Friday, 21 April 2017

Two Weeks in Western Australia: A road trip itinerary through the south-west corner of Australia

Albany cycle path
West Australians are different. They live in one of the most remote corners of the planet. Their capital, Perth, has a reputation for being the most isolated city in the world. It is 41 hours from Sydney by car, much of it across the barren and unrelenting desert of the Nullabor Plain, 4 hours by aeroplane, 184 hours by bicycle and, for anyone crazy enough to walk, 741 hours on foot.  Even Adelaide, the nearest city of more than a million people is a colossal 2,691 km away. Travel to Western Australia ('W.A') from anywhere on earth and you will have undertaken an epic journey before you even get there. That is why I love it!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Cycling in Hawke's Bay: The Wineries Ride

winery cycling

Location - Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
Distance -  33 km round trip.
Terrain - Flat, easy, crushed limestone path. Separated cycle path for most of the way, except Oak Avenue (Ormond Rd) and Omahu Rd (shortcut only).
Difficulty - Easy
Highlights - Lunch in the sunshine at one of the wineries.
Map and website - Download the Hawke's Bay Trails Map here.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Cycling in Hawke's Bay: From the National Aquarium of New Zealand to Bay View.

If New Zealand has a leisure cycling nirvana, Hawke's Bay is it. In a region with a warm, sunny, Mediterranean climate, lovely scenery and lots of things to do on those essential rest days, there are over 200 km of easy year-round cycling trails. Hawke's Bay encompassing the towns of Napier, Hastings and Havelock North in the North Island, is the perfect destination if you have never cycled on a holiday before and want to give it a go. None of the trails take more than a few hours and you will never be far from civilisation.

Download a copy of the Hawke's Bay Trails Brochure from or, or pick up a copy from an i-SITE & Visitor Information Centre, grab a bike and go!

Friday, 31 March 2017

Vivid Sydney: A festival of light you shouldn't miss!

Vivid Sydney
I love festivals. Even so, it took me a while to get into Vivid. 'Lights shining on buildings' - how exciting could that be? As it turns out - really exciting, especially when one of those buildings is the spectacular Sydney Opera House! Vivid Sydney is in its ninth year. For the first five or so of those years I couldn't be bothered making the effort to drag myself into town to see it. It is only a twenty minute train trip from where I live, but Vivid is on in late autumn. It is cold and dark! I am not a great fan of either. A few years ago a family event forced me into the city purely by chance during the Vivid festival. Since I was there anyway I dragged David into town too, organised dinner in the city with number one son, dug my overcoat and winter boots out of the back of the wardrobe and set off to find out what all the Vivid fuss was about.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Sea Walls: Murals for Oceans, Napier New Zealand

Have I told you I love street art? Ever since David and I stumbled across the Open Air Museum in Valparaiso, Chile, I have been a street art addict, tracking it down wherever we go. Napier, it turns out, is a street art addict's idea of heaven.

In March 2016, Napier hosted the Sea Walls: Murals for Oceans public art project in New Zealand. In collaboration with the PangeaSeed Foundation, Napier City Council brought 30 national and international artists to the city to transform 29 blank walls into stunning works of art. In keeping with PangeaSeed's mission to educate and inform on oceanic environmental issues, the murals draw on the theme of threats to the health of the world's oceans. In February 2017, when we visited Napier, the murals looked as fresh and bright as though they were painted yesterday.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Cycling in Auckland: Was it worth all the hassle?

Cycling in Auckland
If you read my post a few weeks ago titled A Cyclist's Lament: Welcome to New Zealand you will know that our New Zealand trip got off to a rocky start. Why was I not surprised? The last time we flew our bikes to the Land of the Long White Cloud we struggled to get them through quarantine. You can read the saga here - Life in the Slow Lane: Welcome to New Zealand. The time before that, our troubles began at Sydney airport. You can read that story at  - Queenstown and the Flying Bicycles - or why you should never fly with a bike!

Friday, 10 March 2017

From Disaster to Art Deco in Napier, New Zealand: How an earthquake shaped the city.

Art Deco Napier
At 10.47 in the morning on 3 February 1931 disaster struck the city of Napier in Hawke's Bay, New Zealand. For two and a half minutes the ground convulsed; heaving upward, pausing for a moment, then slamming back to earth.  Buildings swayed, collapsed and disintegrated. Gas mains burst, fires began and terrified residents ran out into the streets only to be killed by a deluge of brick and masonry. This was New Zealand's deadliest earthquake. When it was over, 256 people were dead and Napier was all but destroyed.

When the city was rebuilt, Art Deco was all the fashion and the inhabitants set about making their home a showcase of architectural design. Today, Napier boasts one of the finest concentrations of Art Deco style anywhere in the world.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Wai-O-Tapu: Geothermal Wonders in New Zealand

Champagne Pool, Wai-o-tapu
You know an attraction is good when you do it again the first chance you get. Wai-O-Tapu was like that for us. We discovered this geothermal wonderland two years ago on a trip to New Zealand's North Island. On our return this year, Wai-O-Tapu was top of our list of things to see.

Wai-O-Tapu (meaning 'sacred waters' in Maori) is a stunning geothermal attraction with a well-deserved reputation for being the most colourful and diverse in New Zealand. Wai-O-Tapu is part of one of the most extensive geothermal systems in New Zealand;  literally covered with steam vents, boiling pools of mud, multi-coloured mineral laden pools and collapsed craters.

Friday, 24 February 2017

A Cyclist's Lament: Welcome to New Zealand!

Bicycles, totem poles
Sometimes David and I make things difficult for ourselves. When it comes to great countries to ride a bicycle in, New Zealand is right up there close to the top of the list. The whole country is criss-crossed by rail trails and cycle paths. We have come here to cycle. We are going to start out in Auckland, head north for a few days and then spend a week near Napier in Hawkes Bay.

Auckland is a city of 1.5 million people. You would think it would be a simple thing to organise bike hire for a two week trip in a city that size. Not for us, the easy option. David doesn’t hire bikes. He dislikes the way they are never as comfortable as his own bike and he hates the extortionate cost - often more than renting a car. He much prefers to subject himself, and me, to the enormous hassle and precision planning required to fly our bikes with us across the Tasman Sea from Australia. 

Friday, 17 February 2017

Searching for Kiwi at Kiwi North, Northland, New Zealand

For a country which produced the All Blacks, some of the toughest footballers in the world, it seems incongruous that New Zealand's national symbol, albeit an unofficial one, is a 45 cm (17 inch) high, flightless bird which registers about 15 out of 10 on the timidity scale - but there you have it, some things in the world just can't be explained.

David and I are in Northland, the northern tip of the North Island of New Zealand and today we went searching for kiwi. We didn't go looking in the wild - kiwi are nocturnal, shy and very hard to find - but we did the next best thing, calling in at Kiwi North. Kiwi North has a purpose built Kiwi House where Puna and Kapua, the two resident kiwi, live.  Their environment is as close to nature as possible with a carpet of leaf litter allowing them to forage for insects and other food the same way they would in the wild. It even rains - twice a week. Special lighting turns day into night so visitors can see them at their most active.