Aug-2009

Sure enough, once we started climbing the fog cleared, there were patches of blue sky and the sun even tried to come out! The scenery was stunning. It was freezing standing on the back of the observation deck of our carriage but I was glad I did. People were snapping frenziedly away with cameras as soon as the first snow-capped mountains came into view and I’m not surprised, they were breathtaking. There was a spectacular gorge, supposedly the most photographed half hour of the journey, lots of viaducts and tunnels including the Otira Tunnel which took ten years to build and takes about 15 minutes to go all the way through. Plus of course the mountains, which were awesome and showed themselves off particularly well at this time of year capped with winter snow. I got off at Arthurs Pass for the full Southern Alps experience. It is an unmanned station in glorious isolation.

View from the TranzAlpine train – 18-Aug-2009
View from the TranzAlpine train – 18-Aug-2009
View from the TranzAlpine train – 18-Aug-2009
View from the TranzAlpine train – 18-Aug-2009
Southern Alps, seen from the TranzAlpine train – 18-Aug-2009
Southern Alps, seen from the TranzAlpine train – 18-Aug-2009
Southern Alps, seen from the TranzAlpine train – 18-Aug-2009
Southern Alps, seen from the TranzAlpine train – 18-Aug-2009
Arthurs Pass, on the TranzAlpine route – 18-Aug-2009
Arthurs Pass, on the TranzAlpine route – 18-Aug-2009
Arthurs Pass station, on the TranzAlpine route. The station is completely unmanned – 18-Aug-2009
Arthurs Pass station, on the TranzAlpine route. The station is completely unmanned – 18-Aug-2009

I was also interested by the township of Otira, formerly prosperous but now a ghost town. An Auckland couple who were travelling on the TranzAlpine saw it and made enquiries about buying the hotel. It turned out that their title also included the buildings of the entire town which they got lock, stock and barrel for about $70,000 and now rent out!

Once on the other side of the Southern Alps, we were on the west coast and heading towards Greymouth. It definitely seemed much more lush and green on this side and the famous west coast rain was very much in evidence.

View from the TranzAlpine train – 18-Aug-2009
View from the TranzAlpine train – 18-Aug-2009
View from the TranzAlpine train – 18-Aug-2009
View from the TranzAlpine train – 18-Aug-2009

The first thing you see after alighting in Greymouth, the home of Monteiths is the Speights Ale House! – 18-Aug-2009
The first thing you see after alighting in Greymouth, the home of Monteiths is the Speights Ale House! – 18-Aug-2009

As we approached Greymouth, I was very relieved I’d decided not to stay overnight as Greymouth was indeed grey. Stopping at the station we disembarked. I was surprised how many people were getting off here and unloading luggage to go on to other destinations. As I only had an hour and it was raining heavily I stayed close to the station. I was highly amused that the first thing you see when walking out of the station in the home of Monteiths beer is a Speights Ale House!

After my brief time on the west coast was up, it was onto the train again for the return journey. I was certainly glad I had got all of my photographs already as it rained all the way back and we hit fog again approaching Christchurch. The trip still had a massive impact even under these conditions though – very moody and atmospheric.

It was an awesome day, definitely one to remember despite the weather not being quite as good as it could’ve been and more than met my expectations. I would’ve liked to spend more time on the west coast but will probably do a proper tour next time I’m here. Monteiths is my favourite New Zealand beer so a return to Greymouth to do their brewery tour is a definite must!

Heavenly Christchurch – the house at Ilam

Posted in Uncategorized by Adrian Petford on August 28th, 2009

Christchurch is one of my favourite cities in New Zealand and was the first place I ever visited in the South Island on my trip here six years ago. Known as “the garden city” and deliberately conceived as a little corner of England in the South Pacific, the city centre has a grand cathedral, public school, beautiful botanic gardens, lots of old historical buildings, trams and even punting on the River Avon! As I was on foot last time I was here I spent the whole time in the city centre, so for this visit Christchurch was more a base for doing things in the wider area. I didn’t actually get back into the city centre at all but if you like places with an interesting historical background and unusual atmosphere, Christchurch is highly recommended.

306 on Riccarton Motel, Christchurch – 17-Aug-2009
306 on Riccarton Motel, Christchurch – 17-Aug-2009

This time I was staying in the well to do suburb of Upper Riccarton at a really nice motel, the 306 on Riccarton. The hosts, Lynne and Robert were immediately very welcoming, helpful and friendly and my unit was amazing. It had a full kitchen, flat screen TV with Sky, wardrobes, double bed, writing desk and bathroom with a huge spa bath. Definitely the best, most comfortable unit I’ve stayed in so far this time. It suited me very well for the few days I was there.

One of Christchurch’s less savoury historical events was the infamous Parker-Hulme murder case, which shocked polite Christchurch society to its core in the 1950s. Two apparently normal schoolgirls, Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker, murdered Parker’s mother who was trying to break up their intense friendship. The story was dramatised by The Lord of the Rings’ Peter Jackson in his film Heavenly Creatures, starring then-newcomers Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey as the girls and shot at the real locations where the events actually took place. Since I am a fan of the film and have an interest in the real life case, I’d picked this motel partially because it was very close to Ilam, the grand house in the grounds of the university where Juliet Hulme had lived with her father while he was rector there. Last time I was here Ilam was too far out for a visit so I was determined to make use of my unexpected opportunity this time to have a look. It’s a beautiful house in its own right and the picturesque gardens are famous.

As I’d arrived in Christchurch after lunch on the Monday, I didn’t want to waste the rest of the day so it seemed like an ideal chance to go around the corner up Ilam Road and see the house. Sounds easy? Think again. Off I went through the university campus, with cars right behind me so I couldn’t drive slowly to look properly. I took a left turn too early and had to go around the block; on the next time around I couldn’t even see any sign of an entrance. Third time around I turned off the main road and into Homestead Lane hoping for a side entrance but nothing was obvious. The university students gave me bemused looks as my car kangarooed over the speed bumps too fast because I was trying to look! I had to go back to the motel and check some online reference material to confirm exactly where the house was in relation to other buildings and then it was time for another attempt. Going past, I actually caught a glimpse of Ilam up the driveway this time, but as usual traffic was busy so there was no chance to slow down or stop. Next time around I saw it was now a very private looking “Staff Club” that I wasn’t sure would welcome members of the public wandering around the grounds. By this point the light was going so I thought it would be better to try again during the day when there would be more to see and the traffic was quieter. So I didn’t manage a look at the house but got very used to driving around that block by the end of the afternoon!

I tried again on Wednesday but once again the road was too busy and crammed with parked cars to stop anywhere. Foiled again! As I was en route somewhere else and didn’t really have time to mess about I just carried on to my destination.

The house at Ilam, University of Canterbury, Christchurch – 20-Aug-2009
The house at Ilam, University of Canterbury, Christchurch – 20-Aug-2009

By Thursday I had become absolutely determined to see that house before I left! The now familiar ritual of going around and around the block with nowhere to stop continued, but this time I changed my plan of attack. I parked at the other side of the university campus and walked through to Ilam Road. There isn’t much to see from Homestead Lane but on foot I was able to walk right up the long, sweeping driveway to Ilam, take lots of close up photos of the house and walk around the grounds and gardens at my leisure. I was a bit worried about this at first given it’s a private staff club, but as students were wandering about all over the place it was clear that only the house itself was off limits. I imagine the gardens must be really nice in summer and even without the historical significance, Ilam is a very interesting house, very much an example of trying to recreate a traditional part of England here on the other side of the world.

The house at Ilam, University of Canterbury, Christchurch – 20-Aug-2009
The house at Ilam, University of Canterbury, Christchurch – 20-Aug-2009
The house at Ilam, University of Canterbury, Christchurch – 20-Aug-2009
The house at Ilam, University of Canterbury, Christchurch – 20-Aug-2009
The house at Ilam, University of Canterbury, Christchurch – 20-Aug-2009
The house at Ilam, University of Canterbury, Christchurch – 20-Aug-2009
The house at Ilam, University of Canterbury, Christchurch – 20-Aug-2009
The house at Ilam, University of Canterbury, Christchurch – 20-Aug-2009
Ilam gardens, University of Canterbury, Christchurch – 20-Aug-2009
Ilam gardens, University of Canterbury, Christchurch – 20-Aug-2009
Ilam gardens, University of Canterbury, Christchurch – 20-Aug-2009
Ilam gardens, University of Canterbury, Christchurch – 20-Aug-2009

So success finally! It was definitely the best idea to visit the house on foot as I actually got to spend some time looking around which was well worth it.

Mount Cook, Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo

Posted in Uncategorized by Adrian Petford on August 20th, 2009

As Sunday was going to be mostly sightseeing, I was hoping for good weather and my wish was granted. Unlike the day before, it was sunny.

On State Highway 83 – 16-Aug-2009
On State Highway 83 – 16-Aug-2009

Leaving Oamaru, I drove up State Highway 83 for the journey to Omarama. This was a very pleasant drive, largely straight and through some spectacular scenery. Lake Waikati was a brilliant blue. I stopped a few times to take some photos of the best views. I really feel happy when driving like this. After a couple of hours and having gone through several small towns (including the very Scottish sounding Duntroon) I passed through Omarama and turned onto the road to Mount Cook (also known by its Maori name of Aoraki). This was only a short drive, about 55km but it was breathtaking. Although the mountain tops were covered in cloud, they still looked spectacular. Quite a few photo stops ensued! I do find it amusing driving in the South Island how you can literally go for hours without seeing another car, the type of driving I like. The roads are quite literally deserted most of the time.

Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook National Park – 16-Aug-2009
Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook National Park – 16-Aug-2009
The road to Mount Cook – 16-Aug-2009
The road to Mount Cook – 16-Aug-2009
Mount Cook National Park – 16-Aug-2009
Mount Cook National Park – 16-Aug-2009
Mount Cook National Park – 16-Aug-2009
Mount Cook National Park – 16-Aug-2009

Mount Cook – 16-Aug-2009
Mount Cook – 16-Aug-2009

Arriving at Mount Cook, I parked up and went to the Old Mountaineer’s Cafe Restaurant for lunch – a local Aoraki smoked salmon bagel. It’s certainly a pretty exceptional spot to have lunch, with amazing mountain views all around! I made sure I took the time to have a good rest and enjoy the experience. Such is the tourist traffic around Mount Cook that a quite impressive village has developed at its foot. I was wise to take most of my photos on the way in, as it started drizzling as I was leaving. I still enjoyed the drive back to the main road though. As Mount Cook is adjacent to Lake Pukaki I’d already got a fair few photos of that already, but I stopped off at the visitors’ centre for more, and drove on to the lookout a couple of miles further on that Chris had recommended and it was worth the stop – an absolutely spectacular view.

Lake Pukaki – 16-Aug-2009
Lake Pukaki – 16-Aug-2009
Lake Pukaki – 16-Aug-2009
Lake Pukaki – 16-Aug-2009

It didn’t take long to reach Tekapo (my first sighting of the lake was amazing!) and find the Lake Tekapo Motels and Holiday Park which is off the main road right down by the lakeside. I checked in and was given a map to my unit, which they told me had nice lake views. Excellent! Finding it, I saw it was, essentially a wooden cabin up on a raised platform with wide patio windows on one side and a spectacular unobstructed lake view through the trees. I’d certainly agree on it having nice lake views, that was the understatement of the year and the cabin really is quite an unusual place to stay. The whole holiday park is made up of cabins like these, some clearly more backpacker orientated as there’s a kitchen building, washroom, internet room etc. I’m quite happy here in my ensuite thank you! The only downside was they didn’t provide any tea making facilities or other essentials such as soap, which let down an otherwise excellent package a bit.

A cabin by the lake - Lake Tekapo Motels and Holiday Park – 16-Aug-2009
A cabin by the lake – Lake Tekapo Motels and Holiday Park – 16-Aug-2009
View from the window - Lake Tekapo Motels and Holiday Park – 17-Aug-2009
View from the window – Lake Tekapo Motels and Holiday Park – 17-Aug-2009

As it was still a reasonable day I only rested for about half an hour and then headed out to see what this place had to offer. First stop was the Church of the Good Shepherd, a very famous and picturesque 1930s church right on the lakeside which more than lived up to expectations. I got some nice photos of it with the lake in the background, given the conditions which were quite grey and overcast by now. I had a wander around the lakefront and took some time to enjoy the spot. I had to wait for a couple of youths to finish whatever they were doing to the sheepdog statue (riding it and shoving its head somewhere unmentionable, it looked like) before I could have a look myself!

At the end of a very successful day of sightseeing in which I’d seen everything I’d planned to, my only negative thought was I wished the weather could’ve been a bit better in the afternoon. One of the reasons I’d decided to stay at Lake Tekapo though was to give me another chance to potentially see the lake at its best, should the weather improve.

Lake Tekapo – 17-Aug-2009
Lake Tekapo – 17-Aug-2009

Getting up the next day, I tentatively peered out through a chink in the curtains, hoping for better weather and the signs were good. The mountains looked clear over the lake and the sun was coming out. By the time I’d checked out of the holiday park, the sky was blue, the sun was blazing and Lake Tekapo looked its usual stunning turquoise self. I briefly paused at a good spot for a photograph. Honestly, you could never tire of that view over the lake, it’s mind blowing.

I stopped at the Church of the Good Shepherd again and reshot most of the day before’s photo coverage with much better results. Lake Tekapo seen at its best must be one of the most beautiful spots on earth. Thankfully as it was still early, I had the place to myself.

Lake Tekapo – 17-Aug-2009
Lake Tekapo – 17-Aug-2009
Lake Tekapo – 17-Aug-2009
Lake Tekapo – 17-Aug-2009
Lake Tekapo – 17-Aug-2009
Lake Tekapo – 17-Aug-2009
Church of the Good Shepherd and Lake Tekapo – 17-Aug-2009
Church of the Good Shepherd and Lake Tekapo – 17-Aug-2009

I was just finishing up as the first tourist bus appeared coming down the road! I made a sharp exit and was quickly on my way to the final destination of this road trip – Christchurch.

Oamaru – p-p-p-pick up a penguin

Posted in Uncategorized by Adrian Petford on August 19th, 2009

I must say I really love the feeling you get when you’re driving on an almost empty road, through stunning scenery and with the music cranked up. I haven’t used my iRiver MP3 player this trip yet; I’ve been listening to a Dunedin station called Classic Hits which is pretty good. I was quite sorry when I got sufficiently up country to start to lose the signal.

Moeraki Boulders, Koekohe Beach, Otago – 14-Aug-2009
Moeraki Boulders, Koekohe Beach, Otago – 14-Aug-2009

North of Dunedin the weather started to deteriorate, overcast and cold. The clouds were really low and covering the mountain tops which was impressive to see. I stopped off at the Moreaki Boulders, a group of stones which are almost entirely perfectly spherical which was a good rest stop and fortunately the walkway down to the beach was relatively short. I’m glad I’ve seen them, they really are very impressive and strange, although it was absolutely freezing so I only made it a short stop.

Then it was on to Oamaru and sunshine again. I found the Midway Motel relatively easily (it is very pleasant and comfortable and I’ve already made friends with Maggie, the resident cat). The host Karen is really nice and helpful. She gave me loads of good advice about things to do and see.

After a rest in the room, I walked out to have a look around town. I had lunch at the Whitestone Cheese factory cafe (recommended by Karen). Despite how it sounds, this was actually a healthier option than I’m usually doing on this trip – their six speciality cheeses served on a board with bread, crackers, apples, grapes and jelly. A very creditable ploughman’s!

It’s a long walk into town I must say, even though Oamaru is a small place. I carried on, taking photos of some of the impressive historic buildings on the other side of the road as I went, and eventually reached the Historic Precinct, one of the best collections of vintage commercial buildings in the country.

St. Paul's Presbyterian Church, Oamaru built in 1875 – 14-Aug-2009
St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Oamaru built in 1875 – 14-Aug-2009
Former Post Office (now Waitaki District Council offices), Oamaru dating from 1883 – 14-Aug-2009
Former Post Office (now Waitaki District Council offices), Oamaru dating from 1883 – 14-Aug-2009
Former Bank of Otago (now The National Bank), Oamaru built in 1871 – 14-Aug-2009
Former Bank of Otago (now The National Bank), Oamaru built in 1871 – 14-Aug-2009
Criterion Hotel, Oamaru built in 1877 – 14-Aug-2009
Criterion Hotel, Oamaru built in 1877 – 14-Aug-2009

Smiths Grain Store, Oamaru dating from 1881-82 – 14-Aug-2009
Smiths Grain Store, Oamaru dating from 1881-82 – 14-Aug-2009

This still retains a very Victorian feel and character. It’s a shame I won’t be here to see some of the things they put on to celebrate their history, such as the once weekly steam train on a Sunday. Having had a look around I walked back to the motel, intending to go to the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony at dusk for the evening viewing of the penguins coming ashore.

At 5.30pm I drove there, it’s through and past the historic area. I was amused to see “Penguins Crossing” road signs as I approached, but it is a very real problem apparently as they come ashore trying to find the colony.

My winter coat got its second outing – they recommend you wrap up warmly and I’m so glad I did – as I immediately felt cold even before going out into the viewing area. This is a really well set up attraction. The visitors centre has some good information for you to read while you’re waiting to go out. There’s a viewing stand with tiered seating under orange light – the penguins can’t see that area of the spectrum so they just think it’s dark, but you get a really good clear view. The guide was very friendly and informative and watching the penguins come ashore was amazing. I was surprised how small blue penguins are, absolutely tiny! They came ashore in groups and we saw all sorts of behaviour as they found their way home. Some would run out of the colony to greet a new group as they arrived. I sat and watched for about an hour and a half, it was fascinating. It would have been great to take some pictures (they don’t allow photography) or even have binoculars so I could see better, but I still got a good view. This was worth the visit to Oamaru on its own.

It was lovely here during the day, but it’s really cold at night so my first task back at the motel was working out how to work the heater (more difficult than it sounds, you needed to activate a timer before it switched on – yes, in Otago heat is so precious that they must have to ration it!!)

I woke up the next morning feeling cold. Really cold. I stayed in bed as long as I could but even felt cold there. As a result it was a slow start to the day, but taking some time to relax was a sensible move. The day was overcast and rainy so I’m certainly glad I made the effort to do most of the attractions yesterday! I went out in the afternoon, first back to the Blue Penguin Colony where I had a tour of the Blue Wing (where you can watch the birds live in their boxes) and walk around the outdoor penguin boxes. It was all very interesting and informative. I bought the DVD which should be a good memento and noticed they offered the hire of binoculars as well. I wish I’d seen that last night!

Former NZ Loan & Mercantile Warehouse (now NZ Malt Whisky Company), Oamaru dating from 1882 – 14-Aug-2009
Former NZ Loan & Mercantile Warehouse (now NZ Malt Whisky Company), Oamaru dating from 1882 – 14-Aug-2009

Then it was time for some lunch. The nearby choice, Whisky was closed because their coffee machine had broken so I went to Fat Sally’s on the main drag which was recommended by Lonely Planet. This had some character – all sorts of historical bric-a-brac on the walls – and the meal, a mushroom garlic salad was very unusual and tasty.

After this, thanks to a tip from the blue penguin people, I decided to take a look at the Yellow Penguin Colony which is nearby. This is free – you just sit in a hide and watch the beach as they come in. I sat there for an hour and although I saw one, I was freezing cold so called time early.

I must admit I’ve revised my initial opinion of Oamaru, which was that it wouldn’t have enough to fill two days. It has been worth the visit, mostly for the penguins and has provided enough to do while being an enforced slowing of my usual frenetic pace which was much needed. I left on Sunday morning anticipating a spectacular stage of my journey – Mount Cook, Lake Pukaki and finally Lake Tekapo.