Russell, New Zealand: Darwin proved wrong!

Darwin hated his three-weeks in Russell so much he called it the “hell-hole of the Pacific”. Locals, and time, have proved him wrong – very wrong Smile I left my rental car parked up for the day, caught the regular ferry to check his assertions.

I have just spent the day there – and like everything I’m doing and seeing in Northland, I wish I’d had more time. From the historic Pompallier Mission (where the French were – ‘teaching the Maori to pray the Catholic way”) through to a one hour mini-bus tour (with Fullers GreatSights)  the day has been great … as shown by taking over 400 photos today ( bringing my total in less than a  week to about three thousand pictures: actually I think that alone says a lot about Northland – Te Hiku o te Ika a Maui- the tail of the fish of Maui.

The ’hell hole’ is now a popular wedding destination, especially at the Duke. ‘The Duke’ is the local name for The Duke of Marlborough and where I had lunch today – a delicious Thai beef salad!  I had a look around the hotel and the new owners have lived up to their goal of refreshing everything … more in another story of course.

My day was completed by sailing from Russell to Opua on the  R Tucker Thompson  – a fabulous replica tall ship where tourists can take a step back in time and sail the seas under canvas. Two young boys tell me that last time they went out with the ship they saw a hammer-head shark as well as dolphins: this ship will feature in a  full piece when I get back to the ‘head of the fish of Maui’.

Finally, just for you golfers: the views of the islands of the Bay of Islands must feature as one of the best golf-course views in the world!

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Many thanks as always, to Destination Northland for helping arrange my itinerary and Rental Cars New Zealand for the vehicle for this road trip: I can recommend both!

Lakshmi Vilas Palace, Gujurat, India

Just one of the impressive halls in the palace

India has great golf courses all over the country: in the mountains, plains, deserts and beach resorts.  I also discovered one in a Maharajas’ backyard, in Gujarat. Lakshmi Vilas Palace Estate has its own golf course developed by the prince some eighty years ago.

I’m told peacocks are often seen strutting around as if they owned it, and our guide also tells me the membership at this club is so full and desirable that “If you believe in rebirth, you need to sign up for membership now, then come back to claim it in two more lifetimes.”

The palace was built in 1890, in a mixture of several styles (Mogul, Rajasthan, and Western) and is still the residence of the royal family: it has a large collection of old armoury and sculptures in bronze, marble & terracotta. It took an Italian master craftsman nearly a year to complete the mosaic tile floor in the ballroom – and where club members are admitted to attend concerts put on by the Maharaja. I’m also told a British architect was hired to design the palace – unfortunately there were errors in the structure and legend say he suicided from shame soon after it was finished.

Trout fishing on a golf course. Clearwater, Christchurch, New Zealand

Although I was bought up fishing by a dad who loved the outdoors and ensured my children learnt the skill of putting fresh fish on the table, once they left home, I no longer went fishing.

However, a chance meeting with Jonathan Pasley, a professional fly fishing teacher & fishing guide, soon had him introducing me to fly fishing – a form of fishing I‘d never done. Clearwater is just 15 minutes drive from Christchurch city (7 minutes from the airport) and it was not long before Jonathan had a 24-hour fly-fishing permit, and with a rod in my hand, learning, then practising with no fly and hook.  Under his instruction it was not long I was ready for the real thing. And less than an hour later, under the gaze of a pair of spur winged plovers I had my very first trout on the line.

I didn’t want to eat this fish that fought being bought to shore and, as he removes the hook, he tells me, “They need to be handled with care as they have a very soft mouth.” Lying on the side of the little lake the stream has formed, he holds it in the water and continues, “Trout are not like sea fish which can be just thrown back in: holding it like this allows its gills to start working well again.’ Within a minute he released it and my first trout swims away – much to the horror of my sister who fishes for trout every season in Tasmania.

Jonathan, who is a member of the NZ Professional Fishing Guides Association, began his fishing skills, as a six-year old, while staying in a tin shed on the Taieri Plains, with his grandfather. He created this job for himself some 7 or 8 years ago. A perfect way of combining his skills and passion with a career, and an example of the adage – do what you love to do and soon you will be paid to do what you love to do.

Clearwater is is set within 465 acres and has been said to be ‘New Zealand’s premier lifestyle resort’ has something for everyone and is the home of the HSBC NZ PGA Championship – and all are able to play the 18-hole championship golf course,.

The public can also enjoy the driving range, practice putting greens, tennis courts, extensive walking trails, on-site fly fishing, and popular Lakes Cafe which serves uncomplicated food.

Also, nine kilometres of walking tracks span the perimeter of Clearwater’s championship golf course, as well as ecological heritage sites such as The Groynes Recreation Reserve and adjoining farmland alongside aquifer-fed lakes and the Otukaikino Stream, with expansive views of the Southern Alps beyond.

Note: Whether fishing independently or with a guide, you must have a licence to fish for trout, salmon and coarse fish in New Zealand and carry it with you when fishing.

A Fish & Game licence covers all of New Zealand except the Taupo fishery area (and an additional back-country licence is required for a few specified rivers).

A licence permits you to fish according to the current regulations for the region. The regional regulations define where, when and how you can fish specific waters. They also specify the maximum number of fish you can take and the minimum size of fish. For details, see the sportsfishing regulations.web heathers fish


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