Long shore leave

Michael Hughes and Ger White
Sat 19 Mar 2011 11:32
A quick update, since our blog has been noticeable by its absence.
Having arrived in Sydney in mid-December, Simanderal has been growing weed in a marina berth--only 2 outings, one to the Yacht Squadron for lunch; the other a night at anchor to watch the New Year fireworks.
But we, on the other hand, have not been growing weed. After nearly 3 weeks back in Europe, we got back to Simanderal towards the end of January giving us a week to prepare and pack for 4 weeks in New Zealand followed by Melbourne, Canberra and Bowral.
New Zealand was spectacular--we had just under 2 weeks on the North Island and just over 2 weeks on the South Island. Almost everywhere we went we came away with the feeling we could spend a lot longer there--and will want to return. We were touring in a hired car, staying mainly in B&Bs with the occasional night in a Motel or Hotel. The B&Bs were lovely--friendly informal hosts who were really helpful with lots of advice on the things to see.
We flew into Auckland first, spending a couple of days--we liked the City--wonderful harbour/views--took the ferry to Devonport for an afternoon--jazz in the museum gardens--lovely weather.  Then off to Russell in the Bay of Islands--beautiful scenery, warm water for swimming, walks in the sunshine--it would be a great place for sailing!!
Then we drove to Matakana passing through the Waipoua Forest--where we saw NZs biggest tree--an enormous kauri tree--where we only spent one night and would have wished for more
From there to the Coromandel Peninsula for 2 nights in Tairua--more swimming in warm waters and went kayaking to some spectacular beaches.
And on to Rotorua for 2 nights. I guess almost everyone visiting NZ goes there to see the hot springs--some of the pools bubble up at well over 100C! And the sulphur smell. Rotorua is also the home of Mauri culture--lots to see.
On to Napier for a couple of nights--an art deco town, rebuilt in that period following a devastating earthquake. And an opportunity to visit a few Hawke's Bay wineries!
Followed by a couple of days in Wellington--a lovely city on a magnificent natural harbour. Botanical Garden with spectacular views--the Te Papa museum, one of the best we have been to.
Then the ferry to the South Island, to Picton--much of the ferry journey through the beautiful Marlborough Sounds--it must rank as one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world. A couple of days in the Abel Tasman National Park--still warm and still swimming weather--spectacular bays and beaches and forests etc. Then to Kaikura, where we went whale watching, and saw lots of them! And of course the Marlborough wineries,
And then...........to Christchurch, on the day of the earthquake--though we didn't know what had just happened until we arrived in town less than 2 hours after the event. Quite a day--we felt some strong aftershocks--the car shaking from side to side as we sat in traffic jams--managed to get to our B&B, but the guests were all out on the lawn, some in quite a state of shock as they had been in the city centre when the earthquake struck--only then did we realise the magnitude of what had happened. The B&B was damaged--windows out, no water or electricity, bits of masonry lying around--the owners couldn't have been more helpful, despite their own problems, in advising where we should drive to seek alternative accomodation.
So on we drove on to Fairlie, where we managed to get the last room in a motel--and then to Lake Tekapo for the following night.
A bit of an air of depression descended--feelings about the
earthquake compounded when we got the dreadful news by text message that 2 of our friends who were on the Pacific rally crossing--Phyllis and Bob--had been murdered by pirates off Somalia--our feelings about that need a blog to themselves
But back to NZ---drive to Mount Cook--and a long walk rewarded when the cloud lifted so we could see the summit of that magnificent mountain--where Edmund Hillary learned to climb!
And then Dunedin--again a spectacular setting--temperature now well down--cormorants and penguins!
A cruise on Milford Sound--waterfalls cascading down the mountains into the fjord--and then Queenstown--surrounded by snow covered peaks, beside a lovely lake--wonderful. And time to sample the Otago wines.
And then a couple of days at the Franz Josef glacier--a long walk to the foot of the glacier--before a night in Greymouth before our flight back to Oz
Where we arrived in Melbourne--spent 4 days walking the town, dining with Andrew and 2 of Ger's nephews--visiting friends from our Atlantic crossing etc.
Then to Canberra for 3 days with Ger's sister Mary and Keith.
Then to Bowral for a couple of nights with Bill & Heather.
And back to Simanderal in Sydney on 15th March.