Botanic Gardens and Opera!

Day 2 – 5am alarm, we were up, showered and out the hotel by 5.30am to capture the sunrise over Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. But first a route march to Mrs Macquaries Point backing onto the Botanic Gardens – not open as a cut through that early in the morning – a wrong turn and we were road side down an underpass busy, noisy and dusty before eventually regaining the scenic footpath to the point.

On our arrrival some professionals and amateurs alike were already set up to capture the moments. Long-suffering carefuly chose his spot although this changed as the hour progressed with a shuffling from all present to get the best shot!

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I missed what could have been my best shot from behind me where the sun was rising, as a keen photographer scrambling on the rocks to get his best shot ended up in the water drenched from head to foot!

Long-sufferings best shots then……

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The walk back to our hotel for breakfast through the Botanic Gardens was shorter and whetted our appetite for our own tour of the gardens that morning.

Royal Botanic Garden Sydney occupying a stunning position on Sydney Harbour with free entry and accessible all year round ensures these beautiful gardens opened in 1816 are a must see attraction.

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We were blessed with blue skies and comfortably warm temperatures for our visit. Although tours were available we decided as our time was limited to the morning only we would be our own guides, an easy option with clear signposting and plant/information boards along the way.

Immaculate gardens in a beautiful setting, secret pathways through the borders, long vistas and places to sit on seats and the grassy areas, nowhere it seems here is out of bounds.

Brachychiton rupestris The Queensland Bottle Tree – its common name in reference to the bottle shaped trunk which can reach a diameter of 2 metres!

Early that morning as we cut through on our way back from our sunrise – the gardens open at 7am – the main paths were busy with joggers, power walkers and commuters alike.  I can think of no better way to start the day than in this glorious place, I only wish our time had allowed for a longer more leisurely visit. Sydney residents are very fortunate to have such a place with free year round access on their doorstep every day, but even as a fleeting visitor these gardens have everything to offer.

An afternoon ferry cruise around the harbour offered us a different view of Sydney Harbour Bridge as we motored underneath its huge expanse!

There was much to see from our ferry – out to land and the busy waters…..

On our return back to land there followed a hike back up the hill, thirst quenching hotel drinks and hot showers. Finally posh frocks were on and a walk back down the hill saw us ready for………..

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A night at the Opera – Joan Sutherland Theatre Sydney Opera House

The Production for that night ‘Great Opera Hits’.

 

 

 

The early evening walk Harbourside to the Opera House set the mood for the evening, as I was stopped in the street with the words from a female passer by ‘what a beautiful dress, you look fabulous’. The Long suffering his grin stretching from ear to ear gave me the look ‘I told you so!’

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Once I got over the shock of a complete stranger paying me a compliment it did much to boost my low confidence. The hip now subjected to heels after a day of almost continuous walking was having a hard time keeping my walk even. It was with renewed vigour I pulled up, tightened my glutes and walked as tall and straight as I could muster while intermittently hanging on to Long-sufferings arm whenever lurching/limping threatened!

Sydney Opera House was the perfect venue, from the buzz in the bar area for our pre-drinks, the anticipation as we waited in the full theatre to the awe inspiring vocals of the opera singers themselves. We came away after our first taste of opera with a greater appreciation for the art and a view to repeat the experience in the not too distant future back in England!

All that remained was to climb back up the hill to our hotel, a nightcap in the bar and hopefully a good nights sleep ready for tomorrows itinerary…………

 

 

 

Sydney

IMG_1231[1]Day 1 – We arrived from the Whitsundays into Sydney midday. Long-sufferings hotel of choice for our four day visit The Wentworth was conveniently located just a short walk uphill from the Harbour. A quick check in including a welcoming glass of bubbly in a huge lobby, incorporating shops, bars, library, comfy settees and for a short time only a single Rose encased in a glass dome at the desk, afternoon tea and ‘Belles reading chair’ situated between the entrances to the lifts and library. Beauty and the Beast fervour had arrived in Sydney!

After a brief inspection of our room, we were eager to get back out and onto the street for the walk down to the harbour, long-suffering grabbing my arm as I inevitably turned the opposite way – my sense of direction leaves a lot to be desired when exiting buildings!

Walking out from the shelter of the hotel we were forced back a step or two as the strong gusts funnelled and whooshed up between the tall buildings on either side of the street.  My hair – longer then after six weeks of travelling – an even messier untamed state without hat protection!

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We spent the afternoon walking around the harbour taking in and photographing  the iconic landmarks of this busy vibrant city packed with tourists all doing exactly the same thing!

We took drinks in the open air ‘Opera Bar’, luckily finding two newly vacated seats Harbourside to sit, relax and watch the world go by as we drank in our surroundings – the Harbour Bridge behind and the Opera House in front.

Tired now from travel and sightseeing we walked back up the hill to our hotel for a short rest, and freshen up before walking back down to experience Sydney at night!

Finally when we could walk no more we ate – after a short but weary wait for an outside table -freshly baked Pizzas at a Harbourside Italian restaurant a much needed leisurely affair after the hustle and bustle of dodging the crowds along the waterfront.  There followed a less leisurely route march – for the second time –  back UP THE HILL to our Hotel by which time we were ready to collapse into the welcoming folds of freshly laundered linens.

The ‘long-sufferings’ itinerary for tomorrow, well lets just say it was to be a very  early start! ………………

 

 

 

 

Before Cyclone Debbie

I started to write this post as Cyclone Debbie hit the Whitsundays from notes made of our time there, now seven weeks ago. At first I pondered whether to post at all for fear of seeming distanced from the very real suffering of those caught up in the aftermath of this devastating force of nature.

However, time has moved on tourism will be as important to help with the rebuilding of livelihoods, one such ‘Whitsunday Getaways’ our tour of choice. Their two catamarans survived the storm and they fairly quickly got up and running again. This our experience with them in this beautiful part of Australia………..

Day 1 – Back on long-sufferings planned itinerary we set sail – for a while at least – on a sunny late afternoon. Our 43 foot sailing Catamaran named Getaway II with its four comfortable private en-suite berths was everything we hoped. Our fellow sailors comprised – in order of importance – the crew, Chris the skipper who like me was prone to go ‘off itinery’ and Jess the skippers mate – Jack of all trades! And then in no order of importance the guests – one Canadian couple, one Austrian couple on honeymoon and one British couple – other than us.

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Unfortunately lack of brisk sea breeze eventually saw the sail dropped and the motor fired up as we headed to our first stop for the night – Turtle Bay. A small detail though as we sat out front or laid out on the nets strung between hulls revelling in the sea breeze whipped up as we powered through the deep waters.

Day 2 – After a good nights sleep – once we got used to the lapping waters and power noise for the air-conditioning – us two early risers rose! We crept up and out through the galley converted into the crews sleeping quarters while the rest of the boat slumbered, crew included.

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Up on deck we kept movement to a minimum and only spoke in hushed whispers as we watched the sun rise together, and a threatening rain storm on the horizon. By 7am most of the guests were awake but still no sign of the crew slumbering oblivious in the galley below! Eventually our parched throats were soothed as finally they woke scrambling sheepishly at 7.15am, to much amusement from us and breakfast followed only slighter later than the designated time of 7.30am!

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Morning – Whitehaven Beach, 7km stretch of breathtakingly stunning pure white sandy beach and turquoise, blue and green sea. We were each handed a stinger suit to help protect us against any sting rays that may be lurking – common in these seas apparently! Skipper Chris dropped us all off by tender with host Jess as our guide leaving us to walk through native bush and up to the lookout at Tongue Point. The heat & humidity under the thick canopy made for uncomfortable walking causing sweating man to return!

I was having my own sweats – of a different kind – imagining what may lurk above and below my head. With good reason as we encountered resident spiders waiting in huge webs strung between branches and Geckos, so rigid and still, almost to be missed, their skin camouflaging against bark or undergrowth.

Worth the worry and effort? Absolutely! There are few words that can possibly do this beach justice, it really is so beautiful as to be quite mesmerising. The intense brightness of the pure white sand like no other we had seen before and the mix of pure greens, turquoise and blues of the sea was captivating. Looking down onto the beach the people on the sand and in the sea  looked like an army of ants identically dressed in their black stinger suits. The tide was in, but on its way out, we were advised to come back up later when as the water retreated the sand swirls would be exposed.

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Walking partway back the same route we then took the descent track down eventually opening out to experience for ourselves this amazingly beautiful beach.

Bathing in our stinger suits – long-suffering looking like the man from the ‘lady loves milk tray’ advert – in clear warm waters and as the water retreated we felt marooned on the emerging sand bars.

IMG_1647[3] copy The soft 98 per cent pure white silica sand, we used to polish our jewellery -yes it really does work – our wedding rings sparkled like new!

Some of us did in the heat of the day make it back up the steep track for a second photo opportunity and yes it was worth it especially for long-sufferings ever increasing portfolio of instant memories.

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After a light lunch on board we sailed to Pitstop Bay for an afternoon of Snorkelling. Fish swimming in all directions, beautiful corals, it was like swimming in a huge aquarium.

Over the course of the next two days we had the opportunity for more snorkelling in Mantaray Bay and Butterfly Bay.  The only small disappointment for us was the sea  a little too choppy for the paddle-boards carried on the back. Nevertheless, with good food, great company, beautiful scenery, opportunities to just relax as we sailed – or motored – over the sea and our own exciting moment as we awoke one morning to a lone turtle swimming past our window, we were more than happy!

Whitsunday Getaways did not disappoint, from the time we booked months previously to our arrival in Airlie Beach the information and organisation for the trip was faultless. We left on time and returned on time, the boat was comfortable, food good – maybe not the frozen fruit breakfast, but it did raise a smile or two! Thank you Jess! The stinger suits, snorkels and fins in good condition if you don’t have your own.

Chris was a mine of information about the area we sailed and beyond, keeping us entertained throughout with lots of laughs, including his own ‘adopted Island’ found while sailing ‘off itinerary’ aptly named ‘Christo’ what else!

Maybe one day we will return, but for now we wish the Whitsundays much calm after the storm……………..

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 the tall skyscrapers loomed above our heads.

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.

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 of 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!

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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………