PHUKET, THAILAND 7th – 21st MAY 2019

PHUKET, was the first of a few destinations we chose to spend our remaining time in Asia once we decided that we would go early to the UK to spend their summer there house sitting. The trip would be two weeks Phuket,3nights Kuala Lumpur then ten nights Penang Malaysia before heading back for two last nights in Singapore.

We got some great flights on Skyscanner covering this segment of our travels. All four flights for around $230 each.

We arrived at Phuket airport after paying to upgrade our seats for extra leg room at around 9:20 pm. The exit through was very quick and with quite a drive to Patong we were glad for that.

We have never been to Phuket before and hadn’t done a huge amount of research.

We chose to stay in Patong beach for our first three nights and then book on from there.

Hmmm. What can I say about Patong except it’s not really our scene.

Our hotel The Tropica bungalows when we arrived was right opposite the beach and in the hub, great we thought, lively surroundings for a few nights, until we were escorted to our very well appointed room where we couldn’t actually relax due to the throbbing thud thud loud music coming from the parallel Bangla road with its night clubs, bars and sex shows.

We were quickly back at reception and changing rooms and although smaller was a lot less noisy than the last one, the thud thud was NEARLY covered by the sound of our aircon and ceiling fan.

It’s a real shame as the hotel is lovely, great pool, great room amenities and the included breakfast buffet is excellent. Around $56 a night.

The first full day we spent walking the area and having one very expensive coffee at The Coffee Club, we worked out taking all into account the mug of flat white was around $10.

We ventured out after our first full day but our second night for about an hour but after being harassed a hundred times for ping pong ball and live sex shows decided we’d seen enough of Patong night life and headed home, only to be assaulted by the morons next door drinking outside and carrying on till 6am. At about 4:30 I had finally gone to sleep as the thump thump finishes at 4 am to be woken at 5am by morons singing take me home country road!

Our last day saw us very sleepy and not tooo motivated. After another excellent breakfast we rested in our room, swam in the pool, went out for another extortionate costing coffee before we found a local family mart that made a half decent one for 30 baht or around $1.50 .

We went out for an early dinner around 5 pm again as we had done the day before as again hadn’t eaten since breakfast and a nice meal on the beach with a glass of wine went down well. We watched the last of the days parasails as the sun set over the beach and by the time we arrived home the thump thump was just starting up as it was 7 pm.

While we were out we booked our next three nights in Karon beach staying at The Baan Karonburi and another three nights at the Bandara Phuket beach resort. We’ll see how they go before booking on again, but want to spend our last night at least nearer the airport with our early morning flight to Kuala Lumpur on the 21st.

The weather gods haven’t really been favourable here so far. The first day had a lot of rain and the second day overcast with just a short shower in the afternoon.

Karon beach was sooo much nicer than Patong even though in distance it was really not far at all. It instantly felt more relaxed and the beach looked a lot more inviting with cleaner looking water and some waves.

We didn’t actually ever sit on the beach there or swim in the surf a closer look at the dirty water going in from storm water was enough to put me off and we actually hired a scooter for two days and went exploring more of Phuket.

We followed the coastline up towards Naithon on one of the days and decided that we would spend our last night here due to its proximity to the airport.

The other day we rode the coastline south and then across to the Big Buddha.

Here they have cleverly given free admission but you can buy a copper coloured leaf to write your name and date on and tie to one of the many trees covered in these thin metal leaves. There were literally thousands of them and looking at the dates they must clear them at the end of each year as they all had 2019 on them.

The views are awesome as expected as there is a view of The Big Buddha all around the island.

I’m so glad that James has ridden bikes most of his life as I would hate to be riding in Asia with no previous experience.

The one thing we noted was that a lot of the beaches and villages looked great from a distance but up closer are suffering from that lack of rubbish removal that you find in so much of Bali etc. a real shame. We were beginning to feel that this would likely be our only trip to Phuket as we were hoping to find something cleaner than Bali but with similar pricing. So far that wasn’t being the case.

We had booked three nights at Bandara Phuket beach resort after speaking to some fellow Aussies whom had just stayed over this way. Luckily for us we decided to check it out.

What a find. The area is more exclusive private villas than teeming with resorts and as it’s the off season fairly quiet anyway. The beach is clean and water a lovely turquoise and our hotel was excellent value. If only it had the great breakfast buffet of the hotel we had in Patong it would be perfect. Breakfast is included and there are choices just not as great as the other hotels we’ve stayed at.

We walked along the beach and quickly decided we would book another four nights and just take a day trip to Phi Phi Island.

We took the photo below as everywhere we go we seem to find a bar called The Ship Inn.

The food from the menu here has been great value and a good choice (unlike the breakfast) and with two drinks for price of one between 12-2 pm and again 5-7pm meaning $5 cocktails we’ve been happily going through the cocktail menu.

We again hired a scooter for a day and checked out a bit more of the area, not finding anything we liked better than where we are, so it’s kindles out and relaxing before we fly for three nights to Kuala Lumpur on the 21st May.

We did take a day trip to the Phi Phi Islands and great value too as it’s low season 2000 baht (around$100 Aus) each instead of 3200.

Transfer from hotel to port with coffee, tea and bikkies while we wait for all the transfers to arrive. Then onto the speedboat and away…..

Maya beach has been closed to tourists but they still take the boat in to have a quick look and photo opportunity along with Viking cave . A couple of really great snorkelling spots including two hours on an island and buffet lunch at Phi Phi Don complete a wonderful day and the weather played nice. It was a full boat of around 30 and James and I along with one other Australian couple were in a real mix of Asian tourists , USA and even the Bahamas was represented. One thing we’ve noticed in Phuket is the large contingent of Russian tourists.

Back to our hotel in time for happy hours 5-7pm and it was a three cocktail night Swith a spicy pasta for dinner ending a great day.

The photo below is the hotel at night and Anna the lovely waitress who was just delightful.

We spent our last two full days basically pool side. The Saturday was Australia’s Election Day and most of the Aussies here we’re keeping each other updated.

Outside the front of the hotel each evening they put on a bit of street food and music and two nights we’ve gone down to eat.election day was a Buddhist holy day and no alcohol sold at hotel or local family market so it was fruit juices and an alcohol free day, actually there were beers in the minibar in our room James thought about them just as we decided to go to bed…

WHAT WE’VE LEARNT ABOUT PHUKET.

It’s not as cheap as Bali.

It’s good to travel here early off season to get great hotel and tour deals.

Don’t stay at Patong… EVER

a scooter is a great way to get around as taxis are expensive here.

Research research research for the cleaner beaches.

Stay close to airport if you have an early flight.

Bali: April 16- MAY 2nd 2019

The flight from Singapore to Bali is just 2 hours 40 minutes and it took almost that long to get through the airport, even without baggage to collect and get a taxi to our hotel.

We are familiar with Sanur and like it’s less than hectic vibe. This time we were staying at a different hotel from our other visits and have been pleasantly impressed so far.

Our room is large, big bed, good aircon, decent sized bathroom and with cleaning daily, breakfast included along with a shady pool area to relax at the $30 a night price tag is sitting very comfortably with us.

As usual we prefer to eat at the local night food market, where for around $5 we eat some delicious street food as well as often striking up conversations with other tourists, many who come from Europe to Sanur.

Shopping in Bali isn’t the bargain it once was with a lot of the clothing better value at K Mart but I bought a new lava lava or sarong depending on where you come from and a couple of pairs of long pants which I probably didn’t barter enough for but as I said to James what the heck I’d rather give the money to someone who’s life it more impacts on than a large conglomerate. The stalls are quiet here and I think it’s been like that for quite a few years now.

Our taxi driver from the airport told us he had worked for the same boss over twenty years and the bosses are mostly Chinese. He gets paid the equivalent of Australia $250 a month which almost half goes on rent for two rooms, the other half on food and schooling.

The days have been spent waking and eating breakfast anytime and heading

to our favourite cafe The Owl which in our opinion has the best coffee in Sanur.

We also find the food flavoursome and not much more than the market.

Not too many long walks as it’s too humid but the evening is much more pleasant for strolling around the town or walk along the ocean side.

The one thing you need to know about Bali is that differs seasons the beaches attract the rubbish. At the moment Sanur is copping it and Kuta area is probably ok. So a walk on the beach side this time of year here can be disappointing, though we managed to get a few good shots.

One has a cruise ship leaving Benoa Harbour and another you probably have to look really hard but there’s about a dozen dogs having a nap under the shade of a tree.

Locals enjoying the beach late afternoon.

Luckily we are more interested in relaxing by the shady pool with our hotels wifi while we check out some house sits for the UK.

Yes we’ve had a change of plans, instead of travelling through Asia for the next three months or so we have decided to cut away sooner and head to the UK for their summer.

We just loved our time there last year and when James mentioned he wouldn’t mind going up before we head to Spain I thought why not. We love the countryside and all the history so with house sitting we’re getting everything we want. A real home that has all the comforts of home, a dog or two to take on walks and have some adventures with, discovering new areas to walk in and pubs and cafes or a cat or two for some lap love. Of course the fact that no money exchanges hands means we are able to stay there longer and spend our money on a rental car and doing some touristy things.

We’re thrilled with the sits we have confirmed so far and really looking to living like real locals, the face time with the home owners has been awesome because they’re all just super lovely people.

James has just about shaken the cold he picked up on the last few days of the cruise and that’s another good reason to just chill out here while he gets better.

Luckily by Friday 26th he’s well enough to hire a motor scooter and we take a ride over to Legian, Seminyak and then to Canggu where we found a great little place that served meals and let you use the pool just up the road from Finns beach club.

How good did that pool feel after a few hours riding and walking! Bliss pure Bliss.

It was a great change of pace and I think next time we’ll look at staying over that way for a new take on Bali.

As much as we’ve loved Sanur it seems very quiet and after four visits here it’s probably time to shake it up.

The following day and still having the scooter we decided to take a ride to Nusa Dua and just maybe we might surprise Christine and Tony at their super flash resort The Melia.

The ride there was a highlight as we got to experience riding over the incredible bridge on the motorcycle track which was awesome.

We did indeed surprise Christine and Tony by the pool and spent a very enjoyable couple of hours chatting overlooking the beautiful beach front.

They were living the life over there that’s for sure.

Our last few days and been spent walking down a few back streets and discovering a bit more of Sanur, plenty of pool relaxing where we get to meet some of the other pool guests including Melissa, Enzo and their little fella Max. They gave us the heads up on a great app for Indonesia called GoJek check it out if you’re coming over here to Bali.

We’ve had some great laughs with them and will hopefully meet them again sometime, somewhere in the world if not Australia where they also come from.

Melissa and Max making friends at the hotel with some locals on holiday.

Isn’t this a great petrol station below.

All the crew going for a locals cremation. not to be mistaken for a happy street parade.just saying!

James and Ratty.

James and Ninja, well we call all black cats Ninja after our one.

Found this lovely restaurant down a lane way. Cheap food, great atmosphere and decor.

All of a sudden it was our last full day, so after breakfast and our usual coffee at The Owl, where the girls wanted to take photos with us, James hit the gym and then we had our last 90 minute massage with complimentary hair wash. We decided we would hit the beach side cafe Luhtus which in the past had been our go to hang for our last lunch.

Back to our hotel before it was time to get ready grab a Go Jek to Legian to meet Bruce and Anne Doyle for drinks and dinner. Great night great company, yummy food, a bottle of wine for the girls and coffee espresso martini’s all round to finish the night.

And now it’s time to pack those bags again and fly back to Singapore for our family holiday with Allison, Scott, Andrew and Jett.

Another adventure awaits.

TWO WEEKS IN AUSTRALIA A CRUISE AND THREE NIGHTS IN SINGAPORE. MARCH 14-APRIL16,2019

It seems we have a bit of a theme happening at the moment. Two week stays except our three nights in Singapore at the end of our cruise.

After 24 weeks in New Zealand it seemed like a surreal feeling of leaving home to go home.

We ran into the first person we knew on the train home to Central Coast. I hadn’t seen Robyn King for several years so was great chatting all the way home.

Jacki, James daughter and partner Adam meet us at the station and it was hugs all round.

We picked up our truck from storage and headed to our friends Christine and Jim’s place where we had been offered accommodation downstairs at their home.

BINGO! we win… what a great little apartment, everything we needed to enjoy our next two weeks. A kitchen, dining, lounge, bedroom and bathroom. I particularly loved the recliner chair that also spun around. I think every time Christine or Jim passed by I was in it.

Christine had thoughtfully stocked a few things to make our first days easy. In fact they were so amazing we were humbled by their generosity and kindness.

The two weeks flew by as always, catching up with so many of our dearest friends and family including all four of our children living in Australia.

A few office type jobs and professional visits filled in the rest of the days and before we knew it we were packing our suitcases again and heading to the train station to travel to the city to start our cruise to Singapore.

EXPLORER OF THE SEAS, MARCH 29-APRIL 13, 2019

SINGAPORE.

We had been looking forward to this cruise as we were to be travelling with our dear friends David and Janine who I have known for over 30 years.

What a great time we all had. The ship was The Royal Caribbean, Explorer of the seas. We had never travelled with Royal Caribbean before but were very impressed overall.

We easily fell into a little routine of breakfast at 9 am together unless it was a shore day. We would pick out what we would do together that day and meet at the scheduled times and enjoy lots of laughs and of course the wonderful dinners then shows.

Our first stop was Brisbane and we had organised to be met by Gay and John who we met on our world cruise in 2017. They are great fun and we had a lovely time catching up, they are about to do the world cruise again this year lucky ducks.

At lunch time Warren and Leanne came to do the tag team switch, and over a lovely lunch we were able to talk about our reunion trip that we are doing next year together with some of the people we both travelled with in 2010 where we met.

It was a great day catching up with people who have remained part of our lives mostly because of the an enjoyment of travel and thanks to Facebook.

Our next two expected stops were Airlie beach and Cairns and it was extremely disappointing that the weather didn’t allow for these tender only ports to be accessed. We were mostly disappointed about Cairns as we were going to catch up with our mates Julie and Matt whom we also met on our 2017 cruise. They are incredible fun and I know we will see them again sometime as they’re just too special not too.

Fortunately Darwin was a two day stop and with a dock everyone was glad to hit land for a few days.

James cousin Tony and his beautiful and bubbly wife Judy picked us up for an amazing day and evening of food, drink, great company and family time.

We had the pleasure of meeting their wonderful daughter Nadine last year when we were there on another cruise and this time we got to see her again and meet her lovely partner Stephen and his grand parents who incredibly were on our cruise.

The next day Tony and Judy once more picked us up and took us shopping for the few things we wanted then we enjoyed a wonderful wine or two, ok three at the waterfront oyster bar before it was time to hug them goodbye and sail off towards Singapore.

On the last few days of the cruise we finally got to enjoy some chilling by the pool days which had been sadly lacking due to the weather.

We also grabbed some great sunset shots.

SINGAPORE APRIL 13-16, 2019

And then just like that we were off the ship and taking a taxi van to our hotel where Janine and David’s friends Mark and Jay were also staying having flown into Singapore a few days earlier.

We managed to share one breakfast with them and a fabulous high tea at the Fullerton Bay hotel, highly recommended. Both couples were leaving the same day as us but they would be headed home to Australia and we to Bali.

Our time in Singapore was mostly to spend time with daughter Allison and it was wonderful to see her and enjoy some quality time together. Unfortunately James had caught a cold on the last few days of the cruise but he managed a few of the outings and also got to rest as well.

We had a lovely dinner with her partner James and his family as well as time relaxing by the enormous pool area at their apartment.

Allison lives and works in the same four tower complex. It has some pretty incredible architecture and the most amazing pools. Other than the Olympic size swimming pool there is a smaller heated one and even one that has gym equipment in it, such a great idea. You can use a rowing machine and bicycle etc while keeping cool in the water!

Allison and I also did a pretty extensive walk around town and all the way to their place with a little stop for iced coffee atop of the art gallery which had a great view.

Dinner at a local hawkers market ended a great day.

Although it was sad to say goodbye as we left Singapore to fly to Bali it wasn’t as difficult, knowing we would be back in just over two weeks to enjoy a family long weekend reunion with her two brothers and our grandson Jett.

Road trip 2019 Wellington – Te Atatu and last two weeks.

First day back in the North Island bought a pretty big travel day to New Plymouth via the coast road which didn’t really bring much of any views of the coast but was nice drive all the same.

Whanganui bought us our lunch stop and a real surprise at how big the town was and how many beautiful old buildings there was. Another gem.

As you drive closer to New Plymouth you begin to see the unique feature of Mount Taranaki ( Egmont).

It’s an outstanding natural feature of Taranaki.

New Plymouth is hosting an Americana weekend and we had noticed a few cars waving American flags. We drove into the city but didn’t see much happening but we did pass an American style diner with some groovy old cars parked outside.

We booked some accommodation on booking.com for New Plymouth but it’s more an Airbnb setup with separate accommodation under the couples main home.

Our stay in Wellington was a beautiful huge en-suite room in a Victorian home. Where the carpet is original and still in great condition and obviously made especially for the room with border pattern around fireplace and room edges.

The weather improved the next day for our trip through state highway 43 better known as the forgotten highway.

All the great scenery you expect from Taranaki, rolling mountains, Sheep, cows, goats and more of those windy roads. Whangamomona is the township well should I say The republic of Whangamomona is where people come to either stay overnight or take a meal in this historical town that time forgot.

We had a ham salad sandwich each that was huge, then after checking out the village moved on through towards Tokaanu a small thermal town on the shores of lake Taupo, NZs largest Lake. Our accommodation would best be described as rustic but we had a bathe in the private onsite thermal pools and relaxed.

The next day we drove into Taupo and had a coffee etc before driving to Huka falls. A lot of new paths and infrastructure has been put in since we used to visit 30+ years ago and was highly enjoyable just walking and watching both the falls and the jet boats as they rode people in as close to the falls as they could.

Onto Rotorua and after looking at the entrance fees to the geysers decided that as we’d seen them in Iceland and I had been to all these thermal areas in years past we would after having a walk around the waterfront look for some accommodation close to a beach for a few days total break from driving.

A place came up in somewhere I’d never heard of but checking on the map close to where we’d been looking. The price was great and the photos showed a comfortable property right on the sand dunes with a hot tub positioned on the dunes that looked fantastic. We hesitated thinking it all looked too good for the price but decided why not so pushed the book button got a confirmation and set off to paknsav to stock up before heading to Pukehina for our three nights travelling respite.

What a find. The beach was mesmerising and we didn’t bother leaving Pukehina till we were forced to leave as our reservation couldn’t be extended due to other lucky people having booked it.

Bliss, good weather, books to read, waves crashing on the beach just metres away, very very few people around to be seen, and the night sky just as mesmerising as the sea.

Thursday the 28th February saw us sadly heading off and we decided to call into have a decent look at Waihi beach as the weather was still beautiful and it was lovely to have a beach walk there and a sandwich and coffee in the village before heading into Waihi town for another quick look around and then back to Te Atatu before the after work traffic makes the trip tiresome.

Back into Te Atatu and staying at Graeme and Kirsten’s where dad is now comfortably living back at after his three months in the hospital system due to his fall in October.

Friday saw us driving into Auckland city to catch up with Paul and Michelle who drove down from Omaha so we could meet our mutual friends Laurie and Chris that we met on our 2017 world cruise and Chris’s sister Marilyn and husband Kevin.

We began our day driving the waterfront to the lookout past St Helliers looking out over the Hauraki gulf and Rangitoto the famous volcano that is a predominate feature of Auckland harbour.

Coffee, scones and muffins down in the village was followed by Parnell rose gardens, Auckland museum and the winter gardens at the Domain and into Parnell for a walk through the town which is character filled due to the historical homes been turned into shops and restaurants. By now it was around 4pm and a bit of belly fuel was called for. We sat eating and chatting and then it was time to drop them off at the ship so they could walk to the viaduct before they sailed away to their next destination Tauranga.

Paul suggested we went for a drink back at mission bay to allow the after work traffic to abate before driving to our respective abodes. Great idea and sitting on a balcony upstairs overlooking all the happenings below Michelle and I enjoyed a jug os sangria and the boys a jug of beer. It was around 8pm when we got home from a great day of catch ups and touring.

Ps we all got in for free at the museum by pretending we were all Aucklanders.

After spending a day at home cleaning the car and going through photos on my iPad we packed up our car on Sunday the 3rd and headed up to Omaha to spend our last little beach holiday with Paul and Michelle at their comfortable home.

The weather has remained excellent and so an afternoon swim was had before we popped the champagne and Michelle cooked a beautiful lamb roast dinner. We ended up staying up past midnight watching a three part quirky show called Mrs Watson.

Come Monday we packed up the esky and their land cruiser and headed to Pakiri where we had a great walk and picnic lunch.

Paul lead us on a tiki tour on the way back where we found alpacas and awesome coastal views.

Mathieson Bay was our swimming spot and swimming out to the pontoon was fun before we relaxed and cracked open a beer each for the boys and a vodka and lime and Soda for us girls.

We took advantage of the ten dollar burger deal at Matakana rusty pelican on the way home.

Another evening spent watching a three part mini series called Manhunt. Good show with. Martin Clunes.

Tuesday the boys went off climbing a mountain which they said was pretty hectic and like climbing a ladder.

Michelle and I went into Warkworth where Michelle had an appointment and I mooched around the shops grabbing a few bargains for our next adventure and we enjoyed coffee and scone before hitting countdown and heading home.

Swims at the beach was what was making this feel like a real kiwi summer holiday and with a few sundowner drinks and great home cooking along with enjoying laughing with our friends it always seems like the time to go comes around too soon. Thursday morning came around and we hugged our mateys goodbye till the time we see each other again somewhere in this big world.

Part of the countdown to leaving N Z was of course getting our car sold. James did a terrific job of cleaning it up to look new and it was posted online and sold within a few days.

Little blue was a great purchase and did a grand job getting us safely all around NZ, it was brilliant to see it going to a fairly new driver who will have a reliable car as they hone their skills on the road.

Craig had us over for dinner along with Rex for a night of much alcohol consumption, food , laughs and we managed to get Craig to play the piano. An impressive effort after about 15 crownies.

Kirsten’s friend Natalie and partner Albert came over with sparkles to say farewell on the Saturday night and then came on Sunday to take James for a swim while I tried to get this all sorted.

Monday Graeme took Dad, James and I to Takapuna and onto Red Beach where we got dad out of the car and on a park bench to have lunch and soak up the beautiful sunshine and sound of the waves. This was the kind of day we had been hoping to share with dad more but with his fall we’re cheated out of.

as the days to our departure get closer it’s time to look at all the things we’ve accumulated and sort out the packing.

eeek we are taking more home than we came with and spent our last Tuesday packing our check in bags full of motorcycle clothes and helmets and other things I wanted to take home from mum and dads house to keep.

Final family dinners, Farewell phone calls and of course beginning to make plans for our two week stay in Australia.

Well New Zealand it’s been incredible. Thanks everyone who made the time to catch up, host us and share time with us. Met some fantastic new friends and we leave behind lots of amazing memories.

NZ road trip 2019 part four.Christchurch- Picton

We had made arrangements with Diana and her dad Rudi in Christchurch that we would stop and stay with them from Sunday. We met them on our 2017 world cruise and caught up with Diana and partner Frank when they were in Auckland earlier in our NZ stay. We were looking forward to spending some relaxed time with them even though Diana was working long hours at this time of the year.

Anyway we started making our way towards Christchurch on the Saturday and at Ashburton a campervan show had us pulling over and paying the $5 admission to see what was on offer.

This was quite a cool concept, there were new camper and caravans on display but also people were able to display and sell their own second hand ones.

This gave way to a huge array of all styles, tastes and vintages and was a very entertaining wander.

Stayed the night in a not so glamorous side of town but was brand new and quite well appointed.

Sunday morning saw us off to visit Roz and Russ from our 2010 Cosmos tour, unfortunately Russ suffered a stroke late December and although looking great still getting tired after an hour or so.

We didn’t, we hope over stay our welcome but it was fantastic to see them both and look through their new home. Great taste and after building something new decided to sell all their old furnishings and buy new. They could get a job styling show homes. Just lovely to see them.

Onto Diana’s and Rudi’s to settle in for a few days. But we did go into the city gardens to watch the last of the summer free Sunday concerts. We met Frank there and with such a lovely venue and sunny afternoon no one went home disappointed.

After a rest it was time to venture out to dinner at one of the best Thai restaurants I’d been to.

We met Rudi’s other daughter Leonie, her husband Graeme and one of their sons Scott there to share the delicious meal.

Thanks Rudi for shouting us all it was very kind.

Monday bought more good weather and James and I headed into the cbd which from Diana’s is very close.

After visiting the information centre we took the tram tour brochure and just walked it’s route. It’s an easy city to walk in as it’s all flat and I don’t mean that as a funny since it’s still recovering after been knocked ‘flat’ by several earthquakes.

A lot of rebuilding has happened and lots taking place. Hopefully they will use this opportunity to build some significantly interesting places as a few looked awfully like dark boxes.

We had a few good stops, one for coffee one for a lie down under a tree in the botanical gardens and one for lunch at the RSA.

There are some great places to see and the Avon river running through adds something tranquil that lots of cities don’t have and still offering punt rides on the river quite charming.

There are surprisingly a lot of very old structures that stood up to the earthquakes so still lots of historical buildings surrounding the new.

Definitely worth taking the time to walk the city centre or take the tram tour if times an issue.

Tuesday Rudi came with us as James drove Rudi’s flash motor to Akaroa.

A place early family of mine had settled at when they first came from Denmark.

The drive was scenic as it’s all volcanic and lots of beautiful bays as well as grazing hills.

Akaroa was delightful and I’d like to go stay a few nights to fully enjoy its charms.

It’s a Mecca for the tourist crowd and coincidentally the port of the day for the ship Columbus on its 2019 world cruise. The ship we sailed on last year for ten weeks of its 2018 world cruise. Of course we did run into two couples who had been on it last year and they thought about 60 repeat world cruisers from the year before.

Young Leigh whom was part of the entertainment crew last year came past and he’s now the entertainment director. He didn’t look quite as fresh as he did last year.

Another lovely drive home through lyttelton and it’s tunnel and it was rest time before sharing the evening with Diana.

Wednesday saw us have a relaxing day at Diana’s catching up on our housekeeping administration and James had the car booked in to have the brakes checked to make sure all good for our journey back to Auckland.

A lovely evening again with Frank joining us for a few hours and Rudi also coming in for dinner.

It was a treat to relax for so many days in one spot and just as well as the next day we headed off thinking we’d probably take three days to get up to Picton.

As it turned out we headed to Hanmer springs had a little lunch break there and not interested in doing the adventure thing or soaking in the hot pools on a warm summer day moved on back towards the coast and headed into Kaikoura where we were keen to stop and stay. Unfortunately no accommodation available so we drove on to Blenheim but not before enjoying watching a huge pod of dolphins having fun just off the beach. They were the most playful either of us have ever seen dolphins before. Literally doing 360deg flips and huge leaps. Was absolutely spellbinding and such a treat.

We also stopped on the way further north to watch the seals. Sooo sooo many of them and lots of babies as well. They were vocal and entertaining as they waddled along, some having little fights, some swimming some just relaxing but really great.

We got an upgrade from the hotel we booked in Blenheim to a really large studio apartment which meant we were also able to cook there as well.

So we decided to book the ferry back to the North Island and call it time on our trip around the South Island.

Headed into Picton early so stopped for coffee outside a cafe when who’s voice should we hear, none other than Duncan from our 2017 world cruise and consequent catch ups in Hong Kong, Auckland and their home in Opua in the bay of Islands. Soon Angela his lovely wife joined in the reunion and none of us could believe we had run into each other so randomly.

What a great surprise and laugh.

Wonder where we’ll next meet up?

Finally snaring some accommodation in Wellington we were able to board the Interislander ferry with confidence that we wouldn’t have to drive for hours after disembarking to find a bed for the night.

So long South Island it’s been another fabulous part of our road trip.

HIGHLIGHTS WERE, obviously catching up with friends and making new ones makes the experience greater, but also the diverse scenery and wildlife feature big on our memories. The gorgeous towns we drove through that have retained their old heritage buildings and charm.

Our flight over the glaciers and Lake Tekapo a big highlight.

Milford and Doubtful sound we’re lovely day trips. The pancake rocks at Punakaiki, and the fact there are so many wonderful places just off the road to see and enjoy.

The dolphins at both Riverton and Kaikoura plus all the seals we stumbled upon.

The amazing forests and native bushwalks, and apart from the occasional rain we had a very good run with the weather.

Let’s see what our trip up the West Coast of North Island, through the forgotten highway and up through Taupo etc brings.

Road trip NZ part three Invercargill- Timaru

Our next stop was a backpackers in invercargill on the Burt Munro weekend. The town was full of bikers and lots of events to keep them happy. With so many great cafes, interesting buildings and lots of motorcycle shops and paraphernalia James was in his happy place and I left him at the motorcycle museum and headed off for a well overdue haircut.

We had organised a catch up with Christel and Paul Raynes at their beautiful home and enjoyed a wonderful evening. It’s so special when travelling to have these visits with people that you know to give life a little bit of a normality and make you feel connected with your family and friends.

The next day we took a drive to Bluff the very bottom of the South Island and loved all the old homes there. This is a town dripping in historical information and well worth a drive to for the great views of Stewart island and along with the fishing and whaling history some great chowder we believe.

Wanting a little break from travelling we then headed to Riverton a coastal town not far from invercargill for two nights. We had chosen a bed and breakfast in an old two story home run by Barry and Sue who turned out to be quite the odd couple but very hospitable. Barry was the host listed but it was Sue doing all the work while Barry who had quite the eccentric personality was off ice skating or riding his bike while Sue did all the running of the house between them they had 12 grown children!

One great thing about our accommodation was that we had a DVD tv and as I had never watched The worlds fastest Indian, the movie about Burt Munro and his landspeed record was great that they had it here in their collection so spent an evening sitting up in bed watching it.

Anyway Riverton and the surrounding areas were beautiful and we really enjoyed our little trips to the different beaches around the area.

The One day we kept on running into this one couple Sharon and Steve from England but like us are just travelling the world. We ended up sharing a bottle of wine at Orepuke cafe after they popped in knowing that was where we were headed next.

It was delightful company and we hope to meet them somewhere else in this big wide world.

On our way back into Riverton we decided to go to the town to check out dinner options when as we come to the bridge we see lots of people looking over the bridge railings so as James drove the car I stuck my head out to see what they were looking at to find it was a big school of bottlenose dolphins.

Well they entertained everyone for about an hour as they made their way slowly out of the estuary, leaping and showing off in such a marvellous display. How wonderful it always is to see these magnificent creatures and the joy it brings to all who witness them.

Our next journey was taking us onto Dunedin and having found some accommodation in the city we were able to easy walk around seeing all the beautiful preserved buildings of yesteryear. Including the gorgeous Dunedin railway station where we booked a trip on the Taieri gorge trip for the next day at 2:30, this would allow us to get up early and arrive at Larnach castle to get the early arrival special.

Having contacted one of my dearest friends from childhood we caught up with Karen after she finished work at around 8:30 pm for drinks, quite a few drinks actually. But it was great to see her after too many years and she even called the next evening just as we were arriving funnily at the same bar for dinner and headed over to see us again. Awesome!.

Sooo after our quite a few drinks that first night it seemed we didn’t feel quite as cheerful about getting up early the next day, BUT we did and so glad as the scenery along the way was out of this world. Sea mists of long white cloud enveloped the hills around Dunedin and with the spectacular waterways and mountains was jaw dropping.

Larnach castle was gorgeous, so much restoration done and still going on. What a labour of love and devotion by the Barker family whom bought it in a rundown state and lived there while bringing it back to life. No small undertaking.

Boy what a sad story the original family have. For all their wealth and community standing they either died young, killed themselves or bickered over the money.

Our afternoon train ride couldn’t have been better timed as we headed back to our hotel from the castle for a rest and lunch before we needed to walk down to catch our train.

Five hours of diverse scenery, outstanding building feats to make this rail journey possible to move goods throughout the Otago and beyond area.

More unbelievable was that we were allowed to stand out on the open areas between carriages to take photos etc even over the viaducts with over 100 feet drops.

The staff are fantastic and a real credit to the company. Making sure everyone had as enjoyable time as possible.

Then a few more drinks with Karen afterwards topped off a Grand day.

After checking out on Valentine’s Day we headed towards port Chalmers and were delighted at what a gorgeous little town it was. The port was operating moving containers, the Majestic Princess was in dock as well and with the fabulous lookouts around the town and a cemetery with a great view as well it was a lovely stop. One lady taking her grandson to look at the wharf action from one of the lookouts said it’s like watching a toy town and that’s exactly what it was like. There was also a few interesting sculptures

The gloom had set in low clouds and drizzle which later became rain, but, it didn’t dampen our enjoyment of our trip up the coast.stopping at Moeraki on Karen’s suggestion took us to the lighthouse and the unexpected seal colony. First there were signs and fences then next thing we’re in a large open area full of seals lying around while their fellow seals wandered around on rocks below and some swimming. We even spotted a penguin swimming. What a highlight. Best was everyone there was respectful and just loving it.

Really fantastic.

We stopped at Hampden town for some world famous fish and Makikihi potatoes made into chips no they weren’t lying they really were that good.

We drove into Oamaru and after a look around town and drive and coastal walk decided we would find accommodation here for the night. This town has so many incredible Victorian buildings and a real quirky feel. Certainly worth a look.

Ps happy Valentine’s Day.

Time the next day to take the trip inland to Tekapo and the gorgeous turquoise lakes.

On the way the scenery was once again stunning with several stops for photos including several dams.

Then just before we got to the lake we came to Tekapo airport with signs offering scenic flights, having already enquired at another airport and been put on a list we decided to take the opportunity when it was available and had a fantastic flight over Lake Tekapo and Tasman, Fox ,Franz Joseph glaciers and a close up look at Mount Cook. What a treat.

Lake Tekapo didn’t disappoint but unfortunately the church of the good shepherd was overrun with tourists and a take no photo policy that wasn’t there last time.

On to Timaru and a lovely overnight stay in a semi backpackers in another grand old home.

The next day we were disappointed that we missed catching up with our relatives Nadine and Stephen from Darwin by perhaps an hour but luckily we will see them in April in their home town.

next stop Christchurch.

Road trip NZ part two. Picton – Mossburn

We decided to drive towards Nelson which we did and after a late but substantial lunch began heading towards Takaka a lovely town with a hippy feel about it and found a great bnb run by a couple originally from Belgium.

They have been living in NZ for seven years and have put together a lovely homestay experience, including spa tubs, indoor pool and sauna. Although we didn’t hear many voices during the evening there were quite a few in the kitchen/dining/ living room to enjoy breakfast the next day. Surprisingly most visitors were from Germany or The Netherlands and it was completely coincidental. Not one had booked knowing that the hosts would be able to communicate in German/Dutch With them.

After our breakfast and our first full day in the South Island to look forward to we drove towards Cape Farewell and after a few lookout stops we decided the heat was just too much to go trekking out in the full sun and ventured back to Puru springs to walk a short spin in the bush and check out these beautiful clear water springs.

We started driving towards Westport when I saw a sign showing St Arnaud was not far off the track. I remembered how beautiful it was from when I had visited many years ago and so we ventured there and weren’t disappointed.

We decided to look for accommodation in the town and found a ski lodge that takes bookings all year round and run like a backpackers. Super clean and great facilities.

The next morning we drove up Mount Robert to take in the views of lake Rotoiti and took a walk up one of the tracks through the Forrest before heading back towards Westport.

We made quite a few stops to view gaze and happily made Westport early afternoon and snagged a great room at the Tripinn backpackers for two nights.

What a lovely room in this old historical mansion with en-suite for $100 a night.

We headed off to Tauranga Bay and the seal colony during the drive the road and coast was covered in a sea mist and when we arrived we couldn’t see the beach to start with, but as we walked it cleared into a beautiful afternoon with great views and incredible ocean waves crashing on rocks and lots of NZ fur seals lounging around then braving the waves and sea to head off oozing for their dinner.

We walked towards the lighthouse and back before heading back to town to shop for supplies and cooking risotto in the large shared kitchen.

Our room was everything we expected, comfortable, roomy and we were delighted that it was also very quiet. There was a 9pm curfew for drinking and all quiet after 10:30pm. I think most we tired travellers whom were glad for a good bed and early night.

The next day we headed to Karamea and onto The Oparara Basin where you walk through the native bush to either the Oparara caves or the Moria Gate Arch. Both fabulous walks and sites.

We planned to head to Dennison and old mining town and great view point but the sea mist which had cleared briefly was back, but with over 100 kms back to Westport and 16 kms on gravel to start we weren’t home much before 7pm and with the kitchen in full action we’re glad we were heating up leftover risotto only.

The next morning was Friday February the first and we packed up the car and headed towards Greymouth stopping at quite a few lookouts along the way to check out the Wild West Coast in all its wind swept glory including perpendicular point. A couple of walks down to beaches and then onto Punakaiki tavern for coffee and out onto Punakaiki coastal walk to view the pancake rocks and blowhole. This area lies on the edge of the Paparoa National Park and was fantastic. Especially on such a wild day.

We headed into Greymouth but the weather had turned to heavy rain and so after heading to a cafe for lunch decided against visiting The Shanty town attraction with its gold mining history and head into Hokitika where we picked up a cottage for the night on Airbnb. Pretty nice to have a whole house to ourselves and three bedrooms to choose from. Old home but we’ll set up for travellers and we cooked a lamb roast for dinner.

The weather actually fined up later in the day but was so late in the afternoon that it wasn’t worth going out and we used to the time to relax.

Saturday the 2nd February saw us heading to Hokitika Gorge for a walk to see what is normally Turquoise waters but after the rain more milky but still pretty.

We got back on the highway and headed to Ross a historic gold rush town and stopped for lunch before making our way towards Franz Joseph Glacier where we headed in for the one and a half hour walk. I was devastated to see how much the glacier had receded since we took the kids there in 1996. Unbelievable really sad.

We headed on towards the Fox glacier area where we booked a hotel for the night.

Spent the evening looking and booking accommodation for our three nights in Singapore in April. Once we have confirmed bookings with Andrew and Jett for their arrival in May will book those too. Always something to plan and sort out to keep the travel plans in action.

Our Sunday turned into a marathon of walks all the way to Wanaka. Lookouts, walk around Lake Mathieson and The blue pools saw us head into Wanaka later than we normally do and with few accommodation options ended up in a hotel near the golf course which did have kitchen facilities so we saved again cooking at home.

Monday we had a walk around the town centre and then a drive around the lake before driving on to Cromwell where we had booked two nights due to costs and low availability in Queenstown.

Actually this ended up being one of our best rentals. Really decent sized studio with free laundry services and decent sized kitchen bench and brand new bbq outside.

Again we cooked both nights here and even froze a meal to take on with us to Te Anau to heat through in our electric frypan.

Our day in Queenstown was enjoyable from the walk round the lake, walking through the town, which had grown exponentially since I was last here, and a great view from up the gondola.

Again pricing kept us moving on but not to anywhere cheaper, Te Anau was probably the most expensive we had paid so far and not that awesome but was a really great location right in town and right across the road for our pick up by coach on the Thursday down to Milford Sound and cruise.

Nice for James to have a rest from driving and it was a very pleasant day. Not much in the way of waterfalls as it’s been dry here for a few days but the scenery all day wasn’t too hard to take. What we did like is that the coach had a glass roof and really large picture windows on side of coach. We’ll set up for everyone to see maximum views on the trip. Great coach driver/ orator as well. We went with Go Orange.

The next day we spent on a tour of Doubtful sound. Attractive scenery once again and met some lovely travellers whom were great to share the day with Katherine from Singapore travelling solo and Tammy and Louise driving around in Big Bertha their massive rental campervan. Thanks girls you made a great day even better.

After getting off the tour we had booked a night at Mossburn old railway hotel less than 100 klms on so with an easy drive and comfortable accommodation, great in-house restaurant and pleasant staff we were very happy campers.

Next stop Invercargill.