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Welcome to my blog. Thanks for dropping by. Hope you'll stay and enjoy reading about where I've been and what I've been doing!

I don't mean this to be a replacement for personal emails, but it gives me the chance to put up photos and my scrapbook layouts, so I don't block up your in-boxes, or have to send the same photos and stories to everyone separately!
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Thanks also to Mary of Mary's Mixes for doing all the work on the blog's heading. You are great, Mary!


Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Franz to Punakaiki


One for yesterday! View from Reflection Island to Mount Cook

Woke early this morning in the hopes that the weather might still be great, but having heard the rain again through the night I really held no hope for the flight over the glaciers! However I was down at the helicopter office at 8.30, knowing fine well that they wouldn't be flying!
Anyway that at least meant I could get an early start on my next step. Have to say the windscreen wipers were working double time nearly all day and the camera remained deep in my pocket most of the time! I took a few to show what the weather was like, but they're not too clever! I stopped first at Lake Mapourika, then at Lake Ianthe. Nice views but nothing like this colour.
In between I had to stop at the Maori Gallery in Whataroa, as last time I was there I talked to the owner, of Maori descent but with a bit of Scots thrown in, I reckon. Well, with the surname of Armstrong..... The gallery is also a museum of Maori Art and displays carved work by Mr Armstrong himself. I remember he gave me an "off-cut" of a piece of greenstone that he was carving, but his daughter who I spoke to today said he didn't ever carve the greenstone! Mysterious!

Onwards to Ross where gold was discovered in 1865, I think it was. The town grew from tent town to a proper settlement with weather board houses and the facilities that serve a town, but then the gold declined so people moved on. However, the discovery of lead helped keep it gong for a bit. Now it is a small residential village with mining still going on in the old areas. The town is sitting on millions of dollars worth of gold, they say! In the picture the old miners are sluicing out the rock that contains the gold. Hokitika was my next stop, a biggish town, and once the biggest in the area, being the place where boats came in and out of. It reminds me of an American frontier town with its weatherboard buildings, boardwalks and canopies over the walkways. This pic is of the entrance to the Wool Station, under reconstruction today I think, and next door is the area council offices. which looks very dilapidated inside, and is in fact for sale because the council obviously can't afford to do the necessary work to bring it up to standard. There was a book sale there that I went to browse through. I know I can't bring books home, but would you believe I dropped the car keys, right on a pile of magazines I hadn't noticed on the floor. What mags were they? Only NZ and Aussie scrapbooking mags! So I bought the NZ one for $2! Amazing! This is the war memorial in the centre of the town, which had several beautiful wreaths laid out in front of it, last Sunday being ANZAC day. No poppies, but roses and lilies, etc. Very beautiful they are too.
I passed through Greymouth stopping only to fill the petrol tank. All I remember of it last time was the station where Jan and I arrived from the trip over the stunning Arthur's Pass. It seems to be a reasonably sized town, but I don't think I missed anything by not stopping! If the weather had been good I would have driven up to Arthur's Pass and back, but there was no point. The rain was on for the day! It was on the next stretch of road that I came across roadworks - not for the first time. Over here, they don't work on one side of the road and leave a good bit of single track road operated by traffic lights. The whole surface is removed and you just have to drive over the rough road, which has been flattened by a roller. What really made me laugh though was seeing one of the roadmen walking along the roadside with his stop/go sign... and a white plastic garden chair!
Not far along the way, the road began to climb, twisting up and up round the top of a cliff with the sea directly below, then dropping down again to sea level, twisting in and out of the bays. There were loads of sea stacks where there must have once been headlands separating them.

















At one point there was a memorial to miners who were killed in a mine explosion in 1967. Apparently Strongman mine was found to have breached safety rules, I read later. Next to the monument was a roadsign - Beware of penguins for the next 1km! I didn't see any.

I have been fascinated by the names of all the creeks I have driven over. Every little stream has a name and I wonder who Roy, Jamie, Joe and Red Jack etc, were, or Evans, McLean and McMillan for example. There was also Hare Mare Creek, depending on how you read it! I guess it's Haaray Maaray but it looks like it could be a Maori/English pun by some long ago Glaswegian miner, who named it after Hairy Mary! (Those two words rhyme in Scottish English). Remember I mentioned the two American hippies I met at Te Anau? No, haven't met them again, but they reckoned the New Zealanders drive very aggressively. Don't know how they came to that conclusion because for one thing most people really do stick to the speed limits which are slightly lower than ours - big penalties if you are caughtspeeding even by a little. You can lose your licence in a moment if you go too fat over the 100kph 100 kilometres an hour is the maximum speed on the roads, with 50kpm being town driving. 70 and 80 are edge of town speeds, and when it comes to those roadworks I was telling you about it's right down to 30 and sometimes even 15, and for another thing there's hardly any traffic on the roads down here, and most of that is campervans: the Mauis, Kiwis, Britz, Jucy's, hippie painted Escapes....! It may be different further up, but the population of the whole country is only about 4 million and Glasgow and Edinburgh alone have more than that. Mind you, I heard it said today that one out of four folk in NZ are actually tourists, and I tell you what, the Kiwis are excellent at customer service! "Hi, how're you going?" they all ask as you step through the door of a shop, the bank, the cafe.... to which the reply is "Good, thanks!" They want to know where you are from, where you've been and where you are going and often give information on places to go, things to see, etc. Well, I guess I like it that way.
Anyway back to my journey! I finally reached Pancake Rocks which is an outcrop of rock that has been so eroded by the weather that they look like piles of pancakes stacked on top of each other. With the right conditions - high tide (guaranteed twice a day), the wind from the south west (variable) and the right swell on the ocean (also variable) the water bursts through the eroded tunnels and geos resulting in the most thunderous sound and great spumes of water shooting up into the air from the blowholes. It wasn't quite the right conditions today but the waves and the sound of them booming into caves and holes in the rocks was still pretty impressive! However, there were more thunderous sounds - preceded by lightning - so yours truly wasn't too happy! I did seem as if the storm was a few miles away, but I was back at the car before long and heading off through the township of Punakaike (Poona-ka-eeki in my phonetic Maori!), and on to find a hostel I had read about! TE NIKAU! It is just so lovely, a pretty picturesque little house - could make an excellent family house - with vines growing along the top of the verandah. Inside it is SO cosy with sitting area, computer and reading room, kitchen and dining room. Stairs go up to the bedrooms, but I have a wee chalet all to myself as the dorms were full! Suits me! The last two nights have been quite noisy with folk coming in late and going out early in the mornings. My wee chalet is just a few seconds walk from the hostel itself, and is tucked away in the bush that surrounds the whole complex. A thought occurs! Hope there are no beasties (insects) around! I got bitten by sandflies yesterday despite ladling on the isect repellant! Should have brought the Avon product I had at home! Even the army use it to deter the midges etc back home! Anyway, there is more greenery around the whole place now. These photos must be a few years old now.
Getting to the end of my time here though I could extend it by another $4. I am working on the 40p dollar here! So $4 is one pound 60. (No pound sign on the keyboard here!) The computers all seem to work on $2 per 20 minutes! Some are coin operated and others work on a sign-in name and password from the hostel office. Here is coin operated!

So, tomorrow I will go back down to look at the rocks again. The tide will be going out (high tide at 4.50 something in the morning) but I want to see them again before I leave. Not sure where I am going to stay tomorrow night. I'll study the map and see where I could go, still leaving myself time to get to Maureen's in Motueka by the evening of the day after tomorrow! Is it Tuesday today? Well, it's Thursday I am due to reach Mot.
So, talk again soon!

Monday, 28 April 2008

tomorrow

On to Pancake Rocks tonorrow after my flight! O'm not holding my breath for that though!

The Glaciers

Well, did it pour with rain through the night! The answer is Yes it did, and with a vengeance! It was still raining when I got up and the cloud was low - enough to cover the mountains! So today was to be a day of rest! I planned to drive to Franz Josef Glacier and walk to the view point to take a photo or two, then to do a bit of the walk round Lake Matheson through the rain forest. I even thought I might buy an umbrella! I bought one here last time! Then I planned on spending time with my as yet unopened book, back at the youth hostel.

It's a 5km drive to the carpark below FJG, part way alongside the river which was roaring down under the bridge that carries the main road. As I turned the corner and drove alongside the river, it was quite eery seeing the mist rising from the water and edging the river with what looked like a dried ice effect! The water itself was grey, and reminded me of liquid cement roaring along the deeper channels! About 2km from the car park another sign announces that the glacier reached that point in 1750. It apparently advances as well as retreats, and it all depends on how much snow fell at the top of the glacier 5 years ago as to which it does. That's a comparatively short time as other glaciers need about 15 years to show the change!


Not that I saw as much of the glacier as this, but wonder of wonders, the clouds WERE lifting - albeit slowly - and the sky had decidedly more blue in it! I took my photos after a short walk to the view points, feeling rather pleased that I had after all got to see both glaciers. I call them Glass-ears, but here they are Glayshers! What do you call them?


Having looked again at the map I realised I'd have to drive back over the twisty - and I MEAN twisty - roads to Fox to find the road to Lake Matheson. I wonder what made me think it was from FJ? The cloud was definitely lifting as I sat in the Matheson cafe, fortifying myself for the walk round the lake. The first part of the walk takes you across the Clearwater Bridge, the river very aptly named, and into the rain forest where a superb path winds and twists its way, reaching the jetty about half an hour later. Lovely views of the lake, though the best views of the mountains are further on. These are views of Mount Cook/Aoraki that on very still days are beautifully reflected in the lake. Not so clear in this picture, but you can see how lovely the lake is.






The best view of Aoraki is from Reflection Island where a duckboard and lookout have been specially constructed to allow walkers to reach the island. By now the clouds were pretty high, like in the photo here, but wisps of cloud floated across the high peaks. I must have taken dozens of photos - just in case that was the best view I was to get! In fact I really got some splendid shots, though Aoraki kept her hat on the top of her head all the time, but Mount Tasman next to her came into full view eventually. (A Japanese man also at the Reflection Island viewpoint thought it was called Mount Atlas.)
Mount Cook is the peak on the left and Tasman is on the right in this fabulous view. To be honest I think I rather liked the view better with the wisps of cloud floating around.
I continued round the lake through more rain forest - has rain forest ever been more photographed - and finally got back to Clearwater Bridge and the carpark. I'd thought way back that if the weather was good when I reached FJ I'd go on a a heli-trip over the glaciers so as I could now hear the buzz of little planes and the more raucous sound of helicopters that had been absent in the morning, I raced back to Fox to see if I could book a flight! It needs three passengers before a helicopter can fly and I was the only one wanting the next flight. Maybe there would be more, so I waited at the cafe next door, trying out butterscotch and walnut tart and apple and feijoa juice (I first met feijoas at Margaret's - the fruit that smells like the deep heat stuff you rub into aching muscles to relieve back pain) . No-one booked for the flight so I was offered a flight tomorrow morning. So, I'm keeping my fingers crossed and anything else I can cross, that the weather will still be OK tomorrow. I doubt it will, because the forecast was bad for today and two good days in a row will be doubtful (well at home in Scotland they would).

So all being well..... this could be me tomorrow!

Talk again soon.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Makarora to Franz Josef Glacier

Well, guess what? ...... It's raining. In fact it's really p...ing down (pelting!) It was dull this morning when I woke in my own little A-frame cabin. No-one else had booked into the dorm accommodation at the motel so I had it all to myself! Last night after I got back to the cabin I could see so many stars! It was incredible, like a string of the Milky Way, with a couple of very bright twinklers which seemed quite close - but they're not, of course! But I really thought we'd have a nice day today.



Makarora Wilderness Resort


I had breakfast in the cafe and chatted to Jenny who was on duty last night too. She's from Oamaru, though is half Arabian, half English, and she arrived in Makarora at the beginning of the summer season and intends staying for another 18 months, maybe more! She seems to like it there!!! I headed off into the cloud, though for a moment I thought I saw some blue sky ahead! Might it clear up? No chance! It got worse really, though the clouds weren't so low as they were last time I was there. I got some rather atmospheric photos of mountains and rivers, even the sea,
along the way as I drove through rain forest - cabbage trees, flax, tree ferns and some strange tall trees that have little short branches sticking out like arms. They mostly have creepers growing up and round the trunks. To be honest that bit of the road was a bit boring, but I found a beautiful waterfall or three to photograph! Eventually I reached Fox Glacier township and drove up the road to the carpark from where you walk for about half an hour along a fairly undulating track - where the glacier used to be only a hundred years ago. One or two sign boards along the road had indicated the end of the glacier in 17 hundred and something, and then in 1835. It's quite a way back now! There's a cone shaped mountain that is quite a way forward from the end of the glacier and photos of about 1900 show only the top of it at the side of the glacier! Apparently the ice was then about 100 feet thick! More photos in the rain, but the blue colour that reflects the oldest ice in the glacier was still plain to see. You don't get too close to the glacier and certainly don't get the view in the next pictures.




It was time to move on and there was still enough daylight - early dark tonight because of the gloomy weather - to drive the twisty road to the next glacier town of Franz Josef. I needed to find some food and a bed for the night so first I found the supermarket and then the youth hostel. I thought I was going to get the five share room to myself but quite late on, a trio of Spanish girls arrived and proceeded to fill the room! It's not too big! However before they arrived I went out to a nearby restaurant and had a lovely meal! I think I'll be living on sandwiches for a few days now!
So now I am here in the games room with a noisy game of Snap going on in the back ground, that involves animal sounds instead of the word Snap, and a game of pool happening next to the computer desks!

I'm hoping the weather will pick up but I just heard someone say it's supposed to be drizzly tomorrow and worse the day after! Well, that puts paid to my idea of a helicopter flight over the glaciers but I think I will stay here another night and relax tomorrow - well apart from trying to see the Franz Josef glacier and taking a bit of a walk by Lake Matheson! There should be views of Aoraki - Mount Cook - but I reckon I've had that! Same as last time. Still the walk in the rain forest should be nice! I might buy an umbrella though! Sorry that pic is so small! The bright white stuff is the snow covered Mount Cook range!
Well, time to go again!
Talk again soon.




































Saturday, 26 April 2008

Queenstown to Makarora

Reluctantly, but made easier by the fact that the clouds were down over the mountains this morning, I left Queenstown and headed towards the goldfields! Not much gold to be found these days but that's where gold was found in the 19th century, and why Queenstown and Arrowtown grew up! Arrowtown is very picturesque, retaining some of its old look, though I am sure there are some new buildings built to fit in with the old style.

The autumn festival was in full swing, and being Saturday there was all sorts of entertainments going on, The main street was closed today to accommodate them. I stopped to watch acrobats who did juggling and knife throwing. The girl was amazingly agile, twisting her legs behind her head, squeezing herself into a very small box, and working her way through a small hoop - doubled up!


There were also Maori singers who sang and danced, the girls sometimes using poi, the balls on strings that they twirled about very deftly! The men performed a haka and got some men in the audience to come up to the stage and learn how to do some of the movements! That was very funny, but they did it, following the lead of the Maori men!

I worked my way through the crowds along the street to find the old Chinese village that was built by immigrant Chinese gold miners on the edge of Arrowtown, not being totally welcomed or accepted by the white settlers! A few houses and the store remain, and a trail leads you from site to site, display boards explaining about these men who left wives and families at home to try to make a better living.

Time was getting on so I returned to the main street and hearing the sound of the bagpipes had to investigate. A group of pipers were accompanying a group of singers and a danceband. Not bad at all!



I continued my walk along by the row of the oldest of the old buildings. It was obvious that people were waiting for something to happen and were beginning to line this part of the street. I began to look at the stalls set up opposite, by crafts people, and watched a guy do acrobatics in the sky in a small plane. Up and up and round he went, looping the loop and flying up again, next stalling the engine to freefall downwards again, starting it just at the last moment and sweeping back up into the sky again! Amazing stuff!

Back to the craft stalls - jewellery, knitting, painting, handmade cards, a copper worker.... now his stuff was wonderful. I could have taken some of that home quite happily! Then the parade started which was what everyone was waiting to see. Led by the pipe band the local fireservice followed in a succession of historical vehicles to the present day. There were a good number of vintage cars next, and then different floats with the kids dressed up. There was a wonderful pirate ship, and one with the cubs and the scouts doing outdoor things that cubs and scouts do! Kids on unicycles, the juggler/acrobats..... it was great fun! Reminded me of our own Beltane parade at home, with a guy on a penny farthing, and the bus with the local old folk!



I really had to get on my way, but stopped again to listen to the pipeband play Highland Cathedral. Heading out, I bumped into a trio of women in purple and red, with red hats. Had to be some of the Red Hat Society! Having heard about the society from Eunice, I had to talk to them, two Helens and a Susan! They had come to the festival from Cromwell, not that far away!



So, at last I found my way back to the car and headed off to find the road I wanted, what was an unsealed road last time, and not passable for us in our hire car. Now the road is sealed and accessible so I zigzagged my way up and up a mountainside and over the ski-ing region, to the tiny hamlet of Cardrona! We have Cardrona near Peebles so I had to see it for myself! I can now say I have had a drink (of orange juice) in the Cardrona Hotel! It looks a lot more inviting than our own one at home!



Eventually, in the afternoon, amid beautiful mountain scenery I reached Wanaka, beside the lake. Photographed to bits, I left Wanaka behind in the hope of getting to Haast by the time dark fell and it falls around 6.30pm. No chance! I kept stopping to grab photos of Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka, so the car lights were in use by the time I reached Makaroa Wilderness Resort where I decided to pull into the motel. They have little cabins scattered around a woodland site, including couple of dorm chalets for a much cheaper price thanthe cabins. No-one lse is sleeping in them tonight so I have one of them to myself! Right now I am in the bar, listening to a load of kids enjoying a karaoke night - they are really having fun - and doing my thing here on the computer!



Tomorrow the scenery promises to be grand again, and I will head over the rest of the Haast Pass to reach the west coast. On up to Fox and Franz Josef where with luck I will get to see the glaciers. I think I might take a helicopter sight seeing trip!



Sorry no pics today! No time! So till next time.... night night!

Talk again soon.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Queenstown

Well, Friday today and I have moved from the YHA to the place that Jan and I stayed in in 1999. It's up the hill along the lakeside with fantabulous views of the town, the Remarkables, the lake and the hills further up the lake! I could stay here for another day or two as there's so much to see and do here at Queenstown. The almost island in the above pic is a beautiful park where I went for a walk today. It is ANZAC day today, equivalent of our day to remember the men who died during the World Wars, so there were several gun salutes while I was there, ricocheting round the mountains like thunder!

After the walk I thought I'd have a teabreak at an unusual cafe by the water that I remembered from the last visit, the Royal Bathhouse, but sadly it was closed for the day, and only open at night for meals! Instead I headed for the Skyline Gondola for the ride up one of the mountains - Bob's Peak - to the cafe up there.





It's a long steep way up but the views down to the town and the lake are pretty stunning!

This photo isn't actually taken from the skyline viewing gallery, but probably from Ben Lomond the next peak! It's higher than our Scottish Ben Lomond from which this one probably got its name!




After admiring the views all round, browsing the souvenir shop - outrageous prices - having my photo taken by a kindly kiwi, devouring a banana and chocolate muffin and a bottle of tropical fruit juice, it was time to descend once more to get to the Kiwi and Birdlife park in time for the special shows they were putting on! I had an hour looking round the park, seeing different bird life from moreporks (little owls), kakariki and lorikeets, to NZ ducks and teals, and of course kiwis! They are nocturnal so their kiwi house is kept dark but with infra red lights so they can be seen by the public, albeit with difficulty! I was lucky in that one was quite close to the front of the enclosure so I could see it quite well. There were some more tuataras too, in their own enclosure. After the tour around the park there was a conservation "display" in a netted enclosure, where one of the girls who works there showed some of the birds and gave a talk on the conservation of various endangered species!


I loved this picture that they had on display. The Maori greeting is to touch noses!


Following the talk in which kakariki and the lorikeet flew back and forth from one member of staff to the other, there was a change of venue to see a trio of Maori people perform songs and a couple of haka - the sort of thing the All Blacks do at the start of a rugby international! They got us standing up to do a song and dance which turned out to be the Hokey Kokey in Maori! Hopi hopi! Well, it was fun! Unfortunately I forgot to charge the camera battery last night and it ran out just as I was about to come down in the gondola! So I will be relying on leaflets for the photos of the birds and the performance.


This evening I have been trying to put my photos on disk! Ken in Invercargill did some for me, so I thought it a good idea to follow suit. Only I got all the pics copied, ready to burn to a disk, clicked on "write these files to CD"..... and "There is no disk in the disk drive" it told me! Yes there is! Anyway it wouldn't recognise it, and now it won't even open the disk drawer to give me back the CD that IS in there! Technology! I can see I'm not meant to upload my photos yet!


So tomorrow I am continuing on my way north and onto the west coast. I must make an early start. There's a lot to see on route and I know I am not going to make my planned destination of Franz Josef. Maybe I'll get to Haast instead! So, till I get to the next backpackers with internet facilities, I'll say bye bye!


Talk again soon.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Invercargill to Queenstown via Te Anau

I have totally lost track on what day or date it is! I think it's Wednesday - no, it's Thursday, I am informed by a couple of my fellow YHA members! Crumbs! Where did the time go! I thought I left Eunice on Tuesday! Anyway, the day I DID leave, and that was yesterdayI decided to go for a drive along the coast and up to Te Anau, which was a great trip. I had to stop several times to take photos and how I wish I could show them to you now! Crashing waves, hang-gliding surfers.... beautiful! Then it was over the plain, and eventually into the hills to Te Anau, on the lake of the same name, and surrounded by high peaks!

Lake Te Anau

I booked into a backpackers hostel - not the most friendly staff I've ever met! I was given my keys for the room without an explanation that they were engraved 8 for the front door of the chalet; 8a for my room, and something else for the communal rooms, like TV room, laundry etc. I had to go back to the desk when I tried all 3 keys on the front door and none of them worked, try as I might to turn them both ways!! "It could be me...." I offered and was snappily told there was nothing wrong with the keys, and that they had been used many times! OK! THEN she told me about the numbers, which I hadn't found because it was dark by the time I found my chalet, and she also volunteered that the key for the front door MIGHT need a little wiggle and MAY not necessarily turn the way it should!
In the foyer were two American hippies - I reckon there's very little likelihood of them reading this so I feel pretty safe in describing them to you! He was tall, and skinny with a big bushy beard and the biggest tache. She was small and very rotund, with long straggly grey hair and missing her two front teeth on the top. Both were probably about 60. He turned up at the computers at the same time as me, but we found that they weren't working. He obviously wasn't happy with Microsoft, being a Mac man himself! Anyway nothing could be done so we had to forego the chance to do our stuff! Hence the reason I didn't blog yesterday. Anyway, not impressed with these two I headed back to the chalet - the keys worked by the way! - to take a shower. I heard folk coming back into the chalet after a while, but when I met them - guess who? The hippies! , and they had started to cook their brown rice and veggies. They are apparently big activists back home, constantly involved in legal wrangles with neighbours over this and that! It turned out they were on a trip financed by their son who is "respectable" - their word - as a rekkie tour to see if they might like to come out to NZ to live! I can't see it happening!
This morning I took more photos of lake Te Anau, had breakfast in the same cafe, I am sure, that Aussie cousin Jan and I ate at, 9 years ago - an apple and bran muffin and tea (the best tea since I arrived in NZ! I don't care for the type of tea they generally use over here, and it's not just that it's here! I don't like it much at home either!), and finally set off on the next stage of my journey, frequently stopping to take photos! When I finally reached Lake Wakatipu there were viewpoints - lookouts - every mile or so, and I reckon I stopped at most of them, sometimes going for a bit of a walk through the "bush" for a better view! All footpaths by the way - no venturing off the beaten track! Talking of tracks, I just happened to arrive at Fairlight station just in time to see and photograph the Kingston flyer which was due to leave for Kingston at the south end of lake Wakatipu.








The Kingston Flyer

So Queenstown was reached eventually, and a bed at the youth hostel booked! It's not available tomorrow night so I will probably find a backpackers and stay here an extra night! There are so many things I want to do tomorrow! I'd like to have done the Lord of the Rings tour too, but haven't seen it advertised anywhere since I got here! Still there's plenty more to do! Queenstown is a very busy place - even at this time in the year the place is full of visitors from all over. In the hostel tonight there are English, Scots, Irish, Aussie, Chinese, Sikhs, Dutch, French....... I'm looking forward to seeing the autumn colours of the trees tomorrow.

The mountain views should also be remarkable! - That's what the range in the picture to the right and below is called! The Remarkables! It's something to do with the tilt of the mountains which geologists couldn't get their heads around in the 19th century.

Well, my time on the computer here is running out so I must "publish" this right now! I'm still not sure what to do about the photos!


Hope you enjoy the internet pics! I don't suppose they'll enlarge, but I'll have some of my own eventually!

Talk again soon!

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Tour of Invercargill

Tuesday 22 April 2008.
Still have the news of yesterday to give you! Eunice took me on a tour of Invercargill by car, pointing out some of the main buildings, including a rather lovely Roman Catholic domed church, a bit like looking at London's St Paul's - only different! There is also a rather splendid water tower, a reservoir of water in town serving the inhabitants of the city. This end of NZ is very Scottish in that its former settlers came from Scotland and in building here, named their streets after Scottish rivers - Tay Street, Earn Street, Deveron Street, Dee, Street, TWEED Street, etc. Of course the style of buildings is very different from home, rows of wooden weather board shops reminiscent of the American and Australian style with covered walkways, though large concrete blocks are now being built.
This photo is of Dee Street, one of the two main shopping streets. Well, it's one half of it. The streets are very wide and in some cases have plants growing down the middle, as in Dee Street here.

From town we headed to the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, where we were to meet some very special characters. However first we walked round a fantastic exhibition of fantasy dolls, made by a local lady with lots of talent and imagination! Again can't show you photos right now, but as soon as I can locate a USB point at the next internet cafe, I'll add some. The photos I'm adding here are not my own, but were pinched from the internet.

The characters we were to meet next were tuatara (tooa-tara - one tuatara, ten tuatara), lizard-like reptiles that can only be found in the wild in certain areas of New Zealand, and these are offshore islands with limited access. The Southland Museum operates a breeding scheme with the aim of releasing tuatara back into the wild on the islands where they first came from. They also go to other areas to be exhibited in zoos too.
Thanks to Eunice knowing Lindsay, the "main man" in the tuatara department, we were taken through to the "nursery" to see the recent tuatara baby boom, little lizardy creatures with long grey tails and bodies and pale grey, almost white, heads.... so cute and so very frisky. Boy can they move - unlike their parents who can stay still for ages! The highlight of our visit was that I was allowed to handle one of the adults, and even have my photo taken with it on my arm and then in my hand! A cool creature with a soft leathery feel to it! Wow!

There were other things to see in the Museum and Art Gallery, including an exhibit about Kiwi Bert Munro who broke land speed records in USA and NZ on his 1920 Indian Scout motor bike. The film "The World's Fastest Indian", starring Anthony Hopkins, was Munro's story. There was also a section on the Maori, and one on NZ wildlife; and an art gallery with two or three rather gorgeous paintings I wouldn't mind hanging on my walls at home!

On the plane down from Christchurch, my companion had recommended a visit to Anderson Park a few kilometres out of Invercargill so that was our next stop. The house was built in 1924 for a family of Scottish descent, and though not a big stately home it is an interesting house, now an art gallery. What I found most interesting was the design of the house, and its layout. Because of the weather, which was very wet, we were unable to walk in the grounds, or visit the park in Invercargill, and my idea of going to NZ's third island, Stewart Island, from Bluff, had to be abandoned too! Too bad!

Today I picked up a hire car at the airport, which I will leave at Picton on 5th May when I cross the strait by ferry to Wellington. I had intended leaving Invercargill today for Queenstown, but by the time I got the car - A Toyota Corolla with manual shift - it was really too late to make a leisurely journey to Queenstown, which is probably only three hours straight driving, so I needed little persuasion from Eunice to stay another night. It has been a great visit with her and the family, and boy has she spoiled me rotten! Thanks for everything, Eunice. I have enjoyed Keith's stories too, and Ken has helped me so much by putting the photos I have taken so far, onto disks. I'll add another few pics into a new bit of blog after this... maybe tomorrow!
So, that's me from Invercargill! Next blog should be from Queenstown... where I could do a bungee jump, or jet down the Shotover river, or any number of other adrenalin pumping activities! What do you reckon?
Talk again soon!!!

Monday, 21 April 2008

photos!

I sneaked back onto the computer to add these photos in. They are all in Dromana, Victoria, Australia, where Clare and Nathan had chosen to get married. Most of the wedding ones, well, the pics of Clare in her wedding dress, were taken longways up and I can't turn them round here, so you have a selection of the ones I took this way up!^^^^^
The house we stayed in at Dromana

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On the deck

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The beach at Dromana

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The official photographer at work: Clare and bridesmaids

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Love that two tone "Henry Matisse" rose

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The family

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Clare and Nathan

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Clare signs the register

Another birthday and some exploration

It's Monday evening now, 21st April. I didn't blog yesterday as after Eunice's birthday I was so tired, I just went to bed and slept... and slept! To celebrate, we all went down to Bluff, which I think I mentioned is NZ's "Land's End", not quite the southernmost point but the southernmost town at any rate. Along the coast, at the end of a road is the point where they have a signpost with arms pointing to the Equator, Cape Reinga (most northerly point in NZ), Melbourne, London.... and lots more. I had to have my photo taken there!!! The whole family, Eunice, her husband, son, daughter, son-in-law, 3 grandchildren, and a great auntie (grampa's sister) met up for lunch at a restaurant looking down on the signpost and out to sea. Lots of fish on the menu so I plumped for scallops/scollops, my favourite, and was persuaded also to try some Bluff oysters, something I have never tasted before! I opted for the battered and deep fried ones, which were actually pretty good. Still don't think I could cope with raw (straight out of the shell, down the throat in one) oysters! Unfortunately the meal had taken so long to be served up that we didn't have time to have desserts, then birthday cake, so it was decided that everyone would gather later at Eunice's!
Despite a good weather forecast it rained pretty heavily again, but Ken and I took a short walk along the coastal track through the bush - tree ferns, hebes, pepper trees, fuchsia trees, clumps of flax... and beautiful views of the sea and a couple of the Foveaux Strait islands. Did I mention yesterday that I got my feet wet the day before at Riverton while trying to take a photo of a water spout? The sea took a detour round the beach - yes, it DID - and attacked me from two directions. I had anticipated the one only! Well. no wet feet yesterday, thank goodness!
Back at home again, the family gathered with presents for Gran and a birthday cake decorated as a hat with red net and red flowers and feathers and a huge purple ribbon sash around it - Eunice is an honorary member of the Red Hat Society, a group for "fun and friendship after 50", an American woman's innovation, the symbol of which is the red hat - obviously - adorned with purple. It comes from the poem
"When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple,
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me,
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.

I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in the shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit......... "

It goes on, but basically it says "I am going to grow old disgracefully - and have a good time while I'm at it!" My colleagues at work will recognise that saying! I got a purple streak put in my hair recently, and I'm a lot older than most of them! Hey Shell, and Keith. Joyce! Moira! Norma, you'll identify with this too, though we always talk about the purple hat!
Well, to get back to yesterday, Eunice's daughter brought out the actual red hat and a red feather boa which Eunice wore for the cake cutting ceremony. The three grandchildren helped to blow out the candles, and we all sang Happy Birthday! Then there were photos! Being a special big-zero birthday, it was a real occasion, so everyone was photographed with everyone else at some point!
At last, after pudding (dessert/sweets), birthday cake and 'Nanny McPhee', it was time the kids went home, so lots of goodbyes, hugs and kisses and off the family went. Peace reigned! The kids were lots of fun, but very bouncy, so it was good to wind down again and chill before bedtime!
Well, I WAS going to carry on blogging telling you of todays adventures, but I have been ordered off the computer, by Eunice, who says it's time I went to bed! It is ten past one a.m. now so I guess she has a point! I'll try to catch up tomorrow morning before I set off for Queenstown, otherwise it will probably be Queenstown before I can continue the story. Oops, here's Eunice again! Better go! Talk again soon!

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Birthday!

Happy Birthday to me! Happy Birthday to me!
Happy Birthday dear me-ee!
Happy Birthday to me!!!!

Well! Who'd have thought a couple of months ago that I'd be in Invercargill on my birthday, picking up paua shells (abalone) from the beach at Riverton and eating baked salmon with lemon risotto for lunch at the Beach restaurant, blowing out candles on a thistle-shaped birthday cake at teatime... and in short, getting spoiled rotten by Eunice and her family!
I've obviously skipped a few days from the last time I blogged, so let me fill you in! I arrived in Auckland on Monday, having stayed the night before in a motel close to Tullamarine airport. The morning flight was very early and meant getting up at some awful time - I don't DO mornings - to catch a courtesy taxi to the terminal, so that was how I found myself blogging at the airport. The flight to NZ was fine, and Mike, my cousin, was there to meet me. He drove us back to their suburb overlooking one of Auckland's two harbours, where his mother, Margaret was waiting with lunch ready! After lunch Mike headed off back to work at the boatyard, where he and his brother Chris are renovating a couple of boats: a small boat for going out fishing and on trips not too far afield, and a 70 foot yacht that will probably take them several more years to complete - and then who knows where on the seven seas they'll get to! Margaret and I visited the yard one day and saw the progress they'd made. It is possible that the small boat MAY be back in the water by the time I get back to Auckland, so I'm hoping for a short trip somewhere on my last day in NZ. We'll see!
I spent all of the first few days at home with Margaret, going through the family tree and sorting out pictures of previous generations. She fished out a manuscript - a handwritten book - by her grandfather, Bert, who described a tour in Scotland in 1887 that he had made with my grandfather and a couple of other companions into the hills of the west. There were photos too, which I began to photograph, till Margaret told me she wanted me to have the book. Was I delighted, or what!!! On the last day I was with them, another of the cousins came over for lunch so more chatter and reminiscences.
On Friday when Mike dropped me again at the airport, my flight to Invercargill was in jeopardy due to some "disruption" earlier in the day. They had tried to contact me to tell me that they wanted me on an earlier flight - but that message didn't reach us! It was possible they were going to have to "overnight" me at either Wellington or Christchurch as all other flights to Invercargill were full for the day! I did the girlie thing and gave them my sob-story (which was absolutely true - I had to be in Invercargill for a birthday) and well, wouldn't you know it, there was one seat left on a flight from Christchurch that would tie in with a flight TO Christchurch - so I was off... no time to phone Eunice, and I landed in Invercargill an hour before I was due to arrive on the original flights via Wellington! I discovered later that Eunice had been checking up on my original flight, found it just wasn't happening and had to try and find out which flight I was on instead! Finding out my plane was due in five minutes they screeched down the road to the airport to arrive just after I disembarked. It was great to see her. We have both been looking forward to this visit, so here I am in Invercargill, being spoiled rotten, as I think I said before, and enjoying every minute, and that is how I managed to be picking up paua shells on the beach at Riverton, and eating baked salmon with lemon risotto for lunch, followed by lemon poppyseed cake and cream, by the way, today - my birthday! The forecast had been for wet weather today but the day turned out fine and Riverton's coast was beautiful with pale greeny-blue sea and huge waves breaking over rocks and sandy beaches.
Thanks everyone for your texts and emails! Thanks for remembering the date, and thanks for all the little goodies, the flowers AND the beautiful birthday cake, to Eunice and Rosemary and the family. The cake is in the shape of a thistle, a chocolate cake, covered in purple and green icing, which I cut at teatime with great ceremony amid the flashing of cameras! I suppose my birthday is still going on for those in different time zones, but here it is all over. However we'll be doing it all over again tomorrow - well not quite! Tomorrow is Eunice's birthday and we are going in another direction for lunch, this time, not only with Keith, Kenneth and Eunice, but with Rosemary, Geoff, Johnathan, Rachel and Robbie too. (Rachel danced a Highland Fling for me when I met her and her wee brother for a short time later today!)
So, time for bed again. I'll sleep like a log after all that sea air today!
Talk again soon.

Friday, 18 April 2008

The continuing story......

Sorry I finished off that last entry so abruptly! I was at Melbourne Airport - Tullamarine - waiting for my flight to Auckland when I found the computers. I paid for an hour, and just managed to get it written that far before my time ran out! Just had time to press the button to publish and I was timed out!

So to finish off that story, the reception continued with dancing for the youngies, though dear Nathan grabbed my hand and pulled me onto the dance floor at one point! I bopped away with the best of them! Good fun! Eventually the bride and groom said their farewells, each going in the opposite direction round a circle of guests, and left amid cheers from us all. The party broke up soon after and with one (Andrew, you know who that was)rather the worse for wear, our party headed back to the house to talk about the lovely day it had been, or in Andrew's case to collapse into bedimmediately!

Next morning guests who had stayed over in the area began arriving at the Dromana house where Paul got the barbie on the deck going for brunch! Sausages, burgers, tomatoes, mushrooms, and eggs cooked on the indoor stove... beautiful! We sat on the deck to eat, overlooking Philip Bay, the sun shining and warm - very warm! All ye who read that at home, be jealous! Soon Bruce, who had been doing some filming work nearby for a documentary, arrived back and picked up Dale and myself for the drive back to Melbourne along with Catherine who works with Bruce on these occasions. She was dropped off at the airport for a flight back to Sydney and then we drove to the motel where I would be staying for the night as I had to catch an early flight to Auckland next morning. After a cup of tea together in the motel bar, I said goodbye to Bruce and Dale, extracting from them a promise to try to come back to Scotland soon. Actually I'll see Bruce again at Sally's wedding in May, but then Holly, his daughter, will be with him, instead of Dale.

So, I hope to be able to upload some pictures soon! I have already taken hundreds of photos, but more of that anon! Getting late, time for bed now but I'll continue in the morning! Well, it IS morning but as usual I haven't been to bed yet! More after a sleep! Lots to catch up on!
Talk again soon!

Sunday, 13 April 2008

The wedding

Well, Clare was the most beautiful bride! She is petite, slim and very pretty, and the dress she had chosen was stunning! I'll upload photos just as soon as.... Before we left for the church the photographer took loads of poses and I was at her shoulder to take my pics of the bride, the bridesmaids, the bride AND the bridesmaids, the parents, the bride and the parents, the bride, the bridesmaids and the parents, the brother, the brother and the bride, the brother, the bride and the chief bridesmaid..... Got them all!
As for the church, it was relatively new, a red brick building with a sort of trapezium shaped interior which was beautifully decorated. I was lucky enough to be shown to the front pew, right in the centre and as everyone was flashing their cameras all through the service, I did the same, flash off, from the best of vantage points. The priest was great, reminded me of Pope John Paul but maybe that was only because he was Polish. "Do you come here willingly...." he asked. "We do." the couple replied. "I'm very pleased!" grinned Father J. He made everyone laugh. It was such a relaxed service all the way through. The family candles were lit. The bride and groom lit their own candle from their two families' candles. They made their vows to each other, and when Nathan and Clare were pronounced man and wife, everyone clapped their socks off - including Father J! There were a few tears in the front pew and maybe further behind too. I really don't know when I was at a nicer wedding.
Ian, father of the bride, is the eldest of 5 brothers, two of whom were also at the ceremony: Bruce, whose pictures are in my very first blog, and his partner, Dale, and Colin, who once shared my flat in Edinburgh about 30 years ago, with his wife, Patrea. It was good to catch up with them all again. I have seen Bruce more recently, but it is 9 years since I saw Dale, Colin and Patrea.
The reception was held in a nearby hotel where we had dinner. The speeches afterwards were excellent. Ian spoke first with some stories about Clare, some advice to the groom about what to expect from marriage, and a welcome to Nathan into the family as another son. Then Berny, Clare's mum, spoke with some gentle words about marriage, and we toasted "Clare and Nathan!" Next the best man stood up and told how he had first met Nathan, and then Clare, and how the two of them had taken a shine to each other and started going out together. He thanked the bridesmaids, Clare's younger sister Sally, and friend, Cara, and we toasted the bridesmaids! Next it was Sally who got up to give some anecdotes of their childhood, and of how close they were. It was so lovely, and a bit too much for Sally who shed a few tears and had a few gulps at one point before she could continue her reminiscences. Now Nathan AND Clare stood, each to give their own thankyous to parents and friends. Nathan told us of Clare's reaction when it was suggested that Nathan traditionally give the speech on behalf of himself and his new wife. Clare had said she was perfectly capable of speaking for herself, and she did, very movingly. The wedding cake was cut by bride and groom unfortunately on the other side of the room, so I didn't see that, but we all ate a slice of it - a chocolate layer and a lemon layer!

The journey!

G'day! Well, I had to say it, didn't I? Here I am with the first blog of my trip! I am over any jet lag now but I did keep falling asleep all day Friday once I got here.
It was snowing - no, not when I got here. It was snowing when I left Peebles with Morag's husband Mike,who had volunteered for taxi duty from Peebles to Glasgow! We arrived at the airport in good time for me to check in, and soon my case was spirited away to be loaded onto the plane and I was free to enter the departure lounge. It's pretty boring hanging around airports. Once you've browsed the duty free shops; drunk a couple of cups of tea and been to the toilet, there's not much else to do except people watch, read a book, or just sit and wait for your flight to be called. First it was the flight for Calgary, and then the one to Faro, (not Faroe, as I naively thought it was!), but eventually it was our turn and we were called to board our Emirates flight to Dubai. The plane for whoever is interested was a 777, triple 7, an updated version of the 747 jumbo I flew in way back in 1979 on my first Australian visit. It was very comfortable really,with more leg room in Economy class than with most other airlines. I don't fly very often so was fascinated by the small screens on the backs of the seats in front, with loads of films, music and information channels to choose from to while away the 6 hours 45 minutes to Dubai. Not being a big film buff, I settled for music and listened to a mixture of Rolling Stones, Pop number 1's from years gone by, and some classical, to fall asleep to. It was a fairly bumpy flight, but that doesn't worry me - I'm quite a happy flier - and when we were served a nice meal of chicken something or other, I ate that very happily. Drinks and icecream were also served during the flight and after tasting the second cup of tea - the first was great - I decided to stick to fruit juice!
Eventually we reached Dubai and disembarked for a couple of hours. Unlike the 1979 trip when we had to walk down the stairways to the tarmac and were almost knocked over by the heat and humidity, this time we walked straight from the plane through the usual covered walkway, over a glass enclosed bridge above the shopping area into the transit area. It was 2 a.m. and there were people everywhere, standing, sitting, playing cards or sleeping, many of the sleepers stretched out on the floor with a light blanket over them. Being the United Arab Emirates, many of the travellers wore local costume. The men in their loose white cotton trousers and long flowing shirts looked very cool, and the women, though not all veiled, wore their hair covered and their long black robes, in many cases customised with beads and other embellishments to make some sort of fashion statement. The duty free area was interesting - lots of "bling". and soft camel toys, and other Arabian souvenirs, amongst the usual booze and perfume - and yes, the Arabs were most predominant in the queues for their cheap booze!
I tried here to upload a couple of photos but I guess the size of the files is too large. Anyway they were taking too long and as I am at an internet cafe right now, time is restricted! I'll try again another day!
So, on to the second leg to Singapore. About the same amount of travel time and entertainment, and another meal, not quite as appetising as the first one! It was another bumpy flight, but again I slept. I did enjoy the information channel's views of the flight course on my little screen. There is also a camera on the nose of the plane giving a forward view and another cam on the bottom of the plane for a downward view, but it was only on take off and landing that we got much benefit of those!
At Singapore we had about half an hour in transit while the plane was cleaned and tidied, no douby by an army of little Chinese women who descended on the plane like a plague of locusts, like they did in 99 on my last trip! That time some of us stayed on the plane, but this time we were all ordered off.
At last we were into the last stage of our journey, the 6 hour 50 minute flight to Melbourne where I was to be met at 0030 on Friday morning by my cousin Ian, father of the brides! In fact we were a little latein getting in at Melbourne, I think due to a bit of circling around the airport, waiting for a landing slot. Of course it had to be MY case that was last onto the carousel, and I was worried that Ian would be thinking I wasn't on the flight after all - which was exactly what he HAD been wondering as everyone appeared through the gate except me! I think we were both relieved to see each other! So, it being around 2 a.m. we quickly headed back to his daughter's flat in St Kilda, Melbourne for a bit of shut eye before heading back to the airport at 9.30 to collect his son, and one of his future sons-in-law from an Adelaide flight, and then heading round the coast east of the city to Dromana where the family had rented a house for the time around Clare's wedding...... and there I am going to leave you for now, as my time is running out and I still have an email or two to write. Maybe I'll have time in the morning at the airport before I fly to NZ, to write a bit more, but for now.... Goodnight! Talk again soon.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Packed and ready!

Tuesday night - just after midnight! I'm packed and ready to leave at 8.30, but what a manic day it has been. Things just haven't gone smoothly in the preparation for this trip, but I won't bore you with all the details - well, I'd be here all night if I was to tell you, but maybe I'll give you a few snippits along the way, just not tonight!
Thanks to everyone for their good wishes and bon voyage messages! I really did appreciate them! Keep checking the blog and I'll tell you how I am getting on! The next episode will probably be when I reach Invercargill on 18th, but if I get a chance before then, I'll take it!
Take care, everyone! Special thoughts for Jean, Mandy, Susan, and Ashley, after we said farwell to Cyril.
Right! That's me! I'm off! Next time we talk I'll be in the Anti-podes, hopefully basking in some warmer weather than we've got here!
Talk again soon!

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Eureka!

I have made at least one discovery! Anyone CAN leave a message on my blog now! Just click on the word "comments" at the bottom of the blog; click in the relevant circle then add your name but ignore the URL unless you have a website! You may have to copy letters from a label into a box (supposed to prevent scammers) but that should be easy enough, and the rest of the procedure will hopefully be clear enough! So please please leave me some comments!

I still don't know how to get all the pictures to enlarge. They should do it automatically! I see the map one doesn't enlarge but I have entered it in the largest format I could, so you should be able to read the placenames - I don't even need my glasses! I'll continue to try and find out about that though!
Talk again soon!

Friday, 4 April 2008

A map and my nearly cousin!

Well, I don't know if I'll have time in the next few days to blog, although I definitely plan to pop in on Tuesday night to say "I'm off in the morning!" I found a map I could add to my things to the left of the blog, so I will add it there, though I can't see it being large enough to be of any use, so I'll also put it in a scrapbook page which you can hopefully enlarge so if you feel like it you can follow my progress!!! Don't know why some pages enlarge while others don't, by the way - trying to find out - but I hope the map will be one that does!
I don't arrive in NZ till 14th. Australia first, and Clare's wedding on 12th. Still can't believe I'm actually going on this trip, and it probably won't seem real till I'm sitting on that plane! I'm told the airline is really good, so I'm hoping for a comfortable seat, on an aisle so I can get up and stretch my legs - and back - often! I don't want to arrive in Australia bent in half with knees locked in right angles!

Here's a layout using a photo Eunice sent me - so I could recognise them when I get to Invercargill airport! These are Eunice and her husband Keith. I am so looking forward to meeting them. Eunice and I "met" on the internet while researching our family history. I had found myself with a bit of a dilemma as to whether the parents of my John were Jean and John or Catherine and Robert, so making an educated guess I plumped for Jean and John. Eunice was also looking for Jean and John's family so we began corresponding to try and piece together the various branches. However Evelyn hadn't done her homework properly, had she, and it transpired that the educated guess had been a very uneducated guess! It was the other couple, Robert and Catherine, who were my great greats! So Eunice and I weren't related after all! Still we had become friends by this stage so we kept corresponding but that is why I refer to her as my nearly cousin!

So, nearly cousin, I'll see you on 18th - not long now!

And to you all, goodnight!

Talk again soon!