Joined September 2017Living in: Cairns City, Australia
  • Day8

    Mush Mush

    August 23, 2018 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌫 5 °C

    Today we head back to Snow Farm for some dog sledding. Although first step was a side tour to Highlands to plan tomorrow's hot lap.

    We had to borrow Kelly and Aaron's car today as we need to carry snow chains to drive up to Snow Farm. Kel gave me snow chain fitting lessons which seemed like a lot of rolling in the snow. Half way up it started raining and the snow chain signs were out, but the thought of crawling around in the snow didn't appeal so I drove on. One section of Snow Farm is the SHPG, the Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground, where Audi, Ferrari etc come to rest their cars so if I got pulled over I was just going to tell them snow chains are for amateurs. Luckily we made it to the top without incident well excluding a lot of worrying from Ann and suggesting I stopped and fitted chains.

    The rain morphed into snow and it remained snowing till the start of our sledding although our guide was complaining it was a hot day and the dogs kept rolling in the snow to cool off, I mean it was a balmy minus something.

    First order of the day meet the dogs who are all either retired racers or young dogs in training. Since it is so hot one pat of the dog resulted in a handful of malted hair. We then learnt how to control the sleds and then met the dogs that would form our team. Two lead dogs and two pullers, funnily enough the pullers were the leaner dogs and the lead dogs appeared to be the bigger stronger dogs.

    The guides were about 100m ahead of us and we were left to control our team. Once you let the break off the dogs just wanted to go and as I was at the rear I regularly had to slow my team up because Blocker and Sky just wanted to run past everyone else. With a small team of only four dogs you had to help out up the hills but the more you pushed the harder the dogs worked. They loved running and started howling with joy the moment they were off the chains and on the run. Every time we stopped they rolled around in the snow or tried to get tangled up with the other dogs.

    All too soon the run was over and we gave our dogs their treats and met some new puppies then headed back inside, with one last catch. Remember after days ago when Ann bowled over some disabled skiers? Well they were part of the Japanese Olympic team here to train for the biathlon, which is cross country skiing and shooting. We met them at the door, they were heading out for target practice as we were heading in. There was a brief glacé of recognition but before they had a chance to load their weapons Ann and I were off down the hill and heading home.
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  • Day7

    Something old, something new

    August 22, 2018 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 9 °C

    Ann et al were feeling a bit better today so we headed out to Highlands for morning tea. Highlands is a Motorsport complex built on the outskirts of Cromwell, just my sort of tourist attraction. There is a kart track, nah done that already, a race track with hot laps plus the National Motor Museum.

    Claire and Ann were very excited by the motor museum, well maybe it was the kids dinosaur playground but at least I enjoyed the museum, lots of race cars from all different types and eras. Ann's favourite was the Riley flyer!

    Everyone else was underwhelmed so I skipped the hot laps and we headed to old Cromwell town. When the dam was built in 1993 they moved a lot of the historic buildings out of where the lake would end up. There were lots of arty shops as well as a cafe and we took a walk to the lookout over lake Dunstan.

    Tonight we are heading out to one of the only resturants in Cromwell and this time I tried a more traditional lamb......
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  • Day6

    Taking a sickie!

    August 21, 2018 in New Zealand ⋅ ☁️ 9 °C

    Not much happened today. Ann was feeling a bit under the weather so made it her duty to flatten out the couch.

    Five episodes of Broadchurch and two naps later Ann was feeling a little better. Meanwhile I went shopping where I met a lady from the Sunshine Coast who was impressed / amused I was wearing jandels.Read more

  • Day5

    Its a tree

    August 20, 2018 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌫 7 °C

    Today we headed to Wanaka about 40 minutes up the road. Kelly is house shopping and I am hoping to find someone to fix my laptop which decided the cold was too much and called it quits. So while we were there we checked out the local park, which much to Claire's delight still has the dinosaur slippery slide and the ladybird seasaw. The park is on the foreshore of the lake with views to the snow covered mountains. Bit lost on Claire when there is a playground to be explored.

    After lunch we headed to the Wanaka Tree one of the most photographed trees in NZ. I must have caught it on a bad day, maybe it hadn't done its leaves properly, as it just looked just like a tree in the water, Tinaroo is selling itself short by comparison. Still it was very popular so maybe I am the one who is wrong.

    My job tonight was dinner and wine. We wanted a local red and none of the local wineries advertised whether they sold red or whites so we headed to the bottle shop. Denise and I picked a local red but they lady at the counter offers us an alternate selection and I expect her experience with wines exceeded ours, so we went with her choice partially because it was called 'sassy madam'. Turned out a great choice and with a mid night run to the shops for dessert topped off a relaxed day.
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  • Day4

    Crusty Nannas

    August 19, 2018 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 8 °C

    It's snow day! We are off to the aptly named Snow Farm for frolicking in the snow, but to be honest driving up it doesn't look like there will be much snow, that was till we crested the mounting and there it was snow as far as you could see.

    Snow Farm is set up for cross country skiing, snow shoeing, dog sledding and frolicking. We found a warm spot for lunch where we could overlook the cross country skiers having fun. But soon enough it was our turn in the snow.

    There was a gently groomed slope for tobaggoning and tubing. Ann started half way down and when she was ready I joined her at the top of the slope which suddenly looked a lot steeper, still I was committed and there were no brakes on the tubes. At the bottom you had to get out of the way quickly before you get bowled over by the next group down the slope.

    Claire and Ritchie gave it a go as well and that just left the Nannas. Ann convinced them to start half way and since they survived that it was up to the top. Denise was happy to get in the tube but not so happy once she started moving, but there was no way to stop. Fortunately Caroline's giggles drowned out everything and they all safely made it to the bottom. It must have been good because they all went again, and again.

    Kelly and I tried the toboggan which had brakes and steering options, very optional. They sort of worked until you needed to stop or steer, but it was ok the fence stopped you, eventually.

    We had to quickly exit the car park of the Snow Farm after Ann's little faux pas. There were a group of disabled skiers receiving a safety lecture from their instructor before hitting the snow. Ann squeezed through and as she turned around her backpack pushed the instructor into one of the wheelchair skiers, it was like dominos on ice.

    On the way home and to put the media off our trail we stopped at an antique shop full of not so old stuff and some very modern prices.
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  • Day3

    Hot Wheels, cold track

    August 18, 2018 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 8 °C

    Today I am at Southlands Kart track in Invercargill for day one of their southern series. Meanwhile the rest of the clan is back in Cromwell, playing tourist, walking beside pristine lakes near snow covered mountains, blah blah blah lets go racing!

    First order of the day getting to the track, it looked like there was water on the windscreen but when I started the wipers I discovered it was about a centimetre of ice. Luckily I found a friendly local who knew how to deal with ice. Finding the track proved to be easy just follow all the kart trailers. I met up with John Keast and Rachael who had arranged everything for me. John and I did a seat fitting, which sounds all F1ish but really was just putting the kart on the ground and seeing if my butt fitted! Then it was off for entry checks.

    Usually I don't bring my own gear because I have discovered that overseas standards are usually different but I thought everything would be the same between Australia and NZ, nope my race suit didn't have the right numbers. John found me a new suit which I considered buying until I realised it was fleece lined, great here not so good in the tropics.

    I attended drivers brief which like usual was a lot of officials talking and not many drivers listening, except for me of course. But I did like their attitude, everyone is here to win, so race hard but be considerate of your competitors.

    There was one six minute practise session and as the sun was still struggling to get up and I had new tyres it was going to be challenging. Three spins and a few exertions on e grass and I was ready for racing, not. At least I suppose the Briggs and Stratton is at home on the grass, first heat is going to be interesting.

    The meeting is over two days at two different tracks with 5 heats today and 3 more and a final tomorrow at Dunedin a few hours up the road. All the heats were random draws and fortunately I was towards the back of my class for the first few heats, time to learn the track before I started off pole.

    Throughout the day John and I kept tweaking the kart and I got faster and faster, relatively speaking, it was a four stroke after all... My best result of the day was starting and finishing second, although that was thanks to a few agricultural passes from one of the front runners. I tried one of those sorts of passes in the later heats which really impressed the driver in front as he held a fInger up to tell me I was number 1. Just doing my bit for Trans-Tasman relations.

    I had the option of racing on day two but Ann seemed pretty excited about going to the snow so at the end of the day I headed back to Cromwell and got back in time for a late dinner and a movie. As has been my experience racing overseas is always fun, the people are always welcoming, well the ones you don't punt and again I was very lucky to pit with John and his crew.
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  • Day2

    A gossip of Grandma's

    August 17, 2018 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌧 7 °C

    What do you call a collective of Grandmothers? Is it a nattering of Nannas or a gossip of Grandmothers? Either way that's what we had today. Kelly and Aaron were off to work and leaving the two experience Grandmothers (Caroline and Denise) and Ann and I in charge of three year old Claire and one year old Ritchie, how hard could it be.......... All we had to do was take them to the cafe for lunch and do some grocery shopping.

    What I didn't realise was that the logistic nightmare rivalled a Royal visit, there were snacks planned, routes discussed ( which considering there was just one road into town a little over kill in my mind) and clothing to be considered.

    After overstaying our welcome in the cafe we headed for the shops, my job push Ritchie around in the trolley. Cool I was zooming up and down the isles dodging old ladies until someone told me the idea was to get him to sleep, maybe that should have come out in the pre-trip briefing notes. Once I had the mission parameters set I achieved my goal, meanwhile Caroline put Claire to sleep just by talking to her, mmmmmmm maybe Grandma needs to work on her conversation skills.

    Being a 'Watson' holiday conversations turned to dinner and since fish and chups didn't appeal I decided to head to Invercargill in preparation for tomorrow's racing. I was a little concerned on the three hour drive as Google kept leading me into the backwoods where the sounds of banjos filled the valleys, but I made it there safely and another big surprise waited me. When I booked the hotel I had to pay a premium as it was the last room available, I suspect the reception lady may have been lying either that or there were a dozen or so cancellations.....

    I headed up town and decided on a traditional NZ lamb shank, Thai curry lamb shank that was, delicious.
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  • Day1

    It takes balls

    August 16, 2018 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌧 10 °C

    We are off on a New Zealand adventure to visit Kelly, Aaron, Claire and Ritchie in Cromwell, a small town about one hour from Queenstown. Well it would be one hour except the three co-drivers insisted driving no faster than a glacier moves.

    The holiday actually started a day earlier taking Riley to his holiday home. He was so sad to see us go that he could barely stop his tail wagging and only the thought of daily swims and playing with other dogs could console him.

    Unfortunately we fell foul of NZ's Border Patrol. I admitted I was carrying hiking boots and that took two people armed with tweezers and wire brushes twenty minutes to remove all traces of Riley's hair from them. But they were on to me, I was probably using the boots as a decoy and trying to import contraband into NZ, so to protect their borders they x-rayed all our luggage and they discovered my stash. Three round objects, were they apples, drugs, no something considerably worse, juggling balls!! The balls got a separate run through the X-ray machine and if I was unable to do a proper three ball cascade then the rubber gloves were coming out.

    Having survived that oversight we now faced a short wait in the airport lounge for Caroline to arrive from Auckland. Meanwhile Ann spotted an Icebreaker clothing shop, a Nick Nack shop and a lolly shop, hurry up Caroline. We made it out with just a few kilos of sugary treats and our credit rating intact.

    Next adventure was our rental car, after the great budget fiasco Ann wanted to thoroughly check the car for dings and scratches, well actually since it was cold and raining she wanted me to check it all out. Just needed the paperwork which she assured me was in the boot. Five minutes later I was back in the car sans paperwork so Ann sent me out again to unload the whole car. Still no luck so I got Ann to check under her feet and there it was! But it wasn't that bad we had to wait 20 minutes for the windscreen to defrost and that gave me enough time to get some feeling back into my fingers.

    The drive was picturesque if not slow and we made it to Cromwell just on dusk, 4 pm, and settled in front of a nice warm fire, they certainly know how to have winter over here.
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  • Day9

    You saucy little devil you!

    May 10, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 10 °C

    Today is our last day in Tasmania and we had ticked most of the boxes except one, Tassie Devils, ok Tasmanian Tigers as well but my time machine is broken. There are plenty of wildlife parks but Ann wants to go to Trowannin which she saw in a dvd on the day we went to Port Arthur.

    After a week of touring it was nice to have a sleep in and we headed off at the crack of 11am. We thought we would pick up lunch at the local bakery but it turned out to be more souvenir shop than bakery so we stoked up on souvenirs instead, although I did try one of their slices.

    The sanctuary is just past Mole creek but what they failed to mention is that at Mole Creek is Bee World. Unfortunately Bee World is closed due to unforeseen circumstances, what like bees are not that exciting??? But the honey gift shop is still open, a final chance to stock up on honey infused band aids and body rubs, they give you a nice golden tinge just don’t stop for too long or the ants will eat you alive. The lady in the honey pot was surprised we didn’t find anything we liked, Ann meanwhile found a local restored building where I suspect the owners had some problems getting approval for the repairs they planned.

    But enough frivolity we have come all this way to see the devils or was that the fire? For me the fire for Ann the devils. We turned up with just enough time to spy on a few Devils before the guided tour. Most of the animals here get released back to the wild so their human interaction is limited, but with only four of us on the tour today we were in for a treat.

    First we met Tina the wombat, Matt, her brother has matured a little faster and being a solitary animal has decided he doesn’t have the time for public shows. Tina on the other hand still thinks it is fun, but according to the guide she is getting less and less interested. Today we caught Tina on a good day and she was more than happy to interact with us and have her photo taken.

    Next stop the Quolls and was he more interested in eating the guides sheepskin coat. The quoll was a teenager and had recently been separated from his roommate because he was getting real interested in her, so he was pretty antsy, so much so that the guide decided to put him away.

    And now the main event the Tassie Devils and today they are feeding the teenagers, there are eight of them in the enclosure but only half of them are interested in come out for a feed. They are semi-social animals so live a solitary life and only come together for eating and one other thing. One of the young males wasn’t that hungry so he thought he’d try his luck at some sweet loving. But if you are a Tassie devil it is anything but sweet loving, you grab her by the neck sink your teeth in and hang on. It seems his rodeo skills need work so he went back to eating.

    After a while of snarling growling and generally fighting for food or fun the devils then decided the guide look tasty and as a group they headed over to check out his leather boots. Andrew decided this was the time to end the show before he became part of it.

    Ann still had animal itches to scratch so while she headed out to see the devils in retirement, the raptors and the rest of the zoo I headed back to the fire. After thawing out I took some food out for Ann to feed the kangaroos, well more to wrestle with one big roo that wanted all the food. This included him boofing the smaller roos out of the way and sticking his head in the food bag while Ann was distracted. All this feeding frenzy reminded us it was mid afternoon and we hadn’t had lunch ourselves, so we headed to the DeLorian or was that Deloraine?

    Our most important consideration was somewhere warm and as a result we stumbled into a vegan paleo café, but they let me in even though I did not have enough hair for a top bun. I decided to go fully paleo just like the caveman did and ordered a hot Nutella drink topped with almond milk, which actually wasn’t too bad, but I am not sure how the cavemen made frothy almond milk, maybe the Nutella might have been a problem too?

    On the way home we detoured to Cataract gorge as the sun was setting, ie 4.30pm. The rain hadn’t eased up so we only did a few short walks including the suspension bridge. The whole area is amazing with the gorge opening up ono the parklands. On the walk back to the car the pademelons were out feeding, and there was a group of running trying their hardest but unable to raise a sweat.

    Ann was keen to hit the Prince of Wales for the third night in a row but I insisted we try somewhere else, that may have been a mistake. The place was much flasher than the pub but they tried too hard with their meals, the presentation was awesome but the flavour not so. I also tried the Meade, was offered a tester but turned it down, manned up and ordered a pot. I had two mouthfuls, only because I thought I must have inhaled a stink beetle on the first one, nope. Just to prove it is a small town we ran into the world’s happiest retiree who we shared the fire with in the pub two days ago.

    Back to the chapel to try and see if I can cram everything in the suitcases including the kilos of smelly cheeses I bought. Since I am doing the packing I ran out of room in my suitcase for the cheese and they ended up in Ann’s bag, hopefully they won’t stink out her clothes too much.

    It has been a great time in Tassie with only one wet day, we have seen heaps and still leave wanting to come back. The weather has threatened rain every day but mostly been good except it looks like Hobart is experiencing the worst weather in years, luckily we are heading home.
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  • Day8

    It’s not just the cows that are Friesian

    May 9, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 5 °C

    Today we are to Cradle Mountain, and for our most outdoorsy day the weather has finally delivered on what it has threatened for the past week, rain.

    Because we are staying out of Launceston we have had to get up a little earlier and through some miracle, and a fear of running out of hot water, we arrived at the designated meeting point 10 minutes early, only to find out the parking station is closed for maintenance, whoops.

    We managed to find one nearby but by the time we park the car and head back to the meeting point our guide Graeme is on the phone trying to rustle us up. Here we all were rugged up for the cold and Graeme was in shorts, it appears he doesn’t worry about long pants unless an ice age is due. It is almost a full tour today and after one more pick up we are off on our adventure, with just a few stops on the way.

    Our first stop breaks the trip in half and is the last chance for us to buy lunch for the day. After the last experience I steered clear of the chocolate muffin despite the fact that it looked awesome.

    Graeme takes some side roads which are more scenic than the main roads and offer us a better chance to see some wildlife, but all the animals are sensibly tuck away in their burrows. All up the side roads only add a few minutes to the journey but the scenery is so much better than the highway. The last stop on the way is Sheffield the town of murals which is just near Railton the town of Topiary, both of which are near No Where Else on the way to the Promised Land, yep all that is true. I was slightly disappointed we didn’t stop in the middle of No Where because everyone always talks about going there! Sheffield for me the particular highlight, it wasn’t just the park dedicated to the murals, the ones that fascinated me the most were the murals scattered around the businesses and homes in town, people get to buy a mural although I think that might push the friendship if I tried to take one on the plane home.

    Back on the bus to warm up and off to Cradle Mountain, on the way we moved into dairy country with Graeme commenting that most of the cows were Friesian, so was I. Once we were checked in at the national park office we headed off on a short walk to see Pencil Pine Falls. The local Pademelons, small wallabies, kept us company on the walk while Graeme showed us the features of some of the local plants, including the pepper bush. The leaves when crushed have a peppery taste and Graeme’s suggestion of not chewing them unless you have water on hand is good advice. Of course I wasn’t the only one who didn’t follow this advice, we were the people walking back to the bus with our tongues out to catch the rain.

    Pencil Pine falls were nice but the main attraction was Dove Lake, and now we had to make a choice, walk around Dove Lake or walk to the top of Mount Marion for a view over the lake. Two hours of easy walking or a much harder 3 to 4 hour walk, no brainer really so we rugged up and headed up the hill. On the way we past Wombat Poo in more ways than one. The lake was actually called Wombat Pool but the “L” was missing from every sign, but also the trail was dotted with real wombat poo. Now normally unless I am at MONA poo has no interest for me but wombat poos are cubes and where the cubes are there should be wombats. Maybe it was just a joke played out by the park rangers because that was the only evidence of wombats on the walk.

    The walk to the top of Mt Marion is strenuous, and we went the easy way. The weather was not helping with horizontal rain that found any openings in our wet weather gear. But the views on the way made it more than worthwhile. The walk is dotted with a myriad of small lakes and always off in the distance Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake.

    We thought we were making good time until we got to the junction to be greeted by Graeme. He had taken a group partially around the lake and despite setting off nearly an hour after us and taking the steeper route was waiting there to make sure we went the right way, LEGEND, and it only reinforced my thought that he is the love child of Chuck Norris and Les Higgins. We left Graeme as he headed off on the overland trail and a brief swim to Antartica, and we headed to the lookout. The last bit of the walk is the steepest and Graeme’s suggestion of coming back down for lunch was again spot on. The wind picked up on the way to the lookout and added a bit of sleet into the mix as well. On making it to the top we were rewarded with a magnificent view and thanks to the changeable conditions for a brief moment we had clear skies and a view all the way across the mountain. It stayed that way long enough for a few pictures then gave us a windy reminder it was time to head down. The steep trail down has chains and the like to make the going easier but it was slow going in the rain. Luckily it didn’t rain all the way, we had snow as well.

    We made good time coming down and joined the main Dove Lake trail with heaps of time to spare so we decided to see if we could add that walk to the day as well. Twenty minutes in we ran into others in our group who were completing their circumnavigation of Dove Lake. Normally at this point I want to turn back and Ann wants to see what is just around the next corner, but for some reason the roles were reversed. Maybe it was Graeme’s briefing in the bus that it was a long walk back to Launceston.

    I managed to force the issue and we headed a little further to get a superb view of one of the many waterfalls but Ann’s patience ran out and we turned tail for home with me bleating that continuing on would be the quicker way home.

    On the way back we passed the Boathouse and across the lake we could see Glacier Rock and I had to admit the walk on the other side looked quite arduous so maybe Ann’s judgement was right. More than I thought because when we got back to the carpark it was empty, no bus no Graeme. I was sure everyone would be in the hiker’s shed out of the rain but nope that was empty too. I was sure we were early but my phone had taken one too many pictures in the rain and was not cooperating. Still if we were going to spend the night here may as well get out of the wet weather gear and freshen up, with freshening up the operative term, the toilets were clean and dry but with the world’s coldest toilet seat, they don’t mention that in the brochures!

    We headed back to the shelter to find Graeme waiting for us, and he happily confirmed that we had heaps of time to come back the other way around the lake and joined the 1% of hikers that do both walks. But I was inside a warm bus and saw some awesome views so who cares, and the day wasn’t over!

    Since we hadn’t seen any wombats we headed to Graeme’s secret wombat spotting location which more than delivered. Multiple wombats including a very photogenic one, maybe Graeme is a wombat whisperer as well? What a day amazing walks, all sorts of weather, sun, rain and snow and wombats with one more surprise on the way home.

    Stopping at the cheese factory wasn’t the surprise it was the number of people who couldn’t resist the ice cream, including Ann. Me, I stuck to the cheese tastings and stocked up on some very unique cheese blends. We got back to Launceston on dusk and despite a few restaurant suggestions in town decided to head back to Evandale for a hot shower before dinner.
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