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Moving on to the Abel Tasman

Wednesday 21st October 2015

sunny 20 °C

I had enjoyed Picton so much that I didn't particularly relish leaving, but leave we must. We packed up our things (again) and left them in the apartment while we went to collect our hire car from down by the ferry terminal. We only just caught the woman who said they only wait at the sub office until 10:15 and then they go back to their main office. I was slightly irritated as we hadn't been made aware of the time limit or the fact that there was more than one office. Anyway despite this and other minor irritations we were soon in the car, and having gone back and loaded our bags, were on our way to Nelson and the Abel Tasman National Park beyond. The most direct route initially runs north and then west winding its way around the edge of Queen Charlotte's Sound. The longer but less winding route goes south before turning west and then north in a squared off U shape. We decided to go by the latter route because although longer was an easier and faster drive. Also we are staying for one night on the edge of one of the bays after our visit to the Abel Tasman and will travel the 'scenic route' then.

The early part of the journey was the most picturesque with high snow topped mountains in the distance and the Marlborough Vineyards either side of the road.

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We stopped at the Hunters winery cellar door and tasted several of the whites and a couple of reds. Nigel, who was driving was the one that had to 'spit' again, I on the other hand happily drank all that was offered to me. We ended up buying just one bottle of 2013 Pinot Gris as we couldn't really manage to carry much more as we still had the two bottles of the Hawkes Bay red. We then continued on our way passing by heavily forested hillsides as we went, until we reached the coast just outside the town of Nelson.

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We stopped here to get enough provisions at our now favoured supermarket chain New World, to last us for the next three days, as we presumed that we wouldn't have many shops near where we were going to be staying. For most of the rest of the journey we were running alongside the coast but initially this was a bit industrial and then we were a few streets away from the shore so any potential view was obscured by shops and streets of housing. Once we were north of the town of Motueka the road started to climb until we reached the turning for our accommodation. We then had to drive about a kilometre up the gravel drive before we got to the house. Fraser Highlands Retreat is a modern building but with some of the grandeur of a Scottish lairds dwelling. The owners Jim and Sue met us on their doorstep and we all walked back up the drive to the little cottage that was going to be our home for the next few days. Sue explained that she was originally from Lancashire and met Jim, a New Zealander, in the UK. They originally built/ converted the cottage and lived in it whilst building the main house. The cottage is very cosy and homely and couldn't be more different from our apartment in Picton.

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Given that it had been home for the owners for a couple of years it would certainly do us for a few nights. There is clearly a Scottish connection and given their name is Fraser and Jim plays the bagpipes (according to the visitors book) I am presuming it is on his side. We settled in and spent some time admiring the view, before Nigel cooked us a delicious meal of spaghetti bolognese washed down with a glass of red.

Posted by Gill's Travels 02:42 Archived in New Zealand Tagged mountains new_zealand abel_tasman vineyards Comments (0)

Exploring Picton

Tuesday 20th October 2015

sunny 20 °C

I woke up this morning with a strong feeling that I didn't want to spend the whole day rushing around and away from our apartment given that the view was so captivating.

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Nigel felt the same and so we decided to stay put for the morning and perhaps explore the town in the afternoon. I did some washing, taking advantage of the laundry facilities in the apartment, and spent a bit of time updating my blog. Nigel listened to his radio and just relaxed. A little after midday we decided to go out to get something to eat and see a little more of Picton. We didn't initially venture very far, as there were a number of cafes and bars just a stones throw from our apartment. We chose one, probably quite arbitrarily, and while I had an iced coffee Nigel chose to have a beer. We both had a light snack which was just enough to tide us over until the evening. Once we had finished we wandered along the harbour front just as the Interislander was about to pull out on its way to Wellington. Just as I have a rough idea of the time by the comings and goings of trains in Saxmundham, I suspect it is the same in Picton with several arrivals and departures each day.

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We then made our way to the Edwin Fox and its museum. This is the only surviving ship used for the transportation of convicts to Australia. Built in 1853 in Calcutta, she was used for a number of purposes including general cargo, moving troops during the Crimea War and delivering labourers from China to Cuba. It was in 1858 that she was commissioned by the British Government to transport convicts and then in 1873 she was chartered to take people emigrating to New Zealand making four such voyages taking a total of 751 passengers. She was towed to Picton in 1897 and spent her last days as a place to store meat prior to it being frozen and shipped to England and then for storing coal. In 1965 she was bought by the Edwin Fox Society for a shilling and initially was moored in a nearby bay before being placed in dry dock on the 18th of May 1999.

We watched a short film about her early days and her preservation and then we looked around the museum. Once we had done this we went to have a look at what remains of her in dry dock.

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It was fascinating to look round and see the way in which she was constructed and get a sense of what it would have been like on board. There was a reconstruction of both the steerage bunks and cabin class so you could compare the two. It was also possible go into the dry dock itself where the ship seemed to be rather precariously steadied on timber poles and blocks. It looked very weather worn with large amounts of the copper cladding, that once would have protected the hull from the elements and termites, worn away.

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We both agreed afterwards that it was a great museum and well worth looking round.

Next we made our way back past our accommodation and over the harbour 'coat hanger' bridge to the eastern headland.

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We did a shortish walk past Shelley Beach and along what is called Lower Bob's Bay Track and then continued climbing a short way returning perhaps unsurprisingly by Upper Bob's Bay Track. Both paths gave good views of the harbour and queen Charlottes Sound and in the latter stages great views of our apartment block.

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There were lots of native trees and wild plants to be seen including some wild sweet peas.

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By the time we got back into the town we were feeling a little weary and so we went back to the apartment and chilled out for a while before Nigel went to get us a fish and chip supper. perhaps not such a healthy option but very tasty and a good value meal in New Zealand, costing much less than eating out and probably even less than cooking food ourselves!

Posted by Gill's Travels 02:20 Archived in New Zealand Tagged landscapes sea hills new_zealand picton Comments (0)

Crossing the Cook Strait

Monday 19th October 2015

sunny 18 °C

Today is the day when we will be leaving North Island for the South. Fortunately the weather had improved overnight and the wind which was battering us yesterday had gone. We were catching the Interislander Ferry but not until 3:30pm so we had the whole morning to do more exploring of Wellington. As I hadn't been to the Te Papa museum yesterday we both went back there once we had checked out of our room. The huge figures representing some of the people involved in the Gallipoli campaign of World War 1, were amazingly lifelike and incredibly well crafted.

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I started off reading a lot of the material but after about an hour or so I was starting to feel a little jaded about the waste of life. I got no sense of what they were really fighting about and the idea that it is better to die nobly than to surrender doesn't make sense to me. It just sounds like the rhetoric used by leaders to turn ordinary people into cannon fodder. Don't get me wrong, the people (mainly men) that died on both sides were incredibly brave but I can't help but think that if foot soldiers refused to fight then we couldn't have wars.

I decided that I had seen enough so we went and had a look at the view of the harbour from the top of the building

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and then we went and had coffee. I was also quite keen to go on the Wellington Cable Car, which we could have gone on when we were on our tour yesterday, but we opted out because I thought misguidedly that it was too windy. Our guide Simon must have thought I had gone mad because it turned out it wasn't a cable car in the ski resort sense but in reality a funicular railway, so wouldn't have been affected by the wind at all. It was good fun going up, particularly through a couple of tunnels that had psychedelic flashing lights.

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When we got to the top we went and had a look at the Cable Car Museum and we both bought wooly hats in preparation for the potentially colder weather in the south. With an eye to the time we then needed to go back down and make the 15 minute walk back to our hotel to pick up our luggage. The apartments were on the 4th floor so we were a bit concerned when we got there to find that the lift was being serviced. We walked all the way up and with the offer of help from staff prepared ourselves for carrying all our bags down the flights of stairs, but fortunately by the time we got to the stairs we could see that the lift was repaired so we were able to take the easy route down.

We had booked a taxi to take us the couple of miles or so to the ferry terminal and once there we checked in our large luggage and had a drink while we waited the half an hour until boarding. We paid a fixed amount to upgrade so that we could have wifi access (which I didn't use because it was making me feel queasy) and food and drink in the premium lounge. This cost us $90 for the two of us so was worth it just for the meal. We found seats at the front of the ship so we had good views of Wellington harbour as we departed. We were able to go outside on deck if we wanted to take photographs.

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By the time we had got clear from the North island we were about a third of the way through our journey so we then went and had something to eat. By the time we returned to the main lounge we were surprised that we were already starting to come into Queen Charlotte Sound passing many of the islands and bays that are characteristic of the area. It was a stunning sight and very different to the scenery in the north.

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Once we arrived and got off the ferry and collected our bags, a woman from our accommodation had arrived to pick us up. She told us that we had been upgraded to an apartment at another building (one we had rejected on booking because we were concerned about the stairs and the noise). She reassured us that there was a lift so getting our bags up wouldn't be a problem, and she hoped we would like the view. When we got inside we were delighted. Not only was it very luxurious but it had a large balcony with amazing views of the harbour and the Sound beyond.

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We were indeed happy and settled down to a relaxing evening, watching the sunlight fade over the bay.

Posted by Gill's Travels 15:29 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand picton wellington Comments (0)

Windy Wellington

Sunday 18th October 2015

storm 18 °C

We woke up to pretty grim weather this morning; rain and howling winds, the sort of weather that makes you want to curl up in your bed and not get out. This wasn't a very appealing or practical option. Not only would this be pretty boring but would mean foregoing the bus tour of Wellington that we had booked yesterday evening. Once we were up and dressed we had a quick breakfast and then made the short walk to where we needed to collect our tickets and catch our tour bus. There were quite a lot of Australian people on the tour who had come off a cruise ship and many of them seem to know each other now even if they didn't originally. Our driver Simon seemed very young and perhaps unfairly was at the receiving end of some jokes about his age and whether he was old enough to hold a driving license. However I got the sense that he could give as good as he got and there was quite a lot of banter between him and many of the people on the bus for the duration of the tour.

We started off by going up past the Parliament buildings including the Parliamentary Library

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and then we had a short amount of time to go inside the wooden Old St Paul's Church which has some lovely traditional stained glass windows and a quite unusual wooden ceiling. Having finished there we went to the Botanic Gardens stopping at the Lady Norwood Rose Garden and Begonia House. We had a short amount of time to have a look around and I particularly enjoyed the orchids of which there were more than begonias.

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There was also a waterfall and pond which we had a snatched look at. All of the time Simon was giving loads of information about the history and architecture of the City. This was all the more impressive when he told us that this was a part time job to help fund his degree in philosophy and Italian. Once we had been shown round some of the sights of the CBD we were taken to see some of the beaches and bays on the east of the city. The weather was still really wet and windy and this made the sea look really rough and threatening.

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Our final destination was Mount Victoria which is an undeveloped area in the centre of the city. The hill is 196 metres high with great views over the city. However with winds of 50kph, with gusts much stronger, it was hard to stand let alone admire the view. Wellington was certainly living up to its claim of being the windiest city in the world.

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Once the tour had finished we walked back to our hotel as it was pretty unpleasant walking out and about. I decided that I had a lot of emails and some work stuff that I really needed to catch up on, so I stayed back in our apartment while Nigel went to look around Te Papa, the National Museum of New Zealand. I had mixed feelings and it felt a bit as if I was missing out, but I was also a bit stressed about getting behind with stuff so it seemed worth the sacrifice. We had another home cooked meal which was a blessing as the wind was still howling outside. It hadn't been the best day, but fortunately we had a nice apartment with a view of the harbour and Wellington seemed like a nice place so I was hopeful of a better day tomorrow.

Posted by Gill's Travels 02:13 Archived in New Zealand Tagged sea cities new_zealand wellington Comments (0)

Heading to the Capital

Saturday 17th October 2015

storm 16 °C

As I expected the time we have been away seems to be gathering pace and our days in the North Island are coming to an end. Today we are off to Wellington, literally our last port of call before we sail to Picton on Monday. We had a lovely leisurely breakfast in the hotel, more by virtue of their relaxed but attentive service, than any reluctance on our part to get going. We then booked an excursion for while we are in Wellington, loaded our luggage into the car and did some final checks on the route we needed to take.

By the time we got away it was just before 11am and it was warm and sunny, perfect for the four hours driving we had ahead of us. I did the first leg which was pretty straightforward through pleasant countryside with fields on one side and a cloud topped range of hills on the other.

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We passed through several towns, some more attractive than others, and again there were signs that Spring was on its way. After just under two hours Nigel took over driving and shortly after the scenery became a little more dramatic as we drove through the Manawatu Gorge.

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We stopped for coffee and continued until we reached the short stretch of west coast we would be passing on our way down to Wellington. Nigel suggested a short detour to look at the beach and so we left the main highway to go to Paraparaumu Beach. The weather had deteriorated considerably during the day and it was very overcast and windy when we got there, and the sea looked very rough and threatening. The greyish sand was littered with wood as was Napier Beach, a result of the lumber industry combined with poor weather.

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I was curious as to whether people are allowed to collect the wood as there were some lovely pieces of driftwood, not that we could take advantage of this. We returned back to the main road and continued south, hugging the coast for a short distance at Pukerua Bay. Here the sea looked even more threatening and the big waves seemed to be crashing on the shore only metres from the road. This would have been a really scenic spot but the view was somewhat marred by the crash barriers designed to keep the lanes of heavy traffic apart.

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Once we had crossed the short bridge across Porirua Harbour we were almost in Wellington. The weather continued to be cold, overcast and windy, in total contrast to what we had left behind in Napier. We found the hotel reasonably easily and checked into to our room. Once we had brought all of our things up in the lift we needed to return our hire car. The depot was nearby and on our way back we bought some food for the next two days from the supermarket. Once back we could settle in properly, have a cup of tea followed shortly after by a G & T and then a home cooked supper. It was nice to shut the cold out and hope for better weather in the next couple of days.

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Posted by Gill's Travels 01:43 Archived in New Zealand Tagged sea new_zealand Comments (0)

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