Cape Foulwind……….Seal Colony……………

From Westport it is only about a 10 kilometer drive to the wonderfully named “Cape Foulwind” ………….a deserted headland with a few surrounding and equally deserted beaches, wonderful views from the west coast out to the Tasman sea and a collection of rocks reaching skyward from the Tasman sea, that are home, or at least provide a playground to a colony of seals…………

Just love the name………..brussel sprouts anybody?

 

You will find this style of signpost at many remote locations in New Zealand; the Kiwis seem to wallow in their geographical isolation……………….

This is a Weka, a flightless bird that is endemic to New Zealand………..there were several of them at the cape, scurrying around in the undergrowth……..

The collection of rocks that are home to the seal colony………….

 

A mother with her youngster sunbathing on the rocks; there were about 20 seals there on the day that I visited

 

A couple of self-portraits, which I guess I should have had a shave for………………

 

Nelson to Westport via Abel Tasman National Park

I left Tahunanui beach and drove north west to the Abel Tasman National Park where I intended to take a costal trek; when I got there the weather was not very good so I headed south and then west and drove across to Westport, on the west coast……..

 

The drive took me on three different “unsurfaced roads” with a total of nearly 100 kilometers on these slow, demanding (of car and driver) and sometimes dangerous surfaces……..I nearly put the car in a ditch at one heart-in-mouth corner, which slowed me down considerably for the rest of the journey on the unsurfaced road.

 

I travelled for 30 kilometers on one, desolate stretch of road without one single car coming towards me, I don’t know if anything was behind  me, because all I could see in the rear view mirror were huge clouds of dust…………….

 

On the road to Totaranui, in the Abel Tasman National Park, there were 15 or 20 instances such as this, where the road had succumbed to erosion and gravity……..scary……..

Above and below, the stretch of unsurfaced road where I attempted to ditch my little Hyundai hire car…………..

Highway 6, which I was thankful to join after my session of rally-cross………………….What’s this tree Wally?…………..I want one!

 

Highway 6, climbs and then descends into the valley of the Buller river; it then traces its path all the way to where it empties its contents into the Tasman Sea at Westport, so, as you will see in the photos below, the “Buller” made a wonderful roadside companion for the last 70 odd kilometers of the drive

 

On arrival at Westport, I drove up the little high street looking for a motel and came across the town’s Municipal building, which I thought had a little bit of “Gillette Clock” A4 about it…………………..maybe I’m getting homesick!

To the South Island……………

 

After the cricket in Napier, I drove south to Wellington to take the ferry to the south island; I spent a couple of enjoyable days there, it is a lovely city; great waterfront with lots of bars and cafes, Te Papa, the national museum of New Zealand and a cable car up to the Botanic garden………….well they call it a cable car, but it is more of a funicular really, but, nonetheless it is a great way to visit the garden.

Wellington has an abundance of good restaurants, one of which I went to with Molly and Richard, who are good friends of Wesley and Kirsty and live in Wellington……….thanks for the introduction Kirst!……….they took me to a little Vietnamese restaurant that they frequent, and with both of them having traveled in Vietnam, we had lots to jabber about, when we were not cooing over the wonders of New Zealand…………

Yesterday (Sat 23rd) I dropped my hire car off at the ferry terminal in Wellington and boarded the ferry to the south island as a foot passenger; I picked up my next hire car in Picton on my arrival, and drove the spectacularly scenic coast road around the Marlborough sounds to Nelson; I then drove another few miles west of Nelson to Tahunanui beach where I am staying for a couple of nights……………

A quayside statue in Wellington, and below part of the waterfront……..

Leaving Wellington on the ferry………………….

and into the Marlborough sounds, the ferry enters the sounds best part of an hour before arriving in Picton, so, some beautiful scenery for the last part of the crossing….

Above and below, arriving at Picton harbour…………………..

Picton harbour and the bay from the road out……………and the remainder of shots in this posting were taken on the drive from Picton to Nelson………..

 

The drive from Picton to Nelson is a drive that can be comfortably achieved in an hour and a half, but it took me over three hours, as I was continually obliged to stop and stare…………………… as I was confronted by panorama after panorama, the scale and emptiness of which, leave you breathless in wonderment……………..what a drive, what a way to arrive, thank you, south island, for welcoming my return in such a spectacular way, on such a beautiful sun-drenched day……………….

 

Cricket……………

 

I spent 2 great days in Napier, blessed with clear blues skies and warm sunshine; one of those days was spent  watching England play NZ in a one day cricket international match at the McLean Park stadium………….it was a fantastic day, I had managed to buy a ticket online when I was in Russell, which I collected at the stadium; McLean Park is a great venue for watching cricket and I was allocated a really good seat, even if  I was surrounded by kiwis, who soon figured me out, which naturally became the catalyst for some wonderful (and good natured) banter…………..

It was a  an exciting game to watch; England won the toss and invited the Kiwis to bat, James Anderson and Steve Finn bowled a brilliant opening spell, and really strangled the opening batsmen, which probably was the deciding factor in the match………Ross Taylor played very well for 100 and held the innings together for the hosts, and then Brendon McCullum bludgeoned 74 from 36 delivery’s in the most belligerent and entertaining fashion, which really set the partisan crowd alight (I labelled him Brutal Brendon, which drew nods of approval from my Kiwi neighbors – I know how to win friends)……….it was the kind of batting display that draws people to come and watch one day cricket, brilliant stuff; the Kiwi total of 269 never looked like enough, on a good wicket, and with the short boundaries at McLean Park, and England chased the total in really good style, a good solid start from Cook and Bell, followed by a sound knock from Jonathan Trott and a great innings of 78 from the emerging talent of 22 year old Joe Root; what a fine young player he looks, great repertoire of shots, full of self belief and he times the ball superbly…………..lots more to come from him, I hope.

Above and below………the lovely stadium that is McLean Park Napier……………….

Jimmy Anderson, who bowled superbly for England………………….

 

I Managed to get this shot of “Brutal Brendon” smashing a delivery from Chris Woakes over the long on boundary for 6; look at the bat speed, I had my camera’s shutter speed set to 1/320th of a second and it still did not freeze frame his bat…………..

The sound technique of Ian Bell……………….

And the classic left-handed elegance of Alistair Cook…………………..

Napier…………Hawke’s Bay

 

I left Tairua (Maori for two tides — this side of the Coromandel Peninsular faces directly out to the Pacific Ocean and receives two tidal exchanges everyday) to drive south again to Napier; I arrived there to discover that I had just missed Art-Deco week, which is a big annual event in Napier, which is known as an Art-Deco town; by way of compensation, the British car rally club was on a tour of NZ and had just arrived in Napier.

I found a lovely little ocean-side b&b, which was only a 15 minute stroll to McLean Park, the venue for the one day international cricket match between the Kiwis and England, which took place on Wednesday 20th Feb and was my “raison d’être” for the timing of my arrival in Napier; more about the cricket later, so keep watching girls!

The Art-Deco buildings behind the promenade at Napier

The crowded beach looking out at the Pacific……………..

Marine Parade, which stretches for miles; Pacific Ocean to your left, promenade road to your right………….

Promenade road……………..

The main road and railway intersection at Napier, above and below

Sea-Breeze, my charming little b&b for 2 nights…………………….and below, the little breakfast balcony looking out over the Pacific……………

Below, a few of the cars at the rally…………………

Jaguar XK 120…………….

Ford Zephyr 6

 

Mandatory Morris Minor…………

Beautiful 1948 Riley…………………………..

Two more XK Jaguars……………….

Lovely 1951 Allard……………………….

I learnt to drive in an Austin A35 Saloon…………………..this is an example of  the A35 Van….

My personal favourite from the rally in Napier, a beautiful 1937 Riley Sprite……………

 

 

 

Russell to the Coromandel Peninsular…………….

 

I left Russell after 2 lovely days there, drove back to the ferry point and took the 10 minute ferry ride to Opua, where I drove off of the ferry and started to drive south, with the Coromandel peninsular as my ultimate destination, but without a pre-planned place on the peninsular to aim for.

 

I have now been traveling in NZ for a week and I am yet to pre-book any accommodation; one of the great things about traveling in NZ, is not feeling the necessity to pre-book accommodation; I have just been driving towards a destination and if I like the look and feel of the place, I look for somewhere to stay, and if I feel like driving on to the next town I do so………………….

Just about to take the ferry back to Opua………….

View from the ferry………………..

………..and below, a few photos taken on the drive south……………

 

……….all photos below are on the Coromandel Peninsular………….

 

Typical colonial style building in Coromandel town……………….

Where the Pacific Ocean comes ashore on the Coromandel Peninsular……..

 

 

 

 

 

Cape Reinga to Russell

I left Cape Reinga to drive south to the bay of islands, with Pahia as my intended destination; the drive was back down the deserted Highway 1, which seemed even more bereft of traffic than it had on my northward journey……………. the stretch of this Highway between Cape Reinga and Kaitaia is very sparsely populated, a few farms, a few houses, a small shop that had a coffee machine inside and a public toilet outside (which I was very grateful for – my aging bladder proving to be a bit of an Achilles heel on long drives) I reached Pahia, had a snoop around and decided to drive on to Opua, where I put my car on the ferry to the lovely little town of Russell…………….

 

Russell is not on an island, but the 10 minute ferry ride negates the necessity to drive for another hour or more on a twisting and undulating small road, so I stumped up the 11 NZ dollars and filled my lungs with the sea air………….

River near Paihia……………….

Beach at Paihia………..a typical bay of islands vista……………….

The lovely little cabin that I rented for 2 days in Russell

and an early morning view from its balcony………………….

One of several lovely beaches on the peninsular ……………….

 

The little sea front promenade at Russell

Sally’s restaurant on the sea front at Russell where I was lucky enough to get a beach side table for dinner……………..

My table for dinner at Sally’s…………the bottle on the left is a complimentary bottle of water!

 

An uninvited guest, who chose to perch unnervingly close to my table………

And as the evening descends……………………………………………………….

Cape Reinga

 

Cape Reinga  is the most northwestern tip of the Aupouri Peninsular, at the northern end of the North Island of New Zealand; it is located more than 100 kilometers north of the nearest small town, Kaitaia, where I had spent the night before my drive there……..its name comes from the Maori word Reinga, meaning the underworld; another Maori name for it is “Te Rerenga Wairua”………meaning the leaping-off place of spirits, both are a reference to the Maori belief that the cape is the point where the spirits of the dead enter the underworld………….the scale and beauty of the place, certainly generate a feeling of great power, and the mystery of surrounding legends cannot help but enhance the value of visiting this beautiful place………..

 

I drove north on Highway 1, which since 2010 will take you all the way to the cape on a good surface of tarmac…………it is possible to drive most of the way on “ninety mile beach”  (which is exactly what it says it is)………….so I took the turning to the beach and drove tentatively onto its vast expanse……….a local couple were just coming off the beach in their 4wd and I stopped them for advice; they told me that the tide was starting to come in and although it was still a couple of hours from high tide, they did not think it was a good idea to attempt it in a 2wd car……….the main risk was that the incoming tide would force me too high up the beach onto the soft dry sand where the car would lose traction and get stuck……………….any small amount of bravado that I was clinging to disappeared and I turned back to Highway 1

 

Once I got to the cape, I spent a couple of hours there, just wandering around and sitting and breathing in the incredible panorama; I tried to get a few photographs that would somehow convey the feeling of  visiting Cape Reinga, but it was a hopeless task, no two dimensional image could ever get close to portraying this special place on earth………….so, sorry, you’ll just have to pay a visit…….

I left feeling extremely elated, and privileged to have spent some special time at Cape Reinga, and as I pulled out of the car park onto the seemingly deserted Highway 1, wondering where I would be at the end of the day, an old yellow and white VW camper van came round the bend towards me, as if to fill in the last remaining colours of my paint by numbers daydream

 

 

The entrance to “Ninety mile beach”

Stairway to heaven, well, to the huge sand-dunes at the back of “Ninety mile beach”

The perpetually deserted Highway 1, about 30 kilometres from Cape Reinga………….

 

It’s a long way home…………18,029 kilometres………

 

 

Cape Reinga is also the point where the Tasman Sea collides with the full force of the Pacific Ocean, creating surf and white water that is not flowing into the shoreline in the usual way……………swimming there might be a bit demanding…………..

 

New Zealand – Aotearoa………Land of the long white cloud

I have finally answered the call; ever since I spent 6 months in New Zealand as a young man, I have felt this inexplicable calling to return……………Yes, I know, it has taken me more than 30 years to embrace this inevitability, but no apologies, I’m here now beneath these southern skies………………..yippie ….(*_*)

Aotearoa, by the way, is the Maori word for New Zealand; the most commonly accepted interpretation of this is “Land of the long white cloud” although it has been translated as “land of abiding day” in reference to the length and quality of the daylight in New Zealand

 

I arrived at my motel on the perimeter of Auckland airport at 23.00 hours on Thursday, having left my Bangkok hotel at 18.00 the previous day; it was not as bad as it sounds, given that Auckland is 6 hours in advance of Bangkok, so I was only traveling for a mere 23 hours………….but that’s what you get when you take cheap flights and ride at the back of the bus!

 

I felt surprisingly fresh at 7am on Friday when I woke for breakfast and a badly needed shower; by 10am I was back inside the airport terminal to collect my hire car, a new Toyota Corolla with only 8,000 km on the clock; it has air-con, sat nav, an excellent stereo with a usb port to plug my iphone into; it is quick and nimble and is much more than I could ever have  hoped for when I booked it at a budget price……………

 

I left Auckland and headed north towards the bay of islands on the north eastern coast; a few miles out of Auckland I had a “light bulb” moment, as I rejected the motorway I was approaching and turned off onto the old Highway 1 route; what a great decision, within no time at all, nostalgia washed over me, as I was transported back to a time when driving was a relaxed and pleasurable experience………….there was little, and for periods of time, no other vehicles on this fantastic road, and along both sides of it, wonderful, ever changing scenery; palms of all sizes, from small plants to huge trees, enormous pale blue and purple hydrangea blooms, grass verges covered in swathes of daisies, dandelions and buttercups………. to one side, a rusty old single track railway line, and on the other, a verdant green field full of grazing sheep or cows, back-dropped by  a row of Lombardi Poplars cresting a distant hill, the vistas just kept coming………….and not a scrap of litter to be seen anywhere………..I found myself driving more and more slowly as I became absorbed with the scenery…………..the “variable speed limits”of the M25 Motorway seemed to be a dim and distant image….

 

Re-energized by this lovely drive, I pushed on past the bay of islands as far as Kaitaia, where I booked into a motel for the night; this served to reduce my drive the next morning to my eventual destination, Cape Reinga, on the northern tip of the north island……..

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Zealand………….where men are men, and sheep are consequently nervous…………..

 

It’s quite hot at this time of year, especially if you’re wearing a sheepskin coat, so any shade is sought and appreciated……………………….

I’m on a bit of a roll with good decision making at the moment; this is very much helped by how easy it is to stop anywhere at the side of the road and study your map, and of course, the appetite to do so that is generated within you by this beautiful country…………..I deserted Highway 1 for the costal hugging route of Highways 10 and 11 and found designated picnic areas along these roads at different scenic spots; they all had permanently fixed tables and chairs, were spotlessly clean and litter free, and naturally had panoramic views to drool over………………….I’m still drooling………….

 

View from one of the picnic areas………………and below from another……………..

Keep watching………….more to come soon…………….love to you all……………(*_*)

Ancient Siam …..Fruit and Flower Market………3 Headed Elephant..& Chinatown

My last few days in Thailand on my most recent visit were spent in a variety of ways……….a few visits to a couple of the excellent, air-conditioned shopping malls that are quite near to my hotel of choice in Bangkok……………….a visit to the Ancient Siam Heritage Site, a visit to the Erawan Museum, a visit to the incredible flower and fruit market, and a wonderful evening spent eating at, and wandering around “Chinatown” with Yada and her friend Lek, who she had not seen since they were at university together in Bangkok (circa 12 years ago)………….they had recently made contact with each other and agreed on a reunion, at which I took a peripheral position as they chatted and cackled in the way that lost friends should………it was the 2nd day of the Chinese new year and this enormous area of Bangkok was pulsating with life

My guide and chauffeur around the enormous grounds of the Ancient Siam Heritage site

 

 

We sing, we dance, we steal things (for those of you trying to read my tee-shirt)