Down Under 2019

January - March 2019
January - March 2019
  • Day64

    Wrap 'er up!

    March 16 in Canada ⋅ ☁️ 9 °C

    Rain greeted us to Roratonga and rain sent us away.  And it does know how to rain down here! 

    A wedding on the beach in front of our place got lucky with the sun out just enough.  A palm tree planted by the happy couple to mark the occasion 🌴.

    An inside day...pack up, lunch at a sand floor beach restaurant, cribbage (Daryl the overall holiday winner 😜).

    Happy hour with free beer and wine (can't beat that deal!), dinner at Yellow Hibiscus, then head to the airport for our midnight flight to LAX....nope...now 1 am. Of course that delayed the following flights which made a long travel day even longer. But when you start in the middle of nowhere...

    Many, many thanks for a safe and great adventure. 13 different flights (enough delays but no lost luggage!), too many air miles, 4800 driving kms (on the wrong side of the road!), 250 cycling kms, LOTS of walking.  63 days away, 32 different beds, mucho long blacks and flat whites. Great visit with Kirsten who lives 12,279 kms away. 

    And we've proven yet again... Victoria is one of the best places to be...except for this past February☃️ (hehehe).

    Home you say...what a good idea!
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  • Day62

    And on the up side...

    March 14 in Cook Islands ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    Somebody's gotta do it. Here's the drill on Rarotonga.... 

    Wake up. Look out past the palm trees to the ocean...a bit windy today, 40% chance of rain. Buffet brekky at our yellow hibiscus restaurant. Now the decisions... let's start with a paddle...find the turtles who hang out between the shallow and deep water. Big headwind...we can do it in our double kayak!  No luck on the turtles but fun out here tho 😃. Look!  Big blue fish hightailing it somewhere 🐟.  Head back to our beach...easy street going downwind 🌬️. Let's head toward the reef where the waves are breaking...350 m from the beach. Don't go too close!...our paddling not good enough to battle that current!

    Ok...that was fun. Now let's snorkel. Coloured fish on the coral right off our beach. It's shallow for as far as you can go (good and safe for Cindy 🙃) .  Deep blue starfish, angel fish, tiger fish (this is where my aquarium fish come from!), multi-colour fish...easy viewing!  Don't stick your finger in the crevice!

    Shower up...let's go out for lunch today. To the nice place we saw on the hill.  Great ocean views from the lush island interior. Exquisite food...no room for dessert!

    Little rest back at our bungalow...cool down in the air conditioning (not too efficient but better than outside 🤒). Read a book on the deck. Walk on the beach. What d'ya know... happy hour 🍹!

    On the deck...looking out to the sea and sand past the palm trees (there's a memory here!). We last until the bugs figure out the mosquito coil can't really hurt them.

    Check out the sunset at the beach...

    Ok... We'll take one for the team.
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  • Day61

    Two sides to every story...

    March 13 in Cook Islands ⋅ 🌬 29 °C

    So you don't get too jealous, and before you lay down money for your trip to the Cooks...it's only fair you have full information.

    It is beautiful here, mainly off the grid, mostly rustic. There is a but.. 

    Humidity at this time of year.... makes us feel lethargic and uncomfortable 😓. Remedies:  ocean swims, breezes, air conditioning ❄️. Rain also helps.

    Bugs...pretty much need to spray the poison stuff on before we leave the room. Not a fan of that but better than suffering the bites. Open air restaurant for breakfast...with the ants of course 🐜.

    Roosters... doesn't 'dawn' mean anything to these guys??  3.30 am this morning...and 45 minute intervals until daylight, then whenever. There are LOTS of feral chickens everywhere 🐓 so I guess the roosters have to work overtime 😜.  Noise cancelling headphones at the ready tonite!

    Wabi-sabi... must be a challenge to keep up the infrastructure in this moisture and sun...and it adds to the rustic charm of the place. But think it'd be better if we couldn't see the gravel creek bed through the floorboards from inside our bungalow! 😏 Good thing the geckos join us to get the inside bugs.

    It's partly the time of year (wld be better during their winter)...and maybe we're just ready to head home. 

    Still...we're enjoying the last few days of our great holiday. Rarotonga is the largest and most developed of the islands. Basically one road around the outside... holiday villas and hotels, tourist shops, restaurants. A road slightly inland shows the local flavour... mangos, bananas, chickens, local homes, roosters, the odd cow, pig... chickens. We'll pass on the cross island trek up to the 'needle' and stick to the ocean and our books. We're right beside the beach so no complaints there.

    Our adventure may not be over yet...we are currently booked to fly from LA to Vancouver on a Boeing  Max 8. Guess I'll have to detour to Indian Wells to watch the tennis finals while we wait for another flight 😉. Just glad Canada got on board (pardon the pun) with the ban.
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  • Day58

    Aitutaki wonder

    March 10 in Cook Islands ⋅ ☁️ 28 °C

    OK. So we did find paradise after all.

    The best boat tour to 7 small (tiny!) islands within the lagoon. Palm trees, sandy beaches...just like we pictured them!...warm water, nesting birds. A small boat...9 fellow tourists (They all spoke German but I doubt they were talking about us 🤣). 

    'Captain Fantastic' manouerved around shallow rocks at high speed (not his first rodeo!). Swimming along the way...lovely warm water, sandy beaches. Amazing lunch on ___ island served in large clam shells and palm leaves. Yellow fin tuna bbq'd perfectly. Bread fruit, bbq'd banana, grapefruit salad, etc. etc....  Coconut cracking demonstration (never know when you need to do that).

    Snorkelling got you views of countless colourful fish...all sizes, BIG tuna...who hang around for the feeding... giant clam shells (don't put your finger in 😲). Genuine, authentic locals, beautiful warm day (ok...hot ☀️☀️!), great fellow guests (maybe we'll meet in Munich one day). No touristy vibe (even tho we are they!).  

    This after island nite at Tamanu Beach. Local ukelele/guitar band playing during delicious buffet dinner, followed by dancers, drummers, and fire throwers. All local, all ages. Good fun when they had the tourists join in. Yah...the locals are definitely better!

    Quieter around the place tonite... tourist season waning. No complaints here.  Relax....
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  • Day55

    The Cooks!

    March 7 in Cook Islands ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    Kia Orana! Farewell to NZ, hello Cook Islands. South Pacific paradise - here we come!

    Uh...just a sec....  Head down to check out the beach. Water is warm but...black sea slugs everywhere. Hmmm...maybe we'll skip the ocean swim 🤑. Then the scratching starts...dinner time for the bugs..and we're dinner 🕷️ 😫 🐜! Bug spray safely tucked away in our luggage  ...rookies!  

    Admittedly it took a few hours to settle in...blame the early morning and travel day... but with regular application of pest repellent, we're ready to embrace island time on Aitutaki. One of the smaller, outer islands....tourism here since the 70s but local council restricts development so they're keeping what people come for...which is not much! No tour buses here... lots of beaches, palm trees blowing in the breeze 🌴, enough places to eat.

    Scooters all rented out so we take bikes...just as well...who knows where I may have ended up 😜!  speed limit is 40 km on the roads, 20 in 'town'.
    No real town...just a collection of small businesses including bike and scooter rentals, lagoon tours, snorkelling. 

    Our accommodation promotes 'casual luxury'. Cats and chickens keep us company (starting with the rooster at 5:45 this morning 😴😉.  Hammock, dipping pool, nice outside restaurant, great staff.  It's gonna be all right!  We think yet again...we're lucky people!
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  • Day52

    Save the best for last?

    March 4 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Remote, rugged, jaw-dropping. The Catlins lived up to their billing. No large towns hence...no tour buses.  We had to pick our stops...sights missed may well be picked up on our next trip, as Kirsten plans to stay put for awhile in this beautiful country.

    Papatowai...walk along another great beach then through a natural forest.  Must stop for our long black now.  Then Purakaunui falls ...more serene than Niagara and also beautiful!  Picnic lunch in Owaka.. another cute town. 

    Now the topper! Hike to Nugget Point lighthouse...steep drop on all sides into the sea. 'Nuggets' of land just offshore. A sea-lion having lunch far below...not so far that we can't tell he's eating a baby fur seal 😯.  When you can't go to the 4-Square (Save-on at home). Quite amazing. And don't get too

    Back in Dunedin and a farewell dinner with Kirsten. A busy week starting her final year at uni. Add to that a weekend road trip to a concert in Nelson. Plenty to keep her going! Etrusco Italian restaurant... delicious pasta, cool heritage building, fine Otago chardonnay.... memorable final night.
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  • Day51

    The Southern Scenic Route

    March 3 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌙 13 °C

    'Not to be missed' said the guidebook, and we're glad we listened.  The road less traveled...more amazing scenery (I know...it's getting tedious), tiny towns, walk thru the Redcliff wetlands...man-made to re-establish lost habitat... heritage suspension bridge (not the first one we've seen and still cool), famous fish n chips in Riverton while looking out to the sea. 

    Made it to the southernmost point on New Zealand's mainland (save Stewart Island for next trip?). Walk thru a farmer's sheep pasture (certainly seen enough of these guys this trip!). Howling wind, no fences on these cliffs!

    Stay nite at Tokanui. Tiny but welcoming with great views of the Catlin hills at our Airbnb. 
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  • Day50

    Milford Sound

    March 2 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    Fabulous tour through Fiordland National park... glacier-carved fiords, natural forests  (New Zealand doesn't have many of these since early settlers cut down most trees to make room for ranching), lakes, rivers, waterfalls...has it all!  

    End point is Milford Sound...stunning. This place gets 200 days of rain a year...and we missed them all. An absolutely gorgeous day...our luck is hanging in! Boat ride shows Mitre Peak, cascading waterfalls (captain had fun getting close enough to drench those who didn't heed his warning), seals, sheltered inlets, wild window to Tasman Sea.

    A tourist destination means rubbing shoulders sometime but also some quiet spots...like 'morning tea' watching climbers on the nearby mountain. River walks, and detours into the bush.

    A nice lady offered to take our picture on the boat, and I thought, 'I know this woman'....."Are you Nancy Stern?".  Sure enough...a squash buddy from the ol' days.  Used to crash at her place in Nanaimo during tournaments. Small world!
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  • Day49

    Even more relaxing...

    March 1 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌙 12 °C

    If you can have a relaxing day even on holidays this was it. A nice drive through more great scenery in the Otago region.  Easy driving. Through some really small towns.  But they all had public toilets... absolutely every town here does...and a cafe.  Kingston... working on a heritage refurbished train. Mossburn has more souvenir sheep in their general convenience store than anywhere.

    Short hike to a waterfall on Shirttail track. Sign said it got steep afterwards.  Well...steep is relative we find out. All uphill from the get-go. And when the signs said 'dangerous'...we didn't have to be told twice.  But only got a waterfall 'glimpse'. No fair 🤨.  Oh well ..nice flat white and yummy carrot cake snack as a consolation.

    Te Anau is our stop today. Gateway to Fiordland National park and Milford Sound. Really nice town.  Low rise accommodation across the road from the lake so foreshore fully accessible. Seems less touristy than recent towns tho the tours from here are world renowned. Maybe a bit more remote and without the extra adventure stuff?
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  • Day48

    Is that another gold mining town...?

    February 28 in New Zealand

    Cute little town started 1860-odd with the gold Rush.  After the gold dwindled out, bit of a lull (ok..big lull)...before farming and now tourism took over. Repeat...and repeat again...for most towns we've visited in the south Island. In fact...in Aussie too.

    Queenstown, Wanaka, Arrowtown ...stunning settings, growing like mad.  Scenery continues!!  Ski resorts, adventure tourism...young people...party, tramping. Anything and everything outdoors that might fit your fancy!

    We saw Marlon Williams last night in Queenstown. Christmas gift from Kirsten...cool gift eh? Up and coming Kiwi indie folk singer-songwriter. Great concert! Listen here...  https://youtu.be/zchdH3zAYAE. He's opening in Dunedin for the Eagles tour...we're just missing that one!

    100th New Zealand Open Golf championship in Arrowtown today. A different way to 'tramp' here. We followed two US open winners for the front nine. Amazing golf course in the now usual 'killer south New Zealand setting'.

    Have you tried a fergburger? International social-media-renowned burger in Queenstown. We didn't have the patience for the queue but many say it's worth the wait. Guess we'll have to 'wait' until next trip to find out.
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