The Meadow

What a happy homecoming, after eight weeks of travel on the opposite side of the world the garden and I are reunited.

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The grassy area at the front that this time last year – when we moved in – was a pristine manicured lawn with knife edged small circular beds under the three trees has now after only a year started its transition into a wild flower meadow.

I could hardly contain my excitement as we drove up the drive, at the sight of the many upright leaves from some of the 300 bulbs lovingly planted in the autumn. The Fritillaria meleagris already in flower, maroon chequered and white heads nodding in the warm sun and gentle breeze.

Leaving long-suffering to the cases I jumped out of the car for a closer look, my delight complete as I noted that there was a healthy representation from all the different bulbs planted – Camassia, Species Tulip ‘Saxatilis’ and Narcissi ‘Actaea’. I stopped short of counting every one but suffice to say at least 70 per cent had come up!

Narcissi poeticus ‘Actaea’ just one in flower but many more I hope over the next few weeks will slowly open imparting their lovely fragrance as I wander through the middle pathway.

It remains to be seen how many of the 150 wild flower plug plants planted last spring, make an appearance.  Some are already to be seen, the rest, well I shall watch and wait fingers crossed!

Meanwhile we left the luggage in the hall as we excitedly toured our ‘estate’ to see what other delights we could find…….

And more…..

Even more

Facing MY Fears!

°Brisbane Australia, three days visiting Richards uncle and cousins – for once long-suffering had the upper hand on the next stage of our ‘trip of a lifetime’. He sat calm beside me on the three hour plus flight from Christchurch to Brisbane as I sat freaking out at all the wild animals, insects, reptiles, sharks etc. that may or may not  – crawl, jump, dive, slither, snap or bite terminating me from existence!

We had it on good authority – our youngest daughter – that Richards cousin Andrew and his wife Jodie – both originally from New Zealand with its almost zero population of nasties – would be great hosts for the duration of our three day stop in Brisbane. We were not disappointed.

Walking out from the airport we were not prepared for how hot this country really is and although our hosts were waiting with their air-conditioned car our clothes were already sticking to our bodies.

As my head swivelled  360° outside the terminal looking for any rogue predators – Jodie happily informed me their house – under her orders – was fumigated at least once a week to keep down the risk of any nasty intruders of the crawling/jumping variety. Already we were best friends!

Brisbane city – cousin Andrew had to work behind the scenes at the Adele concert taking place at the Gabba, leaving Jodie with the task of entertaining us for the evening – no mean feat considering we had only just met for the first time ever!

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We drove straight into Brisbane city from the airport dropping Andrew off at the Gabba before parking up beneath Eagle Street Pier in an underground car park. We took the steps up which led straight out onto the pier. From the terraced pier busy with bars and eateries filled with workers and tourists like us, tall skyscrapers loomed above our heads.

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After a couple of drinks getting to know each other – instant ease – at a River front bar we moved on to George’s seafood restaurant, not that any of us had seafood. But we did have a table overlooking the Brisbane River and Story Bridge.

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Had we had more time we would have liked to spend more time in this vibrant city, however the time we did have, was happily spent catching up with family we had not seen for many years, all who had once lived in New Zealand and had followed our recent travels there, especially the South Island where they once lived.

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At Uncle Rogers we browsed through old photos he had from when he first emigrated to New Zealand from Kilnwick in Yorkshire  – one of the original £10.00 a passage skilled workers needed out there. First working in labouring jobs including helping to build the Haast Pass eventually setting up his own sheep farm in Timaru before retiring to Brisbane. We compared photos – our full colour, all singing and dancing present day and his mostly black and white grainy snapshots – important documentation  of a bygone age in the South Island.

 

It was a welcome relief to stay in a family home  – especially one as welcoming as  Andrew and Jodies – after the impersonal hotel rooms before. We slept like logs in our boutique style room, ate like kings, and even had resident young Chinese students to keep us entertained during our stay and not a predator was seen – not by me – long-suffering did see a cane toad but I don’t think he counts!

All too soon it was time to leave for the next stage of our journey … Whitsundays beckoned ………

Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach – our base while on land ‘The Moorings B&B’ did not disappoint, a comfortable, colonial style, self-contained apartment, opening out onto beautiful tropical gardens overlooking Abel Point Marina. This tranquil oasis – once I got used to the fact I wasn’t going to get eaten alive – was complete with sparkling swimming pool, resident Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, Rainbow Lorikeets, dancing butterflies and lizards darting in and out from beneath the security of the lush undergrowth.

Breakfast was served on our private terrace – perfectly ripened fruit platter to start, fresh juice, tea, followed by cooked breakfast of choice to order.

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We had arrived the afternoon before after our 90 minute flight into Proserpine from Brisbane to intense heat and humidity struggling as we walked down into Airlie beach to explore the area and then back up steps and steep roads to our base. Sweating man was back with a vengeance and sweating woman made an appearance for only second time both in Australia!

Hideaway Bay 50km north of Airlie Bay – Long-sufferings ‘fly by the seat of his pants’ idea to hire a car was a good one. The air-conditioned interior a real plus point as respite from the intense heat outside during the hour long journey on good roads – driving on the left an added bonus – lined by fields and fields of sugar cane crops on vast flat landscapes either side with hills and mountains in the distance.

 

Beautiful place to spend a day, long sandy beach – no swimming for us though, we had been warned off due to the presence of Box Jellyfish! Not that I had any intention of venturing in, especially as a beautiful predator free pool was available to cool off in.

We enjoyed a lazy day here – too hot to do anything else but lay horizontal on our beds in shade and take lunch on the terrace. My Prawn & Melon salad with a sweet chilli drizzle was to die for as was long-sufferings meat sliders – a trio of mini burgers and salad hitting the spot of his meat loving belly admirably.

We fully intended to eat out in the evening but after picking up supplies from the local supermarket on the way back we gave in to the intense heat and spent a companionable evening in, eating fruit salad, yogurt and peanut M&Ms whilst laying horizontal on the bed with minimal attire too hot to move even in the air-conditioned room!

Tomorrow we would follow long-sufferings itinerary with Whitsunday Getaways for a three night, four day catamaran cruise around the Whitsundays  and hopefully cooler climes with the wind in our hair!

Six Years On!

Arriving by Taxi to our Hotel in Christchurch New Zealand was a bit of a shock to the senses. Six years on from the devastating earthquake that struck on 22nd February 2011 large areas around the main Cathedral square were still very much in the process of being rebuilt.

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Our hotel rose up from the ground in front of us looking pristine and new it’s fascia gleaming from the suns rays, in complete contrast to the building site next door which was a scene of grey devastation with two tall towers, one a flat wall only being held up by iron supports seemingly inches from our Hotel! We were later informed these were the new lift shafts for the development about to rise from the ashes – lifts are built first and floors are slotted in acting to further strengthen the structure – in non technical speak that is!

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There was no pre-planned itinerary except  – beard/hair trim for the long-suffering before he became unrecognisable to friends, family and me, followed by the purchase of alcohol and snacks to help us transition to a static hotel room after leaving our wonderful home on wheels ‘Aramoana’.

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Without ‘an itinerary’ we were in danger of drifting aimlessly around in our grief but luckily a fellow traveller recommended the daily ‘free’ walking tour of Christchurch. This two hour walk works on the principal you pay what you think it’s worth. The guides recommend a minimum of 15 dollars per person but it is really up to the individual.

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The meeting place was the Challice at Cathedral Square – a cone shaped sculpture nicknamed ‘A Cornetto’ by the long-suffering! In fact it represented the Millennium and 150 years founding of Christchurch and Canterbury.

We walked out from Cathedral Square with our guide Martin, at each stop of our tour of the surrounding area and back to the centre we were given a bit of history pre and post earthquake. The tour was always interesting, very informative and went a long way to help the long-suffering plan a new itinerary for our short time here!

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The two most poignant stops of the tour was the site of the Canterbury Television building where 115 of the 185 casualties died as the building collapsed and caught fire around them, and the 185 white chair memorial – standing out in the open on a vacant plot once occupied by a church, each chair; armchairs, wheelchair, babies chair, cafe chairs to name but a few form a stark reminder of lives cruelly taken.

Innovation in the form of the ‘Re-Start Mall a shopping centre created entirely from freight containers.

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Part ruined Cathedral in the square still sadly waiting for a decision on its future.

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Hop on Hop off Tram ride – on restored heritage trams with a new extended route with 17 stops. The trams ran every 15-20 minutes with a happy driver giving us a talking tour as we rolled along the lines.  This charming way around was our only mode of transport – other than our legs – while in Christchurch.

Christchurch Botanic Gardens – Beautiful gardens started in  1863 with the planting of a single English Oak, now covering an area of 21 hectares including water gardens, rock gardens, Rose gardens, Victorian conservatory, Fernery and much more. I could easily have spent the day here if time allowed!

Punting on the Avon river – lazy, indulgent, romantic, half hour return ride along the river – this was instead of the long-suffering rowing me in our own boat ‘too hot’! Luckily we were able to sit at the very back with only three other tourists in the boat all facing forward!

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Our puntsman decked out in traditional Edwardian dress propelled us slowly and gently through the water, passing resident ducks ducking and diving beneath the water as we glided along through the Botanic gardens before an expert turn sent us  back to the start and almost the end of our time in New Zealand.

Christchurch still feels like a ghost town and parts are still eerily quiet despite the constant background noise from the ongoing rejuvination of this once busy city but it is clearly making progress to rebuild its future.

Hopefully when next we return as we surely must to this beautiful country that is New Zealand the rebuild will be complete. For now our journey continues to Australia…..

Last Drive

Day 28 – Although sad to set off for the drive to Christchurch and eventual handover of Aramoana, we were content in the knowledge that we had travelled around the North and South islands in the best way possible.

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We did at times go off itinerary – my small seat of our pants input – but joking aside, without the Long-sufferings careful research over eighteen months, we would not have got to, or seen half the beautiful places we explored in between the planning for our 25th anniversary cruise and ferry crossings. Quite frankly without him this trip would not have got off the drawing board!

Meanwhile there was just time to stop and explore one more ‘off itinerary’ excursion!

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Cave Stream Scenic Walk, Arthurs Pass – we took one of two short easy half hour return walks to the cave entrances, the accessible cave runs 594m between the two.

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Caving was not something either of us wished to do – both of us breathing a sigh of relief at the others defined head shaking from side to side!

As we neared the entrance though two people were just appearing out from the blackness, very cold and surprised at depth of water and how winding and cramped it had been!

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Looking at the cramped conditions only served to reinforce my reserve never to go caving by choice!

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Arriving out safely back into the daylight must feel quite exhilarating!

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And then all too soon after one last lunch roadside, we were in Christchurch handing back our beautiful Aramoana to her base ready to be checked and made ready for her next lucky set of occupants.

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We had already decided to return one day in the not too distant future….. for now  though our journey was to continue by taxi, as Christchurch beckoned………

Freedom at it’s Best

Day 27 late afternoon, Arthur’s Pass – The long-sufferings itinerary for our last night in Aramoana saw us driving down a relatively short gravel track, across the Mount White bridge and down to the most idyllic deserted spot alongside the Waimakariri River.

This really was the perfect place, it had it all – mountains, blue rushing river, bridge, open space, views to die for, a special place for our last evening meal – rib-eye steaks, new potatoes and stir fried veggies.

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Of course with all this beauty there has to be one fly – literally – in the ointment…..SANDFLIES were EVERYWHERE!

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View from our window

But….with a view from our sleeping quarters like this, we could put up with anything!

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We wondered if anyone else would arrive to camp at our special out of the way place…luckily for us nobody did!

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Sunset

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and Sunrise

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Reflections, Ice, Pancakes & Blowholes!

Day 27 Lake Matheson – it was important to get here early not only to beat the crowds but to beat any changes to the warm still morning we were lucky to wake up to. Our experience here – a perfect reflection of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman – in the still waters of the lake was entirely weather and nature dependant!

The easy one hour return walk from an impressive visitor centre and gift shop already busy with coach loads of tourists, took us over a suspension bridge – long-suffering no longer groans at these – through native forest to a stepped tiered pontoon out above the dark brown waters of Lake Matheson.

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And for the most part it was a perfect reflection, except when one little duck paddled quietly through the outer edges. And then it was a jostle to get the perfect shot without random heads, of which I failed!

Fox Glacier valley walk – moderate 2.6km return over mostly easy tracks with a steep hard climb as we neared the Glacier view-point.

This walk takes you to approximately 500m from the front of the Glacier although it is constantly moving so that can change quickly with ice/rock falls or high waters in and around the rocky canyon.

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Another very clear hot day and uphill exertions saw sweating man return as we neared the view-point with the hordes of others coming and going on this busy track.

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With the glacier in continued retreat, it is sad to think future generations may not ever get to see this glacier at all.

Lake Ianthe – off itinerary lunch stop, beautiful lake to sit and enjoy our lunch, another couple joined us on the picnic table and we spent a good hour chatting companionably  together about our travels in this beautiful country.

Pancake Rocks – not on our intended route but worth every bit of the extra kilometres covered, over an hours drive up from Arthur’s Pass gave us chance to see the unusual and unique rock formations looking every bit like stacked pancakes!

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Loop walk – thirty minute return along paved paths. Lovely easy walk with strategic viewpoints overlooking, rock formations, crashing seas and blowholes.

Arthur’s Pass – beautiful scenes as we drove along this long stretch of road.

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Through gorges, steep winding roads, a one lane bridge shared with a train – Kumara Junction Bridge – viaduct, photo stops galore….

Eventually taking us to the best Freedom Camp ever for our last night in Aramoana….