Sunday, 28 August 2011

Addendum Part 4

Volume Two of the RTW book collection has just been published.  It is entitled "I'm in The Garden" with Ann as the Author. It covers the gardens, large and small, botanic and private, that we visited whilst on our RTW in 80 days tour. It can be previewed HERE Hope you enjoy it as much as Volume One

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Addendum Part 3

Well, the Photo Album is now live and on the web.
It has 690 photographs in all.
There are 134 pages, of which about 30 pages can be previewed at the Blurb website HERE
I have kept text to a minimum, but have given the link to this blog.  By using dates for the photos rather than page numbers, you can link the photos to blog postings.
I hope you enjoy looking at it and maybe follow the link to purchase a copy.
Bye for now,

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Addendum Part 2 --- Watch this space.

Just to keep you all up to date.
I am currently up to page 32 of a "Blurb" photo album and that has only got me as far as Perth!
When it is finished it will be viewable on the web and I will "post" the link...........HERE.
Once that is done I will be able to take it around the galleries to see if I can get an exhibition of the better photographs.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Addendum Part 1

Some blogfollowers have approached me with regards to purchasing some of the photos. As explained early on they are all my copyright. When I return to Menorca I will be following up the offer of an exhibition in one of the leading galleries where some of the best photos will be on sale, printed and framed professionally. As yet this price is not settled...... It depends on how much cut the gallery wants.

The photos as published on Flicker were reduced in quality to ensure fast upload speeds, yet retaining a viewable image. These averaged out at about 150 KB. The originals taken on the 18Mega Pixel 7D Canon Camera are between 6000 and 8000KB. This means that a Flickr quality photo will only print decently to about postcard size, whereas a full resolution print could fill a wall in your room if you wanted it to. 

If you are interested in having one or two photos sent to you, full resolution, to have printed yourself and framed yourself, then send us an email to with "RTW Photos" as the subject line and we will come to some agreement.

If you are a holiday company looking to update your brochures, then I would be really pleased to hear from you !!!

Kind regards,
Richard A Yarrow.

New York Day 4 to Manchester -- March 23rd and 24th

We had more or less packed to leave the hotel the night before, but when we looked out of the window this morning we had rain, sleet and snow on the agenda for the day. We had to check out by 11:30 and had to be at the airport by about 4:30, so had a few hours to use up. We set off downtown to see if we could find the Levi shop we had noticed a few days earlier and with a pair of genuine 501s in my bag we still had a few hours left to spare. Catching the subway at Canal Street we headed up town aiming for the top end of Central Park … 110th street subway Lexington…. From where we walked through Harlem to Frawley Circle where there is a statue of Duke Ellington and his piano. It was raining fairly heavy, but we still walked on down through the park passing the three nymphs dancing (in the rain) statue. I did not hang around long enough for further details, but had to try to get a shot of the rain dripping off their noses (and other parts). We had planned to see the Museum of the City of New York , on 5th Avenue, which in part concentrated on the musical history of this end of town… Harlem etc. The other part of the museum focussed on the development of the city from the early days down on the harbour to today and of course the effects of 911 on current developments. A good place to use up time productively and it was not raining inside. Back to the hotel (to collect suitcases) we passed a sign on the end of Manhattan bridge telling drivers that it was wet…. As if they did not know already! We got to the airport in plenty of time to ask for a starboard window seat so that we could complete our POSH (Port out, starboard home) RTW trip. The only delay on the whole trip we had here at Newark where it had snowed and the pilot had asked for the de-icing to be done. Not satisfied with their first efforts, we had it done again, which made us an hour and a half late taking off. We missed our connection at Heathrow T5 by one minute, 8:55am, and had to wait to 11:15 for the next flight to Manchester. We are now about to attack our grandson’s bedroom in Corin and Jen’s new home. New skirting, sockets, sanding floorboards and painting architraves, before we return to the sunny isle on Tuesday. Job done…. 'RTW in 80 days.
A few photos here. It was rainng so hard I only took the little camera.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

New York Day 3 – March 22nd

Today was a much brighter day, so we were determined to go on one of the tour buses to get an overview of the city and to find out about some of the buildings we couldn’t recognise. We took a subway ride to near the start of the tour and were promptly pounced on by ticket sellers, got on our bus and away we went. We keep being told spring has arrived in New York, but we are not convinced. Today there was a freezing cold wind blowing on the open top of the bus, but it was dry at least. Tomorrow 2-8 inches of snow is predicted….some spring!
It was great to have the history of the city explained and the background to some of the architecture. The details you got depended on your guide, very music based on the way back, very film star based for the ride to the ferry terminal, and women and African history based for the rest of the first ride.
We had found out that very few boat tours run before April and were warned that the few that do are very oversubscribed. Rather than wait in long queues we decided to take the Staten Island Ferry  which gives you good views around the harbour, and we could see a different part of New York too. (and its free)
There is a really nice small museum on Staten Island, that we enjoyed a lot. It gives lots of details about the ferry service history but is also full of interesting Natural History about the area. There was a little Art gallery on the top floor, full of collages by the same artist, a bit odd after the Guggenheim and MoMA but interesting.
Tonight we will be packing and sorting our stuff before leaving tomorrow. Photos here.

Monday, 21 March 2011

New York Day 2 -- March 21st

Last night at about 11pm, as we were finishing the blog, we were surprised by lots of sirens outside our hotel and lots of fire engines surrounding it, when we looked out. Knowing how disaster has been creeping closer and closer, Rich dashed out to investigate, but it seems it was a false alarm since they were all packing up and getting ready to leave when he arrived. Phew!!
Our mission today was to go to The Museum for Modern Art  and hopefully a tour round the harbour to see the Statue of Liberty. However it has been a really wet foggy day, with even a flurry of snow, and we decided to postpone the boat cruise till we’ll able to see the sights. There was a huge long queue outside MoMA when we arrived, just after opening time, so we visited their design store across the road. We could have done all our Christmas shopping there except for the problem of flying it home! We got Harper a little something for his new bedroom.
The MoMA was a very different experience to the Guggenheim. It is a much bigger place and has a wide variety of exhibitions, and there were thousands of people there. It felt cramped and crowded and it was often difficult to really see what you wanted to. We went to the photography section, the architecture and design section and a special kitchen design exhibition. Then we looked at some of the modern art sections from their collection, until we got completely exhausted.
We had decided to get off the tube and explore some of the city at street level, and saw some surprising things. We were walking towards Washington Square, in Greenwich Village, when we came upon a load of filming going on. Rich had spotted some old cars in a line, and then we saw some extras being put through their paces in front of an old shop front. We had seen Richard E Grant earlier in MoMA, so will be on the lookout for his next film, as no doubt he was there for the filming.
Then we came upon a man covered in pigeons…literally! He obviously feeds the birds in Washington square regularly. Photos here.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

New York Day 1 – March 20th

NY Videos here and here. 

We’ve had a really exciting but exhausting day today. We firstly moved hotels then set out for the Guggenheim . The metro proved difficult to master as there were lots of repairs going on, it being Sunday, and lots of stations closed and diversions! We got to the museum eventually after an hour underground, and were surprised by how small it seems outside, especially compared with the high rises around it. Once inside we were completely bowled over by it as a space, or series of spaces and as an exhibition experience. Once again, the architect, Frank Lloyd Wright didn’t live to see it completed.
‘The Great Upheaval’ exhibition brought together many of the modern paintings from the collection, leading up to WW1 and showing the development of several of the movements towards abstract art. I was pleased to see some early Mondrian paintings showing how he developed towards the coloured lines and squares that were all know him for. You could also see just how closely artists worked, developing ideas together alongside one another at a particular moment in time.
We went from there into Central park for a walk in the bright sunshine and it is strange here to see daffodils and winter jasmine just coming out and snowdrops almost over, whereas in San Francisco, the daffs were all but over. It really shows the change in season. It is very cold here at night and in the morning too, but people were lying basking in the winter sun in the park in the afternoon. There was also a photo shoot going on of a group, so I took a shot of the photographer.
Losing 4 hours caught up with us at about 4 and we had to come back to the hotel for a rest, but we picked up again later, and, as we are on the edge of Chinatown, we went out for a truly authentic Chinese meal, complete with fortune cookies.  Photos here. 

Saturday, 19 March 2011

An aside (New York 19th March)

It has been very strange in America, especially from Santa Barbara on, how much Spanish we've encountered, from the obvious place names, like Los Angeles etc to streets called Los Gatos boulevard. In Fiji and in Oxnard too our cleaners were all Spanish speakers and we had conversations with them in Spanish. It  seems to be South Americans and Mexicans who are doing a lot of the menial jobs. We have asked directions in several places and found it easier to speak Spanish, to be understood, than English. On the airplane all written instructions were bi-lingual and in supermarkets and restaurants too. Perhaps it is just our ignorance that led it to being a surprise. Here in Queens, New York, we went out to eat and there were several South American/ Cuban places as well as Pizza and Fried Chicken. We chose one where there were chairs and tables, the menu was all in Spanish and nearly everything they didn't have, but we did end up with Calamare and Rice and Chicken, and Rice and Pork! Tomorrow we go to Manhattan to start NY proper and Best Western should be better than Queens. No Photos today as we lost a few hours and spent the rest on a 'plane.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Monterey to San Fransisco - March 17th and 18th

SF Video

Again the main impression from the Scenic Coast road has been of the amazing power and size of the sea in these parts. We have also passed through some lovely little towns and seen some really elegant deco architecture. We finished our road homage actually in San Francisco where the road goes right alongside all the wharves and through the city. We then followed another scenic route driving around some of the highlights of the city. This will explain why lots of photos are taken from the car, because it was often impossible to park. We were able to explore a few on foot, notably the Palace of the Arts and the Fisherman’s wharf area.
The next day we awoke to torrential rain, as forecast, so again you will see photos taken from the tour bus, and lots of rainy shots! Still we enjoyed ourselves, and drove over all three bridges, because the visibility was so bad, we got lost driving in to the city. We went on a ferry around the bay and also a cable/tram car, and by then the rain had stopped briefly so we could explore a bit on foot. We had the traditional clam chowder in a Boudin sourdough loaf, which was great and went on their factory/historical tour. It’s a great city, with some huge parks and some very steep hills, lots of bridges and all the fun of the fair along the wharves.  Photos here.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Santa Barbara to Monteray (Just!) March 15th &16th

The next part of our journey is characterised by some spectacular scenery, mountains and trees, and wild huge seas and the wildlife that lives within the ‘Big Sur’. We have seen some amazing things driving along route 1, that here stays close to the sea and is often under repair, due to damage from rain and sea erosion, or rock falls. We have just heard on the news that part of the road we drove today, has fallen away this afternoon!! And is now closed to traffic…. Just made it!! By a couple of hours.  Utube video here   It has some incredible bridges and they build out across bays to produce a safer roadway sometimes. Goodness knows how they will repair this part that is now closed indefinately.

Santa Barbara is a lovely town, partly sheltered by a peninsular, so the only effect of the tsunami here was that sand was moved so much they had to re-dredge the entry channel. The harbour was untouched and contained a great selection of boats, some beautiful, some bizarre. There is also an historic mission there, which was very interesting with adobe walls, pantiles and lots of timber. Inside the walls were wash painted, sometimes very elaborately and sometimes very abstractly. The sculpture, old and new, was fantastic and we enjoyed the historical scenes.
Along the way there are great lodges, some with very good views and good cafes and shops for travellers. Some with free internet. We spoke with Iona from one of them as we had lunch. We saw a hummingbird in another. Along the way we have also seen pelicans, condors, and herons but they are all very hard to photograph in flight of course. Easier to catch were the elephant seals that were breeding along parts of the coast. Despite promises we did not see any whales today.  Maybe tomorrow.
Our favourite photos were from the McWay waterfall, where a stream falls directly onto the beach, unique in the world. Hope you like them too. Photos

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Los Angeles and the Scenic coast road March 13th &14th

Getty, Getty.... So good we did it twice.......... 
So tired of flying, up on the road again.....  we're on the road againnnn......

We were amazed at the level of security before we boarded our plane to America. We had expected a very laid back routine, judging from the rest of our visit there, but Fiji came into it’s own in the airport. We had our suitcases scanned, our hand luggage and our bodies hand searched, including having to turn on phones and laptop to prove they were what we said, and then we were isolated until we took off. If you needed the loo, you had to be re searched afterwards!!!
Our Quantas flight was actually run by Air Pacific, who are not the same quality at all, but the flight was OK. Of course it’s difficult to sleep but we were sufficiently refreshed to get the hire car and set off down the Scenic highway, (More about that tomorrow) aiming for the most fantastic time share apartment in Oznard, complete with private hot tub.
We stopped off at the Getty Centre on our way and were quite blown away by the building and the garden, even without the fantastic exhibitions. Photos for Centre here .
We saw the Getty Villa in Malibu the next day, having decided we liked the accommodation so much we’d stay here an extra night. The Villa was built first, based on a Roman villa, buried with Pompey in the Vesuvius eruption. Getty loved to collect a variety of Art, but he loved Roman antiquities most and wanted to build the Villa to house them, once the collection outgrew his home, on the same site, but further up the hill. The collection then outgrew that space and the Getty Centre was built and the Roman collection stayed at the Villa, which was remodelled, and the rest went to the Centre. John Paul Getty never even lived to see the completion of the Villa, poor thing, and would have hated the modernity of the Centre, but left sufficient money for his trustees to be able to continue to enable the public to see his Art collection, as he had wished, and to continue to expand it. Web link here Photos for Villa here.
We really enjoyed both buildings for their different qualities and both also had gardens and collections that matched up to their high standards. Lots of culture, then back to the hot tub for a soak and Jacuzzi massage before going out to dinner. Not bad, eh, and a great introduction to America.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Ooops forgot to post..... Auckland Day 2. March 7th.

A day of two halves.
This morning we travelled to Ayrlies Garden at Witford on the outskirts of Auckland. The best garden in New Zealand according to the RHS booklet and included in Monty Don’s ‘Round the world in 80 gardens’.
It was a beautiful morning and we found the garden without too much problem, but only one small sign pointing out the way, when you are almost there. We had had to make an appointment to visit, and there were a maximum of 6 people there. We actually saw one other couple and were lucky enough to meet up with and have a good chat with the garden’s creator. Compare that to the experience of visiting a garden of that prestige in England, say Sissinghurst, with the millions that pass through there and all the hype and huge signs from miles around. You have to wonder who has got it right?
We really had a fabulous time, were able to sit on some of the seats and simply relax and enjoy the atmosphere. We discovered our second ‘Sitooterie’ there, having always imagined that John, in France, had made up the word, to be like the Boulangerie or Patisserie. Some of the seats were completely covered in litchen, showing that our sunny day was not the norm! Most were surrounded by scented flowers and had wonderful views in one direction or another. The site covers 25 acres and was started from scratch by Bev and her husband in 1964. They have photos of the development in the first little ‘gallery’ and it is amazing to see the site at various stages and them up to their ears in muck and boulders as they were constructing the various areas. Like most of us they worked area by area, extending slowly through the years. Now Bev has a team including herself, her children and 5 gardeners to maintain it. There is a lot of water throughout, a stream having been used to create several lakes and waterfalls and a natural wetland area at the edge of the garden. There are groups of huge, wonderful trees around the site, creating shelter and shaping various vistas. Nothing like the lines of uniform brutal conifers used as a ‘hedge’ around fields and houses elsewhere.
The planting is a joy to behold, with lots of emphasis on the textures created by different colours and leaf shapes, and growth patterns, and several different growing conditions, rockery, waterside bogs, shady and sunny borders, and sculpture at key points. Many plants are very ordinary varieties and things we all cultivate, in Menorca or England, though there were some rarer things, or unusual colours, a very pale Verbena bonariensis for example or several shades of nerine. There were huge drifts of these under trees in one place, clivias in another. The scrambling roses and clematis, used to clothe structures and trees were gorgeous, but above all it was how things were combined, the storeys of plants and the ‘rooms’, all different but leading seamlessly one to the other, that most impressed me.
Bev was very modest about her achievement and , when we mentioned we had been to Paloma gardens, said ‘Oh but he’s a real plantsman.’ Perhaps so, but she is a real gardener and a superb garden designer.

In the afternoon, after eventually getting the hotel Internet access to work and posting the last blog, we set off to see some of the city. At the second set of lights we follow the sign for “Art Gallery” and that was as close to an Art Gallery we could get. There were no more signs and nothing on our map.  So we eventually got down to the harbour area and did some window-shopping. There are lots of old buildings set between new high-rise offices and the sky tower reappears at every turn. Some of the boats would be at home in Mahon if they could afford the fees. The “Britomart” transport centre is a clever mix of an old building with new technology train station, while still coping with buses. The reason for us being here was to catch the 6.12pm to Panmure where we were meeting up with Matt and Narelle Stone (ex Ellesmere College). We had a good catching up session, had a great meal which Narelle had prepared, and downed several beers and bottles of wine. We were amazed at how well these guys had kept up with past colleagues. Sandy McKinnon and Cameron Moir are of course just across the Tasman sea in Australia. So they see them more regularly than others, but they go back to the UK every now and then and make a point of dropping in to Ellesmere. Those blog followers who have borrowed our book “The Unlikely Voyage of Jack de Crow” will be delighted to know that Sandy has written another, entitled “The Well at the World’s End” and I have a photo of the back cover so that you can order it on Amazon. As the night drew to an end, Matt ordered us a taxi and we went back to the hotel to pack ready to go to Fiji in the morning. The sky tower even looks good at night.
Photos here.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Fiji Day 3 and 4 March 12th and 13th.

We awoke this morning to be told about the Japanese earthquake and how, unbeknown to us, we had been on tsunami alert all night. Our neighbours and I had heard some louder than usual crashing waves early in the morning, but apart from that we have not been affected.
We are here on the Coral Coast of Fiji.  This means that we have sand and sea at our doorstep, but also a coral reef about half a kilometre out to sea, where all the breaking waves happen. Inside that, there is a shallow coral lagoon which is still tidal and can be swum in easily only at about an hour either side of high tide. During the day, women stand in the water, up to their armpits at times, fishing for all sorts of marine life. At low tide some coral is exposed and the women leave, after several hours, carrying a polythene bag of their catch.  This is often sold later from roadside stalls to passers by. The sunset on the 11th was spectacular and I was fortunate in being able to catch one of the women walking out of the lagoon with her catch at the same time as the sun was setting.  Sunset photos here .
The next day we decided to travel east along the coast as far as Pacific Harbour and once there have lunch. It was an interesting drive, with occasional rain, but generally lots of small villages with 20kph speed bumps and the odd radar speed trap. They are good here at flashing their lights to warn of Police cars and we avoided two traps. The overall speed limit is just 80kph and most of the time that is appropriate as the road quality is generally rubbish.
As you will remember we visited the “pottery” village with Ros and Mac a couple of days back and now we found a “broom” village on our way to PH. All along the road, outside nearly every house there were at least a couple of besoms (witches broom sticks) for sale. In all, the village probably had about 100 for sale. PH itself was a disappointment as most of the shops sold imported tat, but lunch was fine and a nice change from our resort. On our way back we spotted this really old house with woven walls and thatched roof. No windows or doors, just curtains and about 3m square, but fully equipped with outboard motor and outside loo of course. When we got back Ann went paddling in the low tide and found all sorts of sea cucumbers, starfish and beautiful little stripy fish. It was difficult to take good photos though as a breeze had arrived and agitated the water.
Today was our last day at Tambua Sands and after breakfast we cleared the room and packed the car ready for the drive to the airport. The flight is at 10pm and it is now 10am…. So we decided to a) write up the blog and b) sunbathe by the pool. We also managed to get a short time with Ann kayaking so that we had photographic evidence. This morning several horses decided to walk along the beach from one village to the other.  Not a sight seen everyday. We left TS at 12.30 and started the drive to the airport, deciding to lunch on the way. We found a very run down dive school at Momi which served a very poor toasted sandwich, but it filled a gap and as the heavens opened we set off for Nadi. Arriving 6 hours ahead of our flight and with it chucking it down we drove around a bit, took some photos of the Indian temple and went in search of the “Sleeping Giant” garden, which we eventually found down a very bad road and it was closed Sunday afternoon. Still raining hard, so it would have been difficult to view anyway, we gave up and made our way to the airport and finished writing up this blog. Photos here.  ………
Fiji Day 1 and 2 -- March 10th and 11th

We arrive in Fiji at 4.30ish  and soon get our car sorted and set off south to the Coral Coast to find Tambua Sands. Ros and Mac are already there and awaiting our arrival before starting supper. Ros has twisted her ankle and needs crutches to get about, but is already on the mend. The resort is right on the beach and nothing between our “Bure” ( to rhyme with Hurray)  and the sea other than a bit of grass and crunched coral sands. You do need shoes to get to the water’s edge as the coral is often sharp. After a few beers we sat down to supper and a good chinwag about the various places we had each visited on our independent tours of NZ. We had all caught up with Matt and Narelle a few days before as we had prepared to fly from Auckland. There were very few of us in the resort but the management organised a Kava ceremony for us to be educated in the Fiji way of life. Kava is nothing like Cava! It is a root based drink made up with water and looks like thin mud. Tastes a bit like thin mud…… but has all sorts of powers that include making you sleep, making you fall down and making you have crossed eyes. We sat round in a circle and had bowls of the stuff delivered to us in varying amounts. “low tide” (half measure) for the ladies and “high tide” (full ) for the gents. Mac was designated “Chief” for the night, and had to take the first drink from the cup.  After each round we were told a story about the magical properties of this liquor and how the authorities had tried to ban it, without success, as it had such an effect on the population. Most of the men were asleep most of the time! Those that were awake could not see where they were going if they had both eyes open and as a “relaxing” drink, was relatively cheap. Another round of offerings and another round of stories…. And so it goes on, in every community all across Fiji all the time, if our teachers were to be believed. Eventually the main bowl was empty…. No problem…. Get the dregs and some more water and we will make more…. And they did. After two more rounds, Ann and another lady drop out of the ceremony and soon the bowl is dry. We each go our separate ways to “sleep so well we would not believe it possible”. We had a good storm and we all slept like babies……. Awake every couple of hours, in fact the worst night’s sleep I have had in ages. Were they having us on? Was it really thin mud?
The next morning the four of us went to the pottery village where they demonstrate how they hand make a variety of articles from bowls to frogs, from necklaces to turtles. The clay is locally dug, kneaded by foot, shaped by hand (no wheels here) and fired in an open fire. When the article comes out of the fire it is wiped over, while still hot, with the sap of the eucalyptus tree to give it a glaze. We all then have a song sung to us, have a little dance, and then have to view the items on display so they can sell us something. Which was nice!
We then went back into Sigatoka village for some retail therapy. Mac bought a loud Fijian shirt and Ros some post cards and earrings. We then went into the market and got seriously hassled by Indian traders, who gave us presents to entice us to buy other items. We all did. Which was not so nice!  At this point the heavens opened and a huge storm sent torrents pouring down the streets and we thought it about time to “get out of town”. On our way back to the resort one road was about a foot deep with water, but every one else drove through it. So with high revs and clutch slipping, to ensure slow progress, we got through with the water over the bonnet at times. Good rain storms here!
That night we said good bye to Ros and Mac as they boarded their transfer bus to the airport. Ros, now minus her crutches and contemplating wheelchair assistance at the airport. Photos here.
Also at the resort were a couple from Scotland who told us they came from The Shetlands. I announced that we had a nephew and his family living there now. I know its only a small place so I said “David Gray…. Something to do with Marine Biology up there”……. “He’s the boss” came the reply, “I know him well, as a councillor we meet up often”.  So Dai, if you wondered where Robert Henderson was recently, he’s down here in the southern hemisphere and about to go on to NZ.

Friday, 11 March 2011

12th March update

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible...........

Due to a mountain of obstacles put before us we are unable to load any photos or masses of text to the blog or flickr for the moment..... This is Fiji !!!
The Internet access at the hotel is down for customer use, due to a.) Machine at the repairers and b) WIFI not functioning because the IT specialist will call.... "Fiji time" which appears to be when he feels like it.
c) I have dropped the charger for the laptop onto the tiled floor and it no longer works. Fortunately I have a car charger somewhere in the suitcases for such occasions, but not yet found. d) Internet cafe has disabled USB ports so I cannot bring stuff in to here to download.
Type directly into Blogspot when visiting Internet cafes.
Wait until the USA to do a serious blog update.... That will be Monday (jetlagged) or Tuesday.
Buy another charger in LA (sunday) or SF when we get there.  We have a car for that stage, so can car charge. Must get sorted by NY as no car there.

Apart from some heavy waves during the night, we seem to have escaped the tsuname that is reported as hitting the pacific islands.  We have no TV, internet or Phones out, but can get texts in and out on both the UK and spanish phones.
Bye for now............. wait for it, there is some good stuff on the way.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Kiwi House and Heritage Museum -- March 7th

We set off this morning under blue skies (for a change) for Auckland, stopping at the Kiwi House and Heritage Museum just outside Whangarei on the SH14 at Maunu. Web site here Here there is a chance of seeing a live Kiwi in his darkened room.  However as the hidden cameras showed he was hiding in one of his burrows and did not want to come out to be seen. Still we saw a stuffed one and was surprised that they were so large, as all the ones we have seen in pictures have been about the size of bag of sugar and this one was rugby ball size. I wonder if that is why the all blacks are so good at rugby? What is also amazing at this museum is that they have a collection of buildings, some moved there on lorries (the chapel and school house) and one Homestead which stands on its original site.  As you can see from the photos it is all as it was left only a few years ago when the owner left it - as is - to the museum.  The wallpaper is amazing as well as the bedroom of the old Mr Clark.  There is also a museum section devoted to the native Kauri trees, which were huge when the settlers arrived. Very few that size survive now. One trunk is left rotting in the grounds and is only about 6 foot diameter. The one being felled by the bushmen is about 10 to 12 foot diameter and all done with hand tools as can be seen. Ann stands by a large Pine in the garden which was huge by today’s standards and probably planted by the original Mr Clark….. who, by the way, paid a local carpenter 720 GBP for him to build this house. The views from the front lawn without most of Whangarie in place would have been stunning. Photos here.
We then drove on to Auckland where we met up with Todd’s (Perth) Auntie Barbara for a coffee. The next few days are likely to be a bit hectic with our final garden visit, meeting Ellesmere College colleagues, Matt and Narelle, packing and repacking suitcases and dropping off the car ready to catch the plane to Fiji. It may be a day or two before the next posting, and if our beach hut in Fiji has no internet access it may have to wait until the USA 13th/14th March. 

Day trip to Reinga -- March 6th

Today I set off early to the top most part of the North Island and Ann walked into Whangarei to take in some culture. She managed to find a glass gallery, a clock museum and an art gallery. In total a walk of 8km as buses don’t run on Sundays. Those who have been taking note of past postings will have noticed that her twisted ankle is obviously now much better. I managed to clock up about 550 Km round trip, stating at 7.20ish. Breakfast was at Kaitaia at about 9.30 where I found this rugby sculpture, the “Dalmatian Club” and this tiled little house. On the way up I stuck to the SH1 and even that deteriorated to gravel at times as they try to “improve” it.  Some of the views are really stunning as you get near the Cape Reinga.  The vegetation gets smaller and sand appears as the winds and salt tend to prune everything that put its head up too high. I had to move over at one point to allow the mother of all campervans to come through a narrow section….. now that is luxury.
The one memory I will always have of this place is the waves where the Tasman sea crashes into the Pacific. A line of turbulence stretches out north for at least a couple of miles where huge breaking waves from the Tasman (from the left) crash into huge breaking waves from the Pacific (from the right). I would not like to be in a boat caught in that lot. This is probably why there is a light house here. Apart from some loos, that is all there is here.  No cup of tea or cakes here!  Only lots of other people taking photos of this phenomenon. On the way back I took the SH10 option to avoid the gravel roadworks and was rewarded with some stunning scenery on the east coast. Cable Bay and Mangonui, were particularly pretty places and had good beaches. Where the SH1 and 10 rejoin there is a little railway museum, but sadly not operating this day.  I got back about 5 and we set off to have a look at the local attraction of Whangarei Falls. Being pretty dead beat by now there was only one thing to do….. fall into the hot tub for half an hour, and then eat. So that is why this posting is late. Photos here

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Visit to Russell March 5th

As mentioned last night........ rain, and lots of it, all night and most of today.... in fact still raining now at 10pm Saturday. I took a couple of shots from Estuary Cottage now that the tide was in and then set off for our next destination Whangarei. Once settled I fired up the laptop to check the signal strength as the landlord was not sure if the wifi stretched to this end of the complex. We had an email from Peter and he suggested that we would like Russell on the bay of islands.  So we set off up the SH1 and missed our turning and eventually had to take the ferry across a river to get to Russell.  This turned out a much quicker route and the ferry arrived at much the same time as we did so no waiting. Russell is a lovely little port. There were birthday cruises and a wedding going on..... as you do, on a summer's Saturday afternoon... except it was raining. On the way back we took the longer (no ferry) road, but saw a lot of the Bay of Islands.... which was nice!!! Not alot of photos as it was raining all the time........... but here they are.

Friday, 4 March 2011

The Coromandel Peninsular. March 4th

We knew from the outset that this would be a big day. A day to “Fill our eyes” as Juli would say. We started off by returning to the Whangamata beach and estuary where Ann had swam the night before. To take photos of this fantastic location. We then set off up the east coast on the SH25, taking photos of the superb vistas on the way. We had decided to look in on “The Waterworks”  as it had seemed a great place when I came across it on the internet. To get there we took the 309 road which cuts across the peninsular and saves several Kms. However it is yet again, a gravel road and progress was slow. There were many other fools on this road and the views were stunning, so it was worth it. We really enjoyed our time at the Waterworks and Ann managed to have another swim to add to her tally. The water related activities were really great for us big kids as well as the little ones that were there.  Every now and then you come across some whacky sculptures. The road from there back down the west coast of the peninsular was equally stunning and very twisty, so we were glad to get back on the 25 to Auckland. This was however Friday afternoon rush hour as we got there and I had forgotten all about three lane motorways doing 5kmph. To add to this dreary stretch of the journey it started to rain….. this is supposed to be summer!!! During the day we had passed many places where the road had been washed over with mud slides and I guess after today there will be more. When we arrived at Waiwera, I took this shot from our bedroom window just as the light was fading….. and then the rains came again. It is still raining heavily now at 10pm……… who knows what tomorrow will bring.
Photos here.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Wai-O-Tapu March 3rd.

Today it occurred to us that we have really been made aware of the power of the earth and how man thinks he has control, but is sorely mistaken. We have seen the results of earthquakes, cyclones, floods and fire, and yesterday and today we witnessed the incredible forces stored not too far below the earth’s surface. It seems quite amazing that all that heat, the stored energy and propulsive power is so close to the surface at times, but there all the time, below us wherever we are! Wow!
After visiting Wai-O-Tapu  for a couple of hours we returned to Rotorua and then on to Whangamata where we had supper and from where in the morning we start our big day touring the Coromandel.
I have added a couple of links into yesterday’s posting, so you may like to scroll down and follow them, for a more complete picture of Rotorua.
More muddy pictures here.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Roturua --- March 2nd

It has been a weird day, but great with it. We have explored all around Lake Roturua looking at all the very strange geothermal activity around here. There is lots of it around that isn’t a part of all the general tourist dollar gaining scam! Around the edge of the lake you can see gusts of steam escaping in the distance, and when you explore it is all laid out and signposted, with safe boardwalks and signposting. Another great site was where there is a whole park built around some of the warm water holes used by the Maori throughout history. Again you see the steam and there are lots of mud geysers and bubbling hot water pools. Once again it is all laid out and signposted, with safe board walks and signposting. The I-site told us about this one, but it isn’t advertised anywhere as no-one makes any money from it. We came across this “old” building… The Bath House Museum  … only now being finished off after decades of not having enough money to realise the architect's original design. The second wing being built to match perfectly the first and central portion finished over a century ago. (1908)
The afternoon we spent luxuriating in some of the hot mineral pools at the Polynesian Spa .  I also had a great mud massage…different but fab! This did cost a bit but well worth it. It was a rainy afternoon but when you are already wet, hey ho, who cares.  Tomorrow on our way (actually not on our way) to Whangamata, we visit Wai-O-Tapu  for some more geothermal excitement. Be sure to follow the blog, if you like mud pools.
Photos here.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Lake Taupo and Craters of the Moon - March 1st

We stayed at a sweet little cottage before setting out towards Lake Taupo.  Bird Cottage had everything you could possibly need, shame to only be there one night, but that’s the nature of touring!
The lake itself is quite amazing, so big it seems to be a sea and with lots and lots of ‘beaches’ along its shore, lots of camping and little sea side cottages, so small they were more like bathing huts at times. I was a bit incapacitated with my twisted ankle, although much better than yesterday, so we did lots of car touring today. On one end of the lake are the Huka Falls, which are not the best falls we’ve ever seen, but truly impressive for the amount, and power of the water rushing through a narrow chasm carved by the water. No fish can migrate up it, and you would be a fool to try to navigate it, though some have tried! The blueness of the water is surprising too.
Between the lake and Rotorura we began to see some signs of geothermal activity, stopping at ‘The Craters of the Moon’ to investigate our first fumaroles and mud holes. The yellows and greens, the strange shapes, all quite bizarre. 
Photos here.

Pukekura Park - New Plymouth, Feb 28th

Had a great day looking at Pukekura Park, walking the paths, and enjoying the beautiful day in the sun along with lots of the inhabitants of New Plymouth. It is incredible that so many cities have the foresight to provide such fabulous green spaces right in their heart. It is a great place with lots of wild space, lots of water, ponds and waterfalls, some formal lawn areas and some display greenhouses, literally full to the rafters with lovely specimen plants, not unique, or even really unusual, but so well grown and arranged. Also there are some really special big old trees within the ‘wild’ area, a Ginko Bilbao and some huge old native trees, up to 2000 years old. I was so busy looking up at the trunks and branches I tripped and sprained my ankle! What a pain. Not as bad as last time and the other foot, but horribly painful, so the rest of the day with it strapped up, and up to rest!  Tomorrow is another day…
Photos here.

Paloma Gardens to New Plymouth Feb 27th

Today was a real “Yarrows” day and a real treat for Rich. We had gone to Whanganui because of the Yarrow’s shipyard built paddle steamer “The Waimarie” and we had a great trip down memory lane on our trip up the river. Rich got to steer the boat, and to shovel coal into the boiler…so exciting! When he asked the Captain if it was NZ coal… he replied “Yes and its crap!” It was a nice restful trip in the sun for me and we saw some lovely houses on the banks and other people out enjoying their Sunday leisure time on the river.
Whanganui is a lovely little town, with lots of Art Deco buildings and a thriving glass school. The suitcase is for you, Jen. There happened to be a Morris rally on the river bank too. In Manaia we found the Yarrows Bakery which is renown in the area for its croissants, among other things. Then we could see Mount Taranaki, the dormant/active volcano, in the distance as we drove on our way to New Plymouth. We have since found out that it erupted roughly every 90 years for ages.  The last eruption was in the 1850s, so it is well overdue.  Beware, New Plymouth,.... the UK Yarrows are in town!
Photos here.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Paloma Gardens Feb 26th – 27th

Paloma Gardens     This was a fabulous experience and to think I wasn’t originally very keen to come. We stayed in what Rich had been calling ‘The Red Shed’, but which was in fact a beautiful little chalet set in the garden itself, with its own entrance and terrace with enough room for 2 chairs for sundowners. The 4 poster bed was another lovely surprise!
We spent the evening walking around the main garden area and the swimming pool, surrounded by plants but with just a few lilies one end. Clive is a real plantsman and has collections of plants from all over the world. The bamboo is amazing, such thickets of huge plants with paths running through them, and sculptures swimming overhead. He also has lots of agave and cactus, palms huge lobelia and some unusual lilies and all set around lawns and scambling paths up hill and down dale, making a really amazing garden, rather than a catalogue. He is very knowledgeable and loves to talk about the plants and where they come from and the conditions they need, but he also has a great sense of humour which is displayed in quotes and quirky objects and a real love of sculpture, large and small, which again become part of the garden.
It really is a must see if you are ever in New Zealand and have an interest in gardens. What you see here is only a tiny part of it. Clive and Nicky are now expanding across several old sheep pastures converting them into an Arboretum with a sculpture park and maze. Also Clive is in the process of creating a G.O.D (Garden of death) and already has several skulls and other bones in place as sculptures.
We had coffee with them in the morning before we set off and he was thrilled to hear there is someone else in NZ who is a bamboo enthusiast, Pete, and you are invited to visit!
Photos here.
We move on today (Monday 28th) from New Plymouth to a Farm Stay near Lake Taupo.  I doubt there will be any Internet access there as we will be in another "chalet in a field" type of accommodation. We have much posting to catch up on but will do so from Rotorua if and when we get the chance.

Napier to Whanganui Feb 26th

What a long day! Pete and Nadine took us out of Napier to get us on the right road and we said our goodbyes and thankyous and started on our way. It was a very good, if winding road, up via Taihape, up over the Ruahine range of mountains to see the fantastic scenery. We did get a few bits of gravel road, but not much. Back on the main road we came across a military museum in the middle of nowhere advertising their VERY CLEAN TOILETS AND BRILLIANT CAFÉ, in large letters so we stopped for tea and scones and a very quick look round.
There were 2 possible roads for the final stage of our journey, and guess which Rich chose, the winding gravel track, along the Whanganui river road from Raetihi via Jerusalem, London and Athens, would you believe. All these also have Maori names. Following the river gorge was spectacular, if scary, especially when we wanted to pull over for a photo and something came the other way. We were surprised just how many other idiots were doing the same route and all commenting on the amazing views.
I was surprised to see the swathes of verbena bonariensis growing wild all along the roadside. We decided to go on to find our B&B in Paloma Gardens before we did anything else and what a reward we got. We had supper sitting in the sun surveying the most amazing garden outside the little red house/shed which was our home for the night. See tomorrow for the next instalment……!
Photos here.

Paraparaumu to Napier Feb 24th & 25th

It has been really great to be able to spend some family time this trip, catching up with Pete, Nadine and Ruben. Firstly to see them at home and have a place where we can always picture them, and to see their beach and their pets and the place where Pete works and to meet some of their friends. We had a lazy day there catching up with the washing, re-sorting the suitcases halfway round the world, and, most important, chatting. They had invited friends round to join us for a party in the late afternoon, evening, so we got food ready, then had a nice sociable time.
The next day we were setting off with them to a cottage they had booked us in Napier, on the beach by Hawkes bay. As we travelled they showed us some of the sights, like the heritage village of Onga Onga, and we passed a huge all girl cycle race, which was a surprise. The cottage was great but the weather vile, so, as Joy had sent some money for us to go out for a nice meal, we did and we really enjoyed it. Thanks a lot for being so thoughtful and generous Joy.
The next day we had a great time being shown round the sights of Napier, the Art Deco town. It had to include a few of the town’s gardens, including a very impressive man made waterfall. The buildings are incredible and it makes it even more interesting to know the history and reason why it came about. Perhaps Christchurch could adopt a new post earthquake style. It continues to upset us to see how badly affected it is. We heard from the lovely old couple we stayed with there and they are lucky to be alive. Neither was at home when it happened but their house and the street it is on has been destroyed. The brewery has also been wiped out but they are all well and living in the B& B next door, where we were, which is OK, though they still have no power or water.
We also explored the wineries around and bought some great wine and port, then saw the surrounding countryside. There was a fabulous viewpoint at Te Mata from which you could see the most beautiful scenery for miles all around you. It was popular with paragliders too, being so high in the midst of a wide plain. As you can see the weather was great and we had a lovely barbeque sitting round the fire pit on the beach, with Ruben loving trying out his Ray Mears fire starting techniques! He has really grown up a lot and can explain everything you need to know about various fishing techniques. I learnt a whole new vocabulary!
Photos here.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

NZ Numberplates

What is it about NZ  Number plates?
Today in Napier there were hundreds of "personal" number plates. Some of which I managed to photograph.  Others over the past few days have included.....
GO SWIM           CUPOFT         TAXGUY          MADGE         IM POSH      COKE 1 (Cola Lorry)
BITCH       MY CAR      OUR BMW     4 MR D   IMHAPY

All the numberplate photos were shot today.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Feb 22nd report other than Earthquake.

We got off early from Blenheim and arrived at Picton by 9.45 for a 12.10 checkin time for a 1.10 ferry. Obviously we had time to spare, but our look around Picton was not on as it was seriously wet. The options were either the Aquarium or a scenic drive around the Queen Charlotte Sound. (the other side to last night) With that much time on our hands we chose the scenic drive. We managed to take a few shots of the earlier ferry and some secret bay scenes as well as a river of tree ferns tumbling down the hillside. After about half an hour or so the road turned to gravel and we considered turning round, but no, we had plenty of time and surely by now we were in a position where it would be closer to go on than turn back. After another hour or so we were still on gravel (rally style driving by now) up hill and down dale, across bays and up into the hills again. Panic started to set in….. it was way past the point of turning back and we had no idea where we were as we had not come across any of the towns marked on our rather pathetic map. We had just an hour to travel on… to goodness knows where…. before we could find the Picton to Blenheim road again.  At last we found a village and it was the first of five that we should have passed through. We had 25 minutes left and now at least had tarmac and a white line. Blindly we sped on (140 km at times….. 80 limit roads) along an unknown/unmapped road when at last we met the B to P road. It was 18 km to Picton and we had 20 minutes to beat the 12.10 deadline.  We got to the check in gate at 12. 18, but were amongst a good sized queue of other ferry vehicles and at last I could relax. It was at this time that we took the picture of “Little Miss Lucy” Campervan as mentioned in the previous posting. On the deck of the ferry we were parked so closely that it was difficult to open the doors. Between news bulletins I got out on deck and took some shots of us leaving the Sound and arriving at Wellington. (at the same time as a plane came in).  We drove to Pete’s at Paraparaumu and settled down for a nice glass of wine and a meal out.  In the morning we all went for a walk along the beach with the dogs, paddled in the waves and then returned to watch the news again. Current update 75 dead and 300 missing. ChCh citizens being advised not to flush their toilets…….
Photos here.

22nd Feb ChCh Earthquake

We had driven to Picton to catch the ferry to Wellington (more on this in another posting, but will limit this posting to the earthquake issues). Sat on the quay we saw the VW Camper “Little Miss Lucy” that we had overtaken a couple of weeks back. I noticed that it had very nice alloy wheels and took a photo for Corin to see as otherwise the vehicle was identical to their camper. As I lowered the camera back down to see the image on the back screen the car swayed and I thought that it may be an after shock. Up to then they had reported 4,500 aftershocks after the September 4th quake 7.1 magnitude. I looked up to the floodlights that light the quayside. These are quite high and slender and I was convinced that I would see them swaying, but no. So I dismissed the thought of earthquake and attributed the sway to probably a passing lorry. As soon as we settled in the lounge (on the ferry) the news came on the TV and there was breaking news of a huge quake (6.3) in Christchurch. Over the next few hours we witnessed the event as it unfolded with live (unedited) footage being broadcast direct from camera to TV. At first it was announced that the Hospital was being evacuated, but later this was soon reversed and they soon filled it with casualties. The city ran out of ambulances and very soon started commandeering 4x4s to take the injured down streets littered with rubble to the hospitals and red cross stations. The airport was closed down except for medical evacuations to Wellington and Auckland. We watched as aftershock after aftershock took more toll on the city’s buildings, with some crumbling “on camera”. By now the Cathedral had suffered major damage with the spire down and all over the square in front of it. A huge rock, the size of a big bus at least, fell off the Redcliffs at Sumner where we had stayed Feb 17th. This landed fair square onto a building below. Cars and petrol tankers came to a stop when boulders littered the road around them.
This morning we woke to the sound of many helicopters going to the south island, presumably to assist with the rescues. At this point in time (noon 23rd) they are still trying to get people out of the debris and they have a confirmed death toll in the 60s with an estimated 100 missing persons, yet to be located. The phones are just about functioning and people being urged to text rather than call to save resources. 80% of the city is without water and some fires continue. People are being urged to create makeshift latrines at the bottom of their gardens as the sewage system is not functioning in many parts of the city. They are setting up emergency funds for people to access, as the banks have shut down and all ATMs are out of action. All the good work that has been done since Sept 4th quake has been undone and overall the damage has been greater. Any unsafe building that we witnessed shored up, awaiting repair, are now most likely down. People are leaving the city as best they can to spend time with friends in outlying suburbs and other towns. At least they will have basic facilities there. I will post the rest of the events of yesterday and today later.
Photos here.

Earthquake update 22nd Feb

Hi Blog Followers,
We are well and now in North Island at Ann's Brother's place. I felt the shake while we were sat on the quay waiting for the ferry. While on board we got live TV coverage and I will post more info later. Suffice it to say there is much activity here with helicopters going to and from ChCh.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Blenheim Day 2 Feb 21st

What a full day we had today! We started by exploring the town of Blenheim, although that didn’t take too long. It really is an area dedicated to wine production and little else. We visited a very pretty church and an Art gallery that had an exhibition of the work of some young illustrators of children’s books. There was also a pretty little park, using chard in its beds and making a lovely bed of different coloured allysum, so cheap and easy, but it worked.
From there we visited an exhibition of Aviation Heritage, well Rich did. We had been to the library and I had bought a new book in their sale, so I stayed outside and read a bit. The museum was mostly filled with WW1 bi-planes and mostly German planes at that. There was one exhibit where it explained that an allied pilot having collided mid air with another pilot of his flight was caught in a spin.  He decided to climb out onto the wing ready to jump off at the last moment (no parachute in those days).  However his off centre weight corrected the balance of the plane and he flew it to the ground with one hand on the controls and standing on the wing to adjust the trim. On landing, he hitched a ride back to the airfield and flew off in another plane! There was also a display of the demise of the Red Baron who was shot down after he had shot down 80 allied planes. He landed badly in a ploughed field and died there and then. The ANZAC troops pounced on the plane and stripped it of souvenirs within minutes. Most of these souvenirs have now found there way back to this exhibit, almost a century later. 
We had a garden visit set up for midday at Upton Oaks  and were welcomed by Sue. Again her husband Dave does the construction and she does the planting. They have developed the garden from scratch, just having 2 trees when they arrived. Sue worked around the house at first and here has no straight lines, lots of romantic soft planting in pinks and greys. Then she began the knot garden, which is a delight, with many of the beds filled with one plant or one colour and one side much more dramatic oranges, reds and bronzy foliage and the other softer blues and purples. She too uses chard as a foliage plant. She uses a lot of dahlias, often singles, at this time of year, and they flower for a long time she says. Lots of white accents too.
We moved through an olive grove to a little pool garden, with Lutchens bench an expanse of grass and wide perennial borders, beautifully full still with flowers. Some lovely combinations here too, and much more subtly mixed rather than separated by box, although they do have a nice edging on the approach, holding the agapanthus that shine even in the shade. Box grows really quickly here, as does the hornbeam also used for hedging and Sue is quickly able to separate and edge the next area for gardening.
There it is again in the parterre formalising the vegetables and fruit along with beautiful oak obelisks. Everything was burgeoning and dripping with fruit.
The next project is to repair and place an old wooden house into the garden, with a view of a wonderful blue and white garden with central metal gazebo, to be used for weddings! We returned through the swimming pool area and the little courtyard outside the back door, to appreciate the soft lines of the paths and stachys spilling over the edges.
We were straffed by a huge plane while at the garden and again at the first vineyard we visited, maybe having an air force base so near has its disadvantages.  The wineries we visited were Highfield and Villa Maria. Both recommended by Joe Ferraby from the Barewood garden we visited yesterday. Highfield had some stunning views from the Tuscany style tower they have built recently. In both places we tried some new wines and we bought white, rose and red wines to take with us to the North Island to drink with her brother, Peter.  We took a scenic route back to Blenheim, via Havelock, Queen Charlotte Sound, and Picton. On our journey we were looking for somewhere to swim, but the tide was out and the shoreline was nearly always mud. We came across some shags nesting in a dead tree and they did not seem to mind me getting up close to photograph them. Also, while out on the road we came across this fence of shoes. We had seen this before lower down this island but this was the only chance I had to photograph them. Any ideas what this is all about...... answers in an email please. In the port of Picton was this huge logging dock. We had seen logs going north on road trains for days now and it seem they are all here. Tomorrow we catch this ferry to go to Wellington and the first 50km of the sailing is along this Sound, so more photos then. However I’m not sure how good Peter’s Internet is, so it may be a day or two before you get another posting. Hasta pronto. Photos here.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Blenheim Day 1

We had seen a lovely river with people swimming it, at Pelorus, as we drove along this way, en route to Nelson, and Rich remembered and so we stopped for a look. It was beautiful, a stony clear deep river, but with excellent swimming holes with no current and even a place to jump in for those brave or daft enough. I had a long lovely swim while Rich took photos up and down the riverbank.
We arrived at our motel, very spacious and comfy, got settled and had lunch. Then we phoned to see if we could visit Barewood , the garden of Carolyn and Joe Ferraby, near Seddon. We were invited up this afternoon, so set off to see another of the lovely gardens recommended by the RHS.
As you arrive between an avenue of trees, you see a lovely, dramatic but simple fountain set in a circle of stone. The garden is surrounded by some 100 year old oaks and other native trees, some planted by Joe’s mother, others in Carolyn’s time. They garden on clay in a very dry area, which sometimes gives problems. The wide beds around the house are mainly mixed perennials with lots of roses, jasmine and wisteria cloaking the front veranda. Like us in Menorca, they live a lot in their outside space in summer and there is an emphasis on avenues of hawthorns, or malus, giving lots of lovely shady cool areas this time of year, but full of blossom in spring and autumn colour later, and leading you on to a new area. We walked to the pavilion where roses were having their second flowering and mixed perennials give all year interest. Carolyn uses a lot of David Austin roses for their repeat flowering, their perfume and their old fashioned cabbage shape. There is a lovely pond with a big weeping willow and a boardwalk surrounding it. The planting here is of Hostas and other broad leaved natives, in the dappled shade, but with maples adding another colour palette. 
Carolyn has a potager, formally laid out with some box hedging around beds and lots of interest added by fruit tree arches and obelisks with unusual varieties of beans growing on them. Like me, she prefers to grow fruit and veg not normally available and to experiment!
Across the wide green lawn Joe has made a ha-ha this year so the sheep can’t get in but the view across the fields is not stopped by fences. He has also diverted the drive so it doesn’t cut the garden in two. A good team. The perfect end to the visit was a fragrant glass of prize-winning Villa Maria chardonnay with them on the veranda. Thank you both so much for making us feel so welcome.
On our way back to Blenheim we caught sight of this wonderful mountain range in the rear-view mirror and just had to stop to capture the moment.
Photos here.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Day trip to Collingwood Feb 19th

What a day of contrasts again. We travelled through a wonderfully fertile valley growing organic fruit and veg, beer and wine and all being offered for sale by the roadside. We supplemented our supplies on the way home. Then we began a climb up through the Abel Tasmen area round precipitous winding roads, made more difficult by numerous road works, resurfacing and repairing land falls. There were rewards though, with several stops for amazing views and some strange rock formations.
When we got to East Takaka, down a gravel road again, and found the 2 gardens we came to see. The first was a garden within a farm, (Matuka Farms Garden) and it was bizarre to keep coming to the edge of the garden and seeing bare pasture beyond, after the lush planting inside.
It was an inspiring garden though, of national repute, and, after 40 years there, Betty and Robin can be really proud of their achievements. We started at the little wattle and daub cottage Robin had recently built and that contained information about the garden, its history and articles in which it appears. There are a variety of areas with different kinds of planting and mood. I especially liked the way leaf forms and colours were combined. It didn’t always have to be rare plants, quite ordinary plants can become extraordinary when placed together with skill and an artistic eye. There were also plenty of quiet spots, designed to sit in, surrounded by sweet scents, of roses, jasmine and honeysuckle. The formal borders, bounded by box hedges, were of statuesque proportions, and nothing flopped, all seemed to support one another. One was mostly pinks and the other more blues and purples. There were nice accent points too, some quite simple ideas, but things that would draw the eye on and keep you moving through the garden. It had a shady rainforest garden too, with lots of ferns and hostas amid the trees.
The second garden suffered by being seen after the farm, but it too had its qualities, with lots of weathered wood being used and some wonderful lilies and roses.
We stopped for lunch and a swim at Pohara, where it took forever to get up to your waist.
Collingwood town (formerly Gibbstown) took the name of Collingwood when it was fashionable to name your town after famous people. Other examples such as Nelson, just down the road, Port Elizabeth, Georgetown, Wellington, and Victoria Falls were all named around that period. There is no evidence here that the Vice Admiral ever sailed these seas. Today the town has about 130 pupils in its school of all ages … yrs 1 to 13…. From the town and surrounding area. So you can see it is not a big place, but in the 19th Century was proposed as the capital for the whole of NZ, if Wikipedia is to be believed. What I found particularly interesting is that the community chose Saint Cuthbert’s as the name for the church. Maybe as a further reference to Cuthbert Collingwood or perhaps by coincidence, we will never know. The local museum has some exhibits relating to the Vice Admiral or as seen on one…. “Baron Collingwood”.
Photos here.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Nelson Feb 18th

As yesterday was a day of driving, today we set off for the beach to have a bit of relaxing. Our landlady suggested “Rabbit Island” a few Kms up the road. When we got there the place was deserted and all we had as company was this pyramid of logs that someone had put up the night before. I added a few more to help the structure along, as Ann went in the sea for her first dip.  The high tide was expected at 11am and it was now about 10.30.  As the tide came in, gradually the wood was disturbed until the structure slowly collapsed back to driftwood on the beach. (of which there are vast amounts). I joined Ann on her second swim, but as I had no costume, I decided to skinny dip……… no photos there then! On the way back to Nelson we passed this crazy car plant pot…. At least you slow down and maybe spot the B&B sign near it.
We then went into Nelson to visit the WoW museum. That stands for World of Wearable Art (and classic car) Museum. We were not allowed to take photos in the Wearable Art side of the museum, but in the car side it was OK. Many of the exhibits also had Wearable Art manikins between the cars so I took photos of those to give you an idea of what was on offer. This was wacky and at the same time so much skill had gone into making the costumes to be most impressive. The bizarre bra collection had examples called “Honey… suckle on these”… flowers and humming birds. Also “freshly squeezed”… which you can see in the photos has a lemon squeezer and fruit. Ann thought it would be better to be called “Squeeze me”. There was also a version that had two cranes perched on each shoulder and ensuring the perfect “Uplifting” experience….. etc etc. Has to be seen to be believed.  WoW Museum
Later we went through the car part of the exhibition and although many cars were American, there were enough English and European cars to bring back many memories. The whole display was well thought out and superbly executed with good backdrops to support the theme of the cars. Out the back was another section of about 150 classic cars and a restoration garage where they sort them out. I have included in the photos the cars that most impressed me or brought back fond memories from my youth. The car I first learnt to drive in (Ford Escort)….. The Rover coupe that Dad had….. The Austin A40 Farina we owned for two weeks… it lost 2nd and 3rd gear going between London and Southampton… it went back! And the best of all the Jag Mk9 that they were in the process of restoring. Dad had one of these in Birmingham before we went south to Hampshire.  The visit ended in me sitting in a DeLorean and setting the camera for delayed exposure. Just had to be done!
We then drove into town /city to see the Cathedral and other sights. Just to prove a point a rather classic car drove past as we were approaching the Cathedral. Great architecture and quite new being only about 50 years since the last refurb.
Nelson has many links with Nelson himself and the city roads are named after his battles, colleagues and ships. To round off the day we returned to the local beach but it was too windy to swim and it was low tide. So Ann settled down in the sand dunes and I took photos of the kite surfers.  Photos here.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Sumner to Nelson Feb 17th

For those of us counting the years, today is 44 years since Rich and I met! We have just celebrated with a lovely piece of salmon and veg and a nice bottle of wine we bought on our travels today.

It was a long journey (435 Kms), 9.30 to 6.30 but through some interesting landscapes, along side the sea for quite a time and up and down mountains between. The sea at Kaikoura was incredible, layers of milky blue at the edge, caused by the mixing of the silty edge with the sea, then the clear blue of the shallow water and then a sharp line where the ocean floor drops away suddenly and the sea becomes deep dark blue. This is where the whales come in to breed. We still find it hard to believe the amount of driftwood on many sea shores and that no-one seems to use or value it. Imagine what it would fetch, all that bleached beautiful wood, in England. Shame we can’t bring any home.
We travelled through a lot of vineyards too, and seeing the patterns they make on the hillsides we were reminded of the olive groves in Spain. We have also kept seeing a large eagle, we think, but bird of prey definitely, but have so far been unable to catch it on film. Still not as close as we’d like, but we saw so many today we had to have a try.  Sorry only a few Photos but most of the time I was driving. Click here for photos.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Banks Peninsula Feb 16th

Today we decided to go exploring around the Banks peninsula. Our hostess had told us the garden we most wanted to see was actually closed due to earthquake damage. They still felt it quite badly out here. We went that way and could peep through the trees and see the tarpaulin over it and a little of the garden which wound down to the sea. Just a few yards farther on was a nursery with an open garden, so we stopped, only to find that they too had suffered extensive damage. Part of the house was having its roof replaced and the older part, built with no cement in the mortar joints, has to be completely dismantled, brick by brick, all labelled, then put up again with modern mortar. They also lost the water from their clay pond. The garden showed signs of neglect but was an interesting layout, using the water that runs through it, and lots of quite unusual plants and trees. They are Hosta specialists, so they featured heavily along the shady waterways.
We decided to explore right across to the furthest little town, Akaroa, which has an interesting past. The peninsula was formed by three small volcanos and has the peaks, and hills and lots of pretty little bays. The French discovered it and thought they had bought it, but while they were back in France collecting settlers who wanted to go there, the English had signed the Treaty of Waitangi and the whole of New Zealand had become an English colony! In Akaroa there are still lots of signs of French influence, in street and place names and it is what makes it unique. The tricolor flies from many flagpoles and the cafes have French music playing.
We had our picnic on the beach there and I was able to go for a really lovely swim too. We had a little wander and found an amazing garden full of mosaic sculptures. I spent the whole time with a big grin on my face, it is all so wacky, but also very beautiful. The planting was not really to my taste, but again echoed the odd taste of its artist owner. She had lots of topiary birds and box hedges, but also whole beds of black grass or swarzkopf succulents. There were lots of very vibrant colours too, as in lots of gardens here, enormous sunflowers and lots of soft roses around the house. But the impact came from the mosaics, the pools and the ballerina table, and the huge figures many modelled on friends and family. Some very unexpected moments, like looking up, in a loo covered in guest comments, to see a ceiling covered in tiny shoes!
We returned on the Tourist path that winds right around the tops of the volcano craters.
Photos here.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Up to Mount Cook and on to Sumner (ChCh) Feb 15th

Just when you think you can’t be impressed any more by scenery, you encounter Mount Cook and the Southern Alps…Wow! Just the other side of the hill from Fox Glacier, so to speak. We just kept stopping time and time again to take photos as we would round another bend and there would be another amazing view of the mountains. We were very lucky that it was a lovely sunny, clear day so we got to see Mount Cook and the snow and glacial ice as it should be seen, with just a few shreds of cloud for atmosphere. We got as far as we were allowed by car, then went walking for a while to get even closer, but, to be honest, the best views are actually from a bit further away.
We headed off towards Christchurch where we were staying on the edge of the Banks Peninsula, so we could see some gardens we’d earmarked on that side of the city. The sea was in and in Sumner, where we are, there is a wide sweeping bay, so I had to go swimming, of course. There were far more surfers than swimmers, and to be truthful, to say I swam isn’t very accurate. I played and dodged between the big waves. Great fun! Richard just spent some time photographing the surfers.
Photos here.

Dunedin to Omarama Feb 14th

After a stormy thundery night, with heavy rain, this morning it has all blown over leaving a lovely clear blue sky and sunshine. We had booked a tour of the Cadbury factory first thing and it was great fun. There is practically nothing that isn’t done by machinery these days, and all the chocolate is tightly sealed in containers or pipes so they have to make a chocolate waterfall at the end of the tour, so you don’t feel disappointed. We were surprised how many strange flavours they make for the Australasian market, which we don’t ever see. We had to try a few… well what did you expect!
We set off along the coast from Dunedin, determined to see more of the sea, and perhaps some more seals and penguins and aiming for Moeraki to see another crazy geological phenomenon, the Moeraki Boulders ; huge round stone boulders on the edge of the sea. The journey was exciting, getting a bit lost and going down quite a lot of gravel tracks again, and the sight of the boulders on the beach was breath taking. The tide was coming in so some were getting slowly submerged as we watched and just appearing through the surf.
Equally impressive, in quite a different way was Oamaru, where they had access to limestone, and the buildings are beautifully grand and ornate, and still amazingly white. No industrial revolution to dirty it all. We also visited a fantastic museum, which emphasised man’s role in the surrounding area, social history and all really interesting and well presented.
Really crazy were the strange objects in the street outside the Art gallery, called Steam Punk, where a train and a couple of motor bikes were constructed from all sorts of odds and ends.
We then went inland, again driving through some stunning scenery including Lake Waitaki, Lake Aviemore and Lake Benmore. These were all a strange light blue colour as if a milk lorry had emptied its load into the water………… something to do with the melting glacier water. Some really good use was being made of all this water for hydroelectric power, creating some waterfalls and cascades that were beautiful in their own right. We were staying at Omarama, which only seemed to be in existence for a tourist pit stop. Our hotel had some individuals staying and 3 coach loads of Asians!
Photos here.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Dunedin Feb 13th …. Day 41 Over half way……..

This morning dawned a little better than yesterday; still looking threatening with dark clouds and mist on the horizon, but we set off optimistically to look at Dunedin. It is the place where the buildings look recognisably English, or Scottish, with lots of stone and brick and some veritable mansions in parts of the city. We went to see the famous Railway station first, a very grand impressive building indeed, and Rich was very tempted to take off on another train journey, but eventually settled for a bus tour of the city when one arrived outside the station. It took us to all parts of Dunedin with a funny and informative commentary from our driver. The links with Edinburgh, in terms of the situation as well as the architecture, are clear. We then explored on foot until after lunch, when we had decided to go out to the Otago peninsula and Larnach Castle, to see the famous gardens there.
We were not disappointed; it really is a fabulous spot and incredible work has been done with structures, levels and garden rooms reflecting different parts of the world, different eras or different styles of gardening. I was particularly impressed with the plant combinations and the plant choices, some quite unusual and dramatic. The only other time we have seen Echium of this stature was in Ireland. They have an Alice in Wonderland theme running through the garden too, hence the huge throne I am sitting on.
From there we wound through precipitous little lanes on the Otago peninsula seeing the sea from every side. Dunedin probably has more coastline per linear mile than anywhere! We saw lots of sea birds, culminating in the Albatross colony on the cliffs right at the end. They are so huge and soar so effortlessly it is an amazing sight. They have a body about the size of a swan and a 3-metre wingspan. They never flap their wings except at take off, and glide effortlessly. We also saw seals again, but they refuse to be photogenic. 
On the drive home Rich spotted some very photogenic old boatsheds and some old Dunedin trams, and lastly what appeared to be Nogin the Nog’s boat! I wonder how many of you remember him?
Photos here.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Invercargill to Dunedin. Feb 12th

We set off after a good breakfast on the “Scenic” route to Dunedin…. Or so we thought. We soon found ourselves however on the main road however (SH1) and had to do some serious cross-country to get back on the coastal road. This road degraded to a gravel path at times, but rewarded us with some spectacular views of the sea and coastline. At one point we were directed to the “Fossil Forest”, where thousands of years ago a volcano ash flow engulfed a forest and turned its trees to stone and then deposited them on the shore line. These can still be seen today, though fossil hunters have taken large chunks of “Trunk” away in the past. We also saw cormorants drying off after a hunting swim and vast seaweed kelp beds swishing around in the ebb and flow of the waves.  Not a lot of photos today as we were driving in fairly constant rain, but tomorrow (weather permitting) we intend to sight see in Dunedin. (NZ's Edinburgh) Photos here