The Secret Diary of Adrian Petford Aged 39¾

The big freeze – International Antarctic Centre

Posted in Christchurch,New Zealand 2009 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 Akaroa,Christchurch,New Zealand 2009 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 Arthurs Pass,Christchurch,Greymouth,New Zealand 2009 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 Christchurch,New Zealand 2009 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 Lake Pukaki,Lake Tekapo,Mount Cook,New Zealand 2009 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 New Zealand 2009,Oamaru 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.

Dunedin – Scotland, New Zealand style

Posted in Dunedin,New Zealand 2009 by Adrian Petford on August 17th, 2009

The second stage of my trip was all new – the city of Dunedin in the South Island. Founded by Scottish settlers, it’s proud of its heritage which is evident everywhere even today. The city’s original proposed name, “New Edinburgh” was thought would cause too much confusion with Edinburgh in Scotland so they adopted “Dunedin” – Edinburgh’s Gaelic name – instead. Being a great fan of Edinburgh myself made Dunedin an absolute must for this trip.

Dunedin’s in the south of the South Island, so if time is short the only realistic option is to fly down. I’d booked a two-stage internal flight via Christchurch. I was very impressed by the automated check in system at Auckland airport’s domestic terminal. Using touch screens and barcode scanners, you can get your boarding passes and labels for your luggage in seconds. There was someone on hand to help as I hadn’t used it before but it was all very straightforward. All I needed was my printed e-ticket and to put my bag on the conveyor at bag drop, it was brilliant.

Both flights were on Boeing 737-300s and were comfortable, with good service and ran on time. I liked the typically Kiwi Air New Zealand safety video which was gently humourous. Some good views of Auckland airport on the way out, and I was able to get some amazing photographs of the Southern Alps (all snow capped now, of course) and the Canterbury plains while approaching Christchurch. The changeover between planes was mere minutes and then it was on to Dunedin. I’m certainly glad I did my usual thing of going for window seats on short flights, even if the best views were on the other side of the aircraft from where I was both times!

The flight south. The Southern Alps from the air – 10-Aug-2009
The flight south. The Southern Alps from the air – 10-Aug-2009
The flight south. The Southern Alps from the air – 10-Aug-2009
The flight south. The Southern Alps from the air – 10-Aug-2009
The flight south. The Southern Alps from the air – 10-Aug-2009
The flight south. The Southern Alps from the air – 10-Aug-2009
The flight south. The Canterbury plains from the air – 10-Aug-2009
The flight south. The Canterbury plains from the air – 10-Aug-2009

I immediately noticed it was colder in Dunedin; although not excessive (I just had to put a jumper on) it was noticeable. The weather was slightly overcast but no rain. There was low mist hanging over the mountains which was an impressive sight. Once out of the airport it was straight onto a crammed shuttle bus; there wasn’t time to even take a picture of the famous “Southern Man” statue!

Dunedin airport is 30km from the city so I then got an improntu free tour of the area and suburbs as people were dropped off. This was really interesting. There were some really, really steep roads so I’m glad I’m not tackling Dunedin on foot! After about fifty minutes I was dropped at my motel and went to check in. I’d picked a really well placed motel, the 97 Motel Moray which is the closest motel to the centre of town and it was a very nice, comfortable unit.

Dunedin Railway Station was opened in 1906 and is reckoned to be New Zealand's most photographed building – 11-Aug-2009
Dunedin Railway Station was opened in 1906 and is reckoned to be New Zealand’s most photographed building – 11-Aug-2009

On Tuesday I picked up my hire car, a white Nissan Bluebird. As it was still early I walked around Moray Place admiring First Church and some of the other old Victorian and Edwardian buildings. Carrying on, I soon reached Dunedin Railway Station, which claims to be the most photographed building in New Zealand. I can see why, it’s Edwardian and absolutely gorgeous, both inside and out. I was intending to go on the Taieri Gorge Railway so I booked in for the trip at 12.30pm and busied myself looking around the station and taking photos of nearby buildings. The Law Courts are impressive and there’s a huge Cadburys factory across the road.

The Taieri Gorge Railway is very well set up. They use restored 1920s carriages which really added something to the experience. My seat was right at the back of the train on its own! The train was far from full, I expect it’s usually like this in winter. Then it was off, first out through the suburbs and Taieri plain and then into the gorge itself. It’s billed as one of the world’s great train journeys and I’d certainly agree with that. As a journey through stunning scenery and a tribute to an amazing feat of engineering it wins on both counts. The commentary throughout the outward trip was very informative. As I was getting lunch from the buffet car in the early part of the journey I missed some of the sights including the Wingatui Viaduct (reckoned to be the largest wrought iron structure in the southern hemisphere) but I got them on the way back! I also liked the railway house at the former crossing station at Parera, a sole dwelling in the middle of nowhere, now restored and used as a holiday home, but still with no electricity, TV or running water!

A stop for a spectacular photo opportunity, Taieri Gorge Railway – 11-Aug-2009
A stop for a spectacular photo opportunity, Taieri Gorge Railway – 11-Aug-2009

The run took around two hours to reach the end of the line at Pukerangi through mountains, tunnels, across viaducts and gullys. It was amazing. There were a couple of stops on the way to point out interesting things. Being right at the back of the train I got a fantastic view; standing on the platform at the back hanging on to the rails while trying to take photos was certainly an experience but it was well worth it.

After the briefest of stops at the end of the line – ten minutes – it was off again. I just enjoyed the scenery on the way back, taking only the occasional photo and making sure I captured the sights I missed on the way out. I got some good photos in the end although others were blurred due to the buffeting train and me hanging on to the rails for dear life rather than keeping the camera steady!

Robert Burns statue, The Octagon – 11-Aug-2009
Robert Burns statue, The Octagon – 11-Aug-2009

Once back in Dunedin – by this time the sun had come out and there was some blue sky, it had previously been an overcast day – I had a look around the Octagon which is packed full of interesting sights. The i-SITE is in an amazing building and St Paul’s Anglican cathedral is right next door, plus there’s a statue of Robert Burns right in the centre of town. There’s an old Regent cinema and the Art Gallery is also in an unusual old building. Most of these places are now cafes, bars and restaurants. That evening, I ate at Etrusco at the Savoy, an Italian restaurant just down from my motel that Steve and Cherie had recommended which was lovely, very open with pillars, large windows and a bar in the centre. The meal was terrific, probably the best pizza I’ve ever eaten and I finished off with the exquisite sounding (and tasting) Hot Fudge Sundae.

One word summed up Wednesday: RAIN! I woke about 7.30am to hear it pattering on the roof. Hoping it wouldn’t be much, I looked outside but it was clearly a LOT of rain. Not torrential, but enough to cause problems and affect the day. I spent most of the day at Otago Museum which was still on my list of major things to do in Dunedin, so thankfully the time was far from wasted. The Maori and Southern People exhibition halls were exceptionally good and told me a lot about Dunedin and the Otago area. There was so much to see at the museum it easily filled the day, in fact I still only had time for a brief walk around the Peoples of the World, Pacific Cultures and Maritime halls.

On Thursday, I was delighted to see clear blue sky and a glorious day again. I had planned to visit Larnach Castle and the Royal Albatross Centre at Taiaroa Head come what may, but was very relieved the weather had come out in sympathy with my need to do outdoorsy things today! Larnach Castle (billed as “New Zealand’s only castle”) is on the highest point of the Otago Peninsula and driving up the winding road, the views were simply stunning: the harbour and Dunedin on one side, the Pacific Ocean on the other.

Larnach Castle, New Zealand's only castle – 13-Aug-2009
Larnach Castle, New Zealand’s only castle – 13-Aug-2009

Although “castle” is laying it on a bit in the case of Larnach Castle, it’s still a very, very impressive building – more a stately home with battlements and a tower on top. It reminded me a bit of Portmeirion in Wales in as much as it’s the product of a single person’s unique and quirky imagination. Once I’d finished looking around the unusual gardens I had a rest stop at the cafe-restaurant in the castle’s ballroom wing. This was stunning, all wooden panelling, chandeliers, open fires and leather seating. Then I walked around and ascended the long stone staircase leading up to the front entrance, rang the doorbell and was admitted by the receptionist – how quaint.

Sadly, you can’t take photos inside the castle but the tour was superbly put together. The guide leaflet had a map and all the things of interest to look out for in each room. There was an introductory video and exhibition room outlining the story of the castle and its creator William Larnach, who was a very powerful, influential – and mercurial – figure in Dunedin and Otago in the nineteenth century.

I really enjoyed walking around and the highlight was ascending a very tight stone spiral staircase to get to the tower on top. The views were breathtaking on all sides. You could see right from Dunedin out to Taiaroa Head on the one side and the endlessness of the Pacific Ocean on the other. What a brilliant attraction Larnach Castle is, definitely one of the highlights of this trip so far.

Otago Harbour – 13-Aug-2009
Otago Harbour – 13-Aug-2009
On the way to Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula – 13-Aug-2009
On the way to Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula – 13-Aug-2009

The drive out to Taiaroa Head, right along the coast of Otago Peninsula to the tip, was breathtaking. It was worth doing it for that alone, but seeing the Head with its views was a worthy end to the journey. Sadly I couldn’t do a combined tour of Fort Taiaroa and the albatross colony as they had finished those for the day so I opted for the fort on its own. This was fascinating and the guide did a very good tour.  The fort was defensive, built in the late nineteenth century when New Zealand feared a Russian invasion and expanded in both world wars. I went down into the underground tunnels, saw the gun in its chamber, saw parts of it demonstrated, the lookout point (also glimpsed an albatross so got something extra there) and a small museum. Better than Stony Batter on Waiheke Island I think, and I loved that. Fewer tunnels and a simpler installation but unlike that one, the gun is still here and is fully working after one and a quarter centuries. I enjoyed the drive along the coast on the way back just as much, even though the light was starting to go. It’ll be something I always remember when I think of Dunedin.

On Friday it was sadly time to leave Dunedin but I still had time to fit in one final sight on my way out – Baldwin Street, the world’s steepest street (authenticated by the Guinness Book of World Records, no less). I parked up on the other side of the road and walked up as far as I could, basically to where it started to get REALLY steep. There’s no way I’d have got any further but Baldwin Street was a lot more impressive to see than it sounds. Once I’d finished there it was off up State Highway 1 to my next destination, Oamaru.

You are 4!

Posted in Auckland,New Zealand 2009 by Adrian Petford on August 15th, 2009

Before I left Auckland, I had a very important task to perform – buying Chevelle’s birthday present for her party the next day. On Saturday, I headed off to the cumbersomely named “Westfield WestCity Henderson” mall which is the largest shopping complex in the local area. Being used to the immense Merry Hill centre at home (now also owned by Westfield), I always find it odd how each suburb has its own shopping mall but they are smaller with less choice. Often you have to try two or three before you can get what you want, if you’re looking for something obscure.

I haven’t been back to Henderson for years (I’m thinking it could be as long ago as 2001) so it was interesting to see the mall, which seems to have hardly changed. I had lunch in the food court and went to Whitcoulls (the New Zealand equivalent of WH Smith) to look for storybooks. I thought if I buy one for Chevelle I’ll probably get to read it to her! No self interest there at all then, oh no…

Uncle Adrian's careful preparations for Chevelle's 4th birthday – 08-Aug-2009
Uncle Adrian’s careful preparations for Chevelle’s 4th birthday – 08-Aug-2009

I found something perfect – My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes by Eve Sutton – so perfect in fact that I thought they’d probably have it already, but it turns out they haven’t as I called Steve to ask. Guess what? Champers, one of their cats, likes to hide in boxes. Result!

I bought the book, a nice pink bag to put it in and a 4th birthday card with a cat on, so was well pleased with those choices. In fact the book was the first I picked up off the shelf, which must’ve been an omen.

Chevelle's playhouse – 09-Aug-2009
Chevelle’s playhouse – 09-Aug-2009

I drove over to Titirangi on Sunday morning for the birthday party. Arriving at Steve and Cherie’s I saw Chevelle’s main present, a large plastic playhouse and it’s brilliant! It’s pink and white with a door and letterbox, swing out seats and a basin and mirror inside. There are even little trays for flowers to go in! Apparently the tarpaulin they had over it began to slide off in the night so Chevelle saw it first thing in the morning and was absolutely amazed. She’s going around pointing at the house saying “Mummy’s house” and then the playhouse, “MY house”! Judging by the amount of books and stuff in the playhouse it looks like she’s already preparing to move out!

She smiled and laughed when I arrived, although with two other kids there as well she was far too busy in the playhouse to take notice of anything else! I gave her my present, which she loved and it was already safely in her bookcase by the end of the day. Tania arrived with Max and then there were four bundles of energy running around at lightspeed! They played on the trampoline and in the house, ran about while Chevelle also rode her bike around. An attempt to feed the ducks was aborted when no one could find the ducks! They’d obviously taken cover (they did turn up later). Then it was time for party food so the kids all lined up as it was dished out. Cherie had done a brilliant spread, miniature spring rolls, burgers, sausages, crisps, cheese, dips etc. which were all delicious. Chevelle’s birthday cake was chocolate with bright pink icing and a silver “4” on top. The wind blew out the candles as Cherie brought it out, but Chevelle still made a valiant attempt to blow them out!

Champers. After a hard day's sleeping, it's time for a quick nap... – 09-Aug-2009
Champers. After a hard day’s sleeping, it’s time for a quick nap… – 09-Aug-2009

In the afternoon I chilled out with the grown ups as the kids bounced around on next door’s full size trampoline. This was hilarious to see. Chevelle was standing up most of the time while the others had fallen over in a heap but were still bouncing up and down!

Around 6.00pm I was called upstairs for bedtime story duty! I got to read my storybook to Chevelle and she enjoyed it so much she asked me to read it again. I also got to read another one to her. She’s very intelligent and imaginative.

A very nice pasta dinner ensued with Steve and Cherie. I talked about my road trip and they gave me lots of good advice. Cherie talked about some of their past holidays and tours of the South Island. Steve has already had to repair Chevelle’s new Barbie fairytale castle! I left around 9.30pm and felt quite emotional as I was driving away; although I’ll be back in two weeks it was sad to leave them. All in all the day was great fun and I was really pleased to be a part of it.

And so the first stage of my trip was over. Next stop Dunedin…

Bethells Beach

Posted in Auckland,New Zealand 2009 by Adrian Petford on August 14th, 2009

Chances are, if you’ve ever enjoyed a film or television production made in Auckland, at one time or another you will have seen one of the west coast beaches in the Waitakere ranges. Piha is the most famous and highest profile, but consequently busiest, so the others are often easier to film on. Karekare was the beach featured in the acclaimed film The Piano and Bethells Beach (or Te Henga to give it its Maori name) was first introduced to me as a very regular location in Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys where it doubled for everywhere from ancient Greece to the shores of Ireland! Since then the beach has been revisited by many of my favourite locally produced shows such as Being Eve, Outrageous Fortune and the Martin Clunes film, The Man Who Lost His Head.

Bethells Beach is a really special place even without all these connections to popular culture. It has all sorts of interesting and spectacular scenery including a very distinctive headland, a large cave (only accessible at low tide), a couple of islands and some great spots for sitting, chilling out and just watching the waves breaking on the shore.

The cave, Bethells Beach. This can only be entered at low tide – 08-Aug-2009
The cave, Bethells Beach. This can only be entered at low tide – 08-Aug-2009
The island, Bethells Beach – 08-Aug-2009
The island, Bethells Beach – 08-Aug-2009

I’ve been there so many times now I’ve lost count, but just never get tired of it. On the Saturday before I left on my road trip it was time for the obligatory return visit to Bethells, so Chris and I headed out at 3.00pm. We had to “get a wriggle on” (to use a local expression) as there were only a couple of hours of light left. We drove there via Swanson, one of my lesser travelled routes and then up Waitakere Road and Bethells Road.

Bethells Beach, looking north – 08-Aug-2009
Bethells Beach, looking north – 08-Aug-2009

The beach was busy that day – we saw a surfer, a kite flyer, lots of dog walkers and even someone flying a model aeroplane. There was also a fashion shoot going on as we arrived – a dark haired model in a long white dress was posing for photos up in the dunes. It was a really nice day with little wind. I got some great pictures of the waves breaking and of the sun above the north end of the beach.

We walked all the way down to the cave and back, although I kept my distance as there were some boisterous youths larking around there who I wanted to avoid. The sunset was largely obscured by cloud but still bathed the beach in a magical light and the walk back to the car at dusk was equally pleasant.

Bethells Beach, looking south – 08-Aug-2009
Bethells Beach, looking south – 08-Aug-2009
Sand dunes, Bethells Beach – 08-Aug-2009
Sand dunes, Bethells Beach – 08-Aug-2009
Bethells Beach, southern end – 08-Aug-2009
Bethells Beach, southern end – 08-Aug-2009
Chris at the cave, Bethells Beach – 08-Aug-2009
Chris at the cave, Bethells Beach – 08-Aug-2009
Bethells Beach, looking north – 08-Aug-2009
Bethells Beach, looking north – 08-Aug-2009
Sunset at Bethells Beach – 08-Aug-2009
Sunset at Bethells Beach – 08-Aug-2009

As well as lots of photos, I shot some video on my phone of the beach, something I’m trying to do at all the notable sights this time. The route back was via Te Henga Road and Scenic Drive which is always an interesting journey. Personally, my visits to New Zealand are never complete without a trip to Bethells Beach so it was good to have an opportunity to go back to this old favourite.

Auckland – back in the City of Sails

Posted in Auckland,New Zealand 2009 by Adrian Petford on August 8th, 2009

I have had a brilliant week back in Auckland, the place I regard as my second home. The weather has been amazing; sunny and largely cloudless every day. I’ve been so lucky. You wouldn’t believe it’s winter, apart from the fact it’s colder than normal. On Thursday it was so hot I had to roll up my sleeves and wished I’d brought a hat to shield me from the sun! I know I’ve had it easy and I’m sure I’ll get a rude awakening, weather wise, down in the South Island next week, but it couldn’t have worked out better so far.

Sky Tower, Auckland city – 04-Aug-2009
Sky Tower, Auckland city – 04-Aug-2009

On Tuesday I spent most of the day wandering around the city centre, and shopping. There’s so much to do on Queen Street, Auckland’s main drag. I had lunch with Steve in the IMAX centre’s food court and stocked up on some local DVDs and CDs courtesy of Marbecks, my favourite record shop here. Had a walk along Harbourside, the marina and the former Americas Cup village. Not much has changed in the city; the odd new or altered building here and there but otherwise it’s all very comfortable and familiar ground. It’s nice to be back.

Later on Tuesday I went over to Steve and Cherie’s for dinner and was quickly commandeered for bedtime story duty in Steve’s absence! It was a lovely moment, I really enjoyed it. Chevelle was laughing and giggling all the time. I often can’t tell what she’s saying and just laugh along with her which just makes her giggle more. She’s full of energy even before bedtime! Apparently she loved the story. Phew!

Over dinner they both recommended I stop in Oamaru rather than Timaru as there’s much more interesting stuff to see in Oamaru, including a penguin colony, just the sort of thing I like. It’s also a good base for starting the trip to the lakes. I like this idea and think I might rethink my plans so I can do it.

I drove down to Huia on Wednesday. This is very close to where I am based but, surprisingly, I’ve never been there before. There were stunning views from the lookout at Huia Point, of Huia itself, Manukau harbour and out to the Manukau heads. I also spent some time in Little Huia which is a beautiful, relaxed and peaceful spot.

View from Huia Point – 05-Aug-2009
View from Huia Point – 05-Aug-2009
View from Huia Point – 05-Aug-2009
View from Huia Point – 05-Aug-2009
View from Huia Point – 05-Aug-2009
View from Huia Point – 05-Aug-2009
View from Huia Point – 05-Aug-2009
View from Huia Point – 05-Aug-2009
View from Huia Point – 05-Aug-2009
View from Huia Point – 05-Aug-2009
View from Huia Point – 05-Aug-2009
View from Huia Point – 05-Aug-2009

I enjoyed a fun lunch with Cherie and Chevelle on Thursday where we had the famous Kiwi delicacy of “fush and chups”! This is a treat in between Chevelle’s swimming class in the morning and kindergarten in the afternoon so it was nice to be part of it this time. I ended up staying for the afternoon so was there to pick up Chevelle from kindy as well which was fun to see. My work colleagues might be envious to hear that there are only twenty kids in the kindergarten shared between four teachers! Chevelle was still bouncing around full of energy. Usually Cherie walks back home to wear her out but this time we were in the car – “hmmm, looks like it should’ve been a walking day”, she said!

Back home I read Chevelle some poems from her book, including a new one she’d stuck in today which was great fun and then it was out to play! She started on her trampoline and bounced up and down like crazy! I got some really funny pictures. After that hour, I’m now an expert in throw and catch, spinning around in a circle as fast as I can, shooting a miniature basketball hoop, running along behind a bike (with stabilisers) and balancing a ball on my head. I was exhausted but it was fantastic fun! Chevelle’s a great little girl. Hopefully I’d worn her out enough for Steve and Cherie to get a peaceful night!

ZK-LAT at Ardmore Airport – 07-Aug-2009
ZK-LAT at Ardmore Airport – 07-Aug-2009

I had a great day out with Chris on Friday. We went to Ardmore Airport first to have a look around. This is a busy general aviation airfield so there is lots to see. Chris told me of his exploits at engineering school here many years ago. They used to build all sorts of fantastical contraptions just to pass the time, that’s when they weren’t chatting up the trainee teachers at the teaching college that was also here! We parked up by the runway and watched quite a few take offs and landings, some better than others as the student pilots were obviously out practising!

Then it was off to Hunua Falls which is always a nice run through the Hunua ranges. The falls were fuller than I’d ever seen them and the pool was noticeably higher. We went down to the bottom to take some photos and Chris, in typical Chris style, charged off climbing up the rocks to get photos from the far side. I preferred to stick to the proper walking tracks that are within my capabilities. We went to the lower lookout and then to a track marked “No Access to Waterfall”. This must be the unacknowledged “abseil track” – yes, people do abseil down the side of the falls! I quickly saw it would be too much for me to climb but Chris set off with the intention of going all the way up. I returned to the lower lookout and waited for any sightings of him at the top of the falls!

Hunua Falls – 07-Aug-2009
Hunua Falls – 07-Aug-2009

I wondered whether or not to do the upper lookout track, but ended up sitting in the lower lookout. It was good to spend some time just relaxing and enjoying this beautiful place. Although there were no signs of Chris at the top of the falls (I found out later he had gone up but didn’t want to risk going past all the fences and warning signs) but we met later by the pool. I gingerly made my way over to the far side from the lower lookout steps (it involved climbing down some high rocks which was a bit hairy) and took some great photos from this close, unusual angle underneath the falls.

After a lunch stop at a rustic wooden building amusingly called a “supermarket” – it’s the only shop for about ten miles – we headed back via Clevedon village and the east coast. We saw the Firth of Thames and the Coromandel in the distance and later Waiheke Island while going through Maraetai. We stopped off at Murphy’s Bush for a quick look around. This is typical of the unusual natural sights you can find in New Zealand – a small area of undisturbed bush, with a cleared section in the middle but right by the main roads. Inside you really feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere and the bush must go on for miles, the effect is uncanny. Once finished here, we drove back towards the city. It’s always good to go out with Chris as he takes you on very unusual routes and this was no exception.

This week has been really good – totally packed with varied activities. It’s been every bit as enjoyable as my more conventional trips in the summer. I’m so glad to be back here.