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Future travels & stories

Poland ( October 2014) I will post a daily photo from Poland and Thailand
Thailand (October 2014)
Melbourne (February 2015)
Tasmania (February 2015)
Florida (June/ July 2015
Georgia (July 2015)
Dubai (October 2015)

Dunedin, New Zealand (from January 2014)
Malaysian Borneo (2 trips in 2014)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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From the plains to mountains: Arthur’s Pass National Park. New Zealand

October 21, 2014

Arthur’s Pass has always been special for me. As a child our family would have day trips to the area for tobogganing. We also would do an annual steam train trip, and then at high school, (Linwood High, Christchurch)  had a holiday house where we would have week-long trips for skiing. (unsuccessful lessons in my case )

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And now I travel there again. It takes less than three hours to travel from plains to mountains; ocean to snow-fed rivers; city to village; from the current time to the ancient forests of Gondwanaland. (The Jurassic period super-continent from which New Zealand separated some 85 million years ago.)

Unlike the pre-European Māori who walked, or the settlers in Cobb and Co. coaches, I travelled by the TranzAlpine train to Arthur’s Pass.  (Leaves Christchurch daily for Greymouth on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island.)

Sharing the carriage were tourists from many parts of the world.  It seems some were ready to test their stamina and muscles in the Arthur’s Pass National Park, while a family group was day-tripping, with five hours to explore the village, and me? I was just looking for some rest and recreation including revisiting the popular walks near the village – The Devil’s Punchbowl and the Bridal Veil Falls.

The Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall with its impressive 131-metre drop is an easy one-hour return journey through stands of majestic white-limbed mountain beech trees. As you approach the waterfall, clouds of spray rise like mist, just as one might imagine the devil’s steaming cauldron does.

The other easy, yet even more beautiful walk, takes you to the Bridal Veil Falls. Although the falls are viewed from a distance, the walk itself is wonderful. Colours abound; crisp greys to soft emerald, or lime greens nestle alongside bright reds and orange. Numerous native ferns, lichens, trees, and shrubs seem to invite one to stop, admire, and record their beauty, while the piwakawaka (fantail) that go with me are an absolute joy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll through the village, population 55, and surrounding areas, are the sounds of birds. Bellbirds with their dulcet tones are so different to the cheeky, intelligent kea with its loud calls as it glides loftily above all, displaying its orange under-wing plumage to us. The occasional gull calls from overhead too, reminding me what a narrow land New Zealand is.

Walking beside beech trees it is easy to believe that the forests of Gondwanaland looked just like these South Island beech forests. Fossils of beech found in Antarctica and descendants that survive in Chile, Australia and Papua New Guinea support this theory.

 

I love our beech trees!

Brothers Arthur and Edward Dobson rediscovered the pass in 1864. Māori had used it as an east-west route to collect or trade Pounamu, the greenstone from which the south island is named, Te Wai Pounamu. The brothers named it Bealey Flat and finding the route made it easier to travel from coast to coast.

Some sixty years later travel became even easier with the railway and Otira tunnel, signalling the end of the coach era. Tunnellers huts, from early 1900’s, remain in the village linking past to the present. Originally unlined, austere dwellings, they were sold on the tunnel’s completion in 1923.

Some of the pioneering characters of Arthur’s Pass who bought these cottages includes the family of Guy and Grace Butler. One of New Zealand’s foremost landscape artists, Grace has works hanging in many places including the Robert McDougall Art Gallery in Christchurch. Along with Guy who, according to his granddaughter Jennifer Barrer “gave up his legal practice to carry his wife’s easel,” Grace ran what was the first hostel in the village. Now called the Outdoor Education Centre, its front lawn was the site of the first skiing in the area!

Arthur’s Pass National Park, created 1901, has 114,357 hectares within its boundaries and both tourists and locals appreciate its variety of tramps and some 28 public huts. If you plan to stay in some of the remote huts, tickets, or an annual hut pass, must be purchased from the Department of Conservation before your trip.

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NOTE: on any walk in New Zealand mountains or bush: fill out an Intentions Card. Leave it at the local DOC office; don’t travel alone, take extra food and everything you need to make sure you’re safe . . . our NZ weather  has dramatic changes extremely quickly. This is because we are a little country in the middle of a huge ocean and most travellers are not used to such conditions and this results in deaths . . . don’t let the next one be you!  

Other activities in Arthur’s Pass include skiing at Temple Basin, while the village itself is a good base for exploring Cave Stream Scenic Reserve with its 362-metre cave and interesting limestone outcrops.

Accommodation ranges from backpacker hostels to motels, holiday homes, or bed and breakfast. Food covers the same budget to moderate price range. (See your local visitors’ information centre for details)

the endangered red mistletoes bloom whenever the possums have been culled

the endangered red mistletoe blooms when the possums have been culled

 

If you want ski-fields and terrific tramps (the kiwi word for hiking!) or just a place to chill with your holiday reading, Arthur’s Pass needs to be added to your holiday destination list – make sure you post a letter form here!

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Photo of the day … one of Canterbury’s braided rivers

October 17, 2014
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Is the water leading to the Southern Alps or away?

Autumnal colours. Warsaw, Poland

October 16, 2014

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Near tomb of the unknown soldier

Warsaw. Poland

October 15, 2014
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A walking tour gets to the heart of Dunedin

October 14, 2014

IMG_1626Dunedin, New Zealand’s oldest city is apparently drier than Auckland; warmer than Christchurch, and less windy than Wellington. Christchurch’s quakes have also put Dunedin at the top of the list of best historic buildings in New Zealand. The inner city in particular has many Gothic and classical Victorian-Edwardian buildings and I join Athol Parks (founder of City Walks) for a 2-hour stroll around them.

Otaku, as Māori called the area, was first settled by Europeans in 1848 when the Scottish settlers arrived. It quickly became extremely wealthy from gold and state-led investments and is considered to have funded the rest of New Zealand’s growth.

The often considered ‘austere or dour Scots’ community was soon overrun with international gold-miners as well as Jewish and Chinese settlers who have left a lasting mark on the city. This includes the fabric merchants Hallensteins who were among the earliest Jewish arrivals. Interestingly, Dunedin still has the world’s southernmost synagogue. Vogel’s, Bell Tea, the oven-maker Shacklock, Cadbury and Speight’s brewery were all founded here.

The city could easily be called New Zealand’s city of firsts: first university, first medical school, first dental school, the first newspaper, first art school, and the first public art gallery.

For Athol, the city is an art gallery and history book and he guides us with enthusiasm around the inner city.From Robbie Burns and St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in the Octagon to the Fortune Theatre, which began life as a Wesleyan Church then down Moray Place to the former Jewish synagogue. It then became a Freemason temple, then art gallery, and now a fabulous looking inner city home.

Walking and talking Athol tells us, ‘I want visitors to understand what makes Dunedin a special and creative place’ he says as we head to the railway station. The City Council bought the iconic railway station for $1. Now restored to its full 1906 splendour, it’s now, eclectically, site for the weekly farmers’ market; every year the platform becomes the runway for the city’s pre-eminent fashion show, and the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame lives upstairs.

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Beside the station, an art deco bus station has been restored and combined with the expanded Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, which re-opened in 2012 – and which I totally recommend

IMG_1638The First Presbyterian Church of Otago had been designed to sit on a large hill and the Free Church of Scotland settlers thought they had claimed the city’s prime site and had a 29-year-old architect, Robert Lawson, design an extremely un-Presbyterian-like church. However, by the time his winning plan was built, convict labour had lowered Bell Hill by 12m to provide fill for the reclamation of the harbour below. Although not as prominent as first envisaged, the cathedral-like structure remains impressive. Of course the English Anglican church ended up with pride of place in the Octagon, the city centre – although the Scottish bard, Robbie, stands with his back to it! In those early days the Reverend Thomas Burns, a nephew of the poet provided spiritual guidance for the new community.

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It was the Lay Association of the Free Church of Scotland that founded Dunedin at the head of Otago Harbour. Its name comes from Dùn Èideann, the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland and the city’s surveyor was told to copy the characteristics of Edinburgh.

Athol, under questioning, tells us he studied history and politics at the University of Otago. He also has a historical novel underway. Its beginnings started with history project about the local pie-cart which made him realise history could come alive. Victorian Dunedin is the setting for his uncompleted novel, and considers the relationship between Dunedin’s early architects. (Lawson and Petre)

I liked his comment that ”Architecture is the most public art form, but most people pay it little regard. If you come to appreciate it and learn about it, it enriches your life’.

Walking his dogs around the street every day he thought ‘it would be great to show people this place.’ City Walks started in 2006 after deciding he was going to have to work for most of the rest of my life, ‘So, I might as well do work I enjoy’. Now, for six months a year, for six days a week, he guides walking tours around the inner city – and despite never having lived here I have strong Scottish roots and found this tour well worth doing.

It also reminded me of the huge losses Canterbury suffered during the 2010/11 quakes – I’m glad New Zealand still has its history alive and being preserved in this southern city.

My ten days in Dunedin – was spent traveling in a NZ RentaCar and the City walk ended with us being offered a wee dram and some haggis!IMG_1694

Travel packing list and tips

October 7, 2014
Packing for Poland

Packing for Poland

 

I’ve written a few blogs about how to pack for travel including one about ‘Far away places with strange sounding names.’ And, one with tips for carry-on and checked luggage  that I’m told has been really helpful.  But I’ve been thinking, as I pack for my next trip, (Poland & Thailand) that perhaps my pick and mix list is my best idea – sort of like the supermarket sweets/lollies section. Chose the flavours you want or need! Here’s my current jelly bean and toffee luggage list:

 

Travel checklist           

  • International plugs
  • Multi plug for USBs
  • Camera (s)
    • Extra batteries
    • Charger
    • Memory cards
    • Tripod
    • Mono-pod
    • Small tripod
    • Headlight
    • Waterproof bag
    • Soft wrap bag for camera
    • Bag for camera gear
  • Small camera
    • Batteries /charger
  • Walkman/MP3
    • leads/headphones
  • Samsung tablet
    • keyboard
    • cover/ leads
  • Phone
    • leads/power plug
  • Solar charger
  • Battery pack for ph/tablet
  • Pedometer
  • Binoculars
  • Toiletries/ 1st aid
  • Medication
  • Towel/Togs
  • Umbrella/Sun visor/block
  • Travel docs/ passport
  • Spare glasses & script
  • Credit cards
  • Journal/pens/address book
  • Kobo e-reader
  • Waist bag
  • Small backpack
  • Map/guide-book
  • Small handbag

I go through my list and strike out the unneeded and mark what I want in my carry-on bag. I recommend travellers make their own list . . . after all, we all need different things for different travels and this time I have three very different trips within the one trip. As you can see there are no clothes on this list as I have written about them in my other blogs.

What would be on the top of your list?

sorting my carry-on bag

sorting my carry-on bag

 

Arras, France & Wellington, New Zealand are connected by tunnels!

October 3, 2014

IMG_3441Just around the corner from my Wellington, apartment is New Zealand’s national war museum and carillon (1932) and tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

For much of my time in the city it’ been covered with scaffolding and red material – making it very easy to spot my place when I flew in or out of Wellington Airport. Restored and quake-proofed, that has now been removed and by April 25th 2015 (ANZAC day) a new park will spread out in front of it – completing the dreams of the earlier designers.

Pukeahu National War Memorial Park will soon be built on the Mt Cook Hill (Pukeahu) where a ‘cut and cover trench’ has been created and it’s on top of this ‘tunnel’ that the green space and parade ground will be created. See more photos here 

A historical area of Wellington, the hill was a major military space and the Army Reserves, and the Navy still have a presence here: many  1800 artefacts were found during the excavation.

Arras Tunnel opened 5 weeks ahead of schedule (29th Sept. 2015) and I attended the official opening and, along with  many other Wellingtonians, walked through its 130 metres.

The name comes from the 1916 wartime work of some 300 New Zealand miners in the French town of the same name. Some 4,300 metres of tunnels were dug, but  it wasn’t until the 1990s that the tunnels  were rediscovered.

A museum, La Carriere Wellington, providing access to the tunnels opened in Arras in 2008. So  Wellington New Zealand and Arras, France are really connected by tunnels!

 

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