Sorry all! Big gap since my last but we have been busy!
When I signed off last, we were just heading down to the Southern Highlands, about 2.5hrs South of Sydney to show Paul and Moyra a part of NSW that they had never visited and one of our favourite areas. It is a bit Blue Mountains meets English countryside. It is a lush green farming area amidst fairly high peaks with views to rival the Blue Mountains but without the tourists. We booked a couple of nights in a resort hotel on a golf course. Nothing special but all we needed and a nice central base.
We firstly drove down and spent a couple of hours in the lovely little town of Berry where Moyra and I managed some
compulsory shopping. A new pair of croc sandals each! (Not the same, we won’t be twins!)
After lunch we started our drive towards the beautiful Kangaroo valley and stopped off to do a walk Jeremy and I have done a couple of times before to the Drawing room Rocks. A shortish but steepish climb taking you up to some stunning views. In 28deg heat, fairly arduous but the strapped foot held up and the views were worth it.
DRAWING ROOM ROCKS
We drove on to Bowral, for our overnight and the next day I had picked a walk from a book of walks. It was about 15k fairly easy walking, designed to give my foot more of a test without over stressing it. We followed the book directions to get to the location described and began to think we must have missed our way. The book said, “when the Tarmac road ends follow the track til you get to a picnic table and turning circle”. This consisted of 15k of unmade road passing through a couple of fords and up and down steep hills!
Eventually however we arrived at our very remote starting point. The walk was in fact a bit disappointing as it was mostly along a wooded fire trail with only sporadic views down to the stunning valley below. It served its purpose though of getting me walking again and needless to say we did not meet another living soul! We picnicked en route and then returned to the car by the same track.
We then went on to visit Red Cow Gardens which J and I have done in previous years where an elderly couple who live in a tiny cottage have turned their large plot of land into a garden to compete with many a stately home. A real labour of love.
RED COW GARDENS
Another night in Bowral before our journey back to Sydney, we fitted in another short walk. This time, in quite different countryside, to a cave and waterfall. A very hot day this, about 30deg so we were pleased of the shade of the cave when we arrived after a hot walk but after a particularly dry summer, the waterfall was not as dramatic as it may be in other seasons.
Back in Sydney, we had about a week before heading down to New Zealand. This allowed time for a couple more local walks and for Paul and Moyra to catch up with their various local friends and us to have a bit of family time.
The last few days of February saw us aboard an Emirates flight to Christchurch. We spent 2 days there. For J and I, a first visit and for P and M a return post earthquake. It was quite shocking to see that 5 years on the rebuilding is still in its early stages. The shopping centre is still mainly consistent of converted shipping containers and is surrounded by sites mostly cleared and ready for rebuild.
As we got to understand more, we realised what a massive (and expensive) job restoring the infrastructure was and also the striving to ensure that any rebuilds are earthquake proof as far as is possible. There has also of course been the bureaucratic and political wrangling that go alongside any massive project like this, not to mention skills shortages and people understandably choosing to relocate away from the area.
We split into couples to do our site seeing and J and I particularly loved the botanic gardens and thought the earthquake museum very moving and well presented.
185 CHAIRS TO COMMEMORATE THOSE WHO LOST THEIR LIVES.
NEW OXFORD ST. STILL STANDING BUT SOME BUILDINGS CONDEMNED
After 2 days, we picked up a hire car and headed up the coast to Blenheim for a couple of nights. On the coast road just outside Kaikoura, I spotted a disturbance on the water and got Paul to pull over. A huge pod of dolphins was leaping about in the ocean about 200yds off shore. A stunning sight.
We arrived at our B and B accommodation just outside Blenheim where we were looked after by a delightful Swiss couple Heidi and Werner in their beautiful home. Marlborough is the prime winery area of New Zealand so we decided to hire e bikes to tour the area.
The amount of tasting was somewhat limited by my competence to stay upright on a bicycle but I did enjoy it and we managed to travel about 52k with our pedal assist motors making the flatish but rather windy trails very manageable. Fairly tender nether regions were the price to be paid next day by this non biker!
WINERY LUNCH STOP
After 2 nights we moved on to Picton. We were booked into rooms recommended by the company organising the trek and it seemed the recommendation came more for the closeness to our starting point than any other consideration. We were a bit crestfallen
when we viewed the rather shabby building from the outside and more so on entering a grubby untidy reception area. However when we were taken upstairs, the contrast took our breath away. Two recently refurbished suites with rather over decadent décor but spotlessly clean and expensively furnished. For those who know Fowey, it had somewhat the feel of Upton House about it! Rather odd but it got our imagination running as to our
At 5.00pm we had a briefing about the walk which proved fairly uninformative but all that was important was that we were given track maps and told we would be collected at 8.30 am to be taken by ferry to the end of the Queen Charlotte sound to join the start of the track. We would be walking back towards Picton over 5 days with 4 night stops en route.
It is a popular trail with both Trekkers and Mountain Bikers so was less remote than I had hoped but I guess that is the price you pay for staying in lodges rather than huts or camping. All the accommodation was good and they provided picnic lunches to see us through each following day. The walking was lovely some tough climbs and foot and lungs would not have coped without my newly acquired walking poles to which I am a complete convert.
They certainly aid on both the uphill and downhill.
THE START OF THE TRAIL
We tended to lose other walkers on the track but tended to pass or be passed by the same people when stopping for breaks. Our
big day was day 3 with 27k of track to walk and an optional add on steep climb to a lookout fairly early on in the day which we felt we must do and did not regret! Unfortunately towards the end of that day, Jeremy missed his footing when some mountain bikers came
down the track and cracked his ankle in a similar way to my accident. He managed to hobble to the days destination but was swollen bruised and in a lot of pain that night.
We were staying in a lovely lodge across the sound by boat and were supposed to do a fairly short walk the next day to the next Lodge. We managed to rearrange our plans so that P, M and I could go and do a slightly greater section of the remaining walk the next day and our hosts pick us up by boat and bring us back to the same lodge. This gave Jeremy a day to rest his foot and we got the most arduous part of the final leg done including another add on climb to a lookout. Of course, I had strapping material with me so we set off on the last day with my left leg strapped and his right and completed the walk. My Fitbit record tells me that over the 5 days, we did 16.7k, 16.5k, 28.5k,14.3k and14.8k respectively.
END OF 29k DAY AND STILL SMILING,
Definitely the most walking in a week I have ever done. My ankle survived although is still sore when not strapped and I had a very sore third toe for a few days but otherwise all well. Jeremy too
survived but after our final night with Paul and Moyra in Picton, from where they flew back to Sydney and on to UK, we picked up a car to drive for 3nights to a lovely lodge between
Nelson and the Abel Tasman National Park.
Jeremy was unable to drive as his injury is to his right ankle so I became his chauffeur. We had a brief visit to A and E in Nelson but the wait was going to be unbearably long and the triage nurse approved my strapping technique, so X Ray’s were deferred until return to Sydney. We had a lovely few days although became a bit
limited both being somewhat walk sore!
The first day we went to some gallery’s and had a general drive around the area and the second day chartered a skipper wth small speed boat to take us up the Abel Tasman Park from the water where we saw plenty of seals and the high spot of the day was another fantastic dolphin display but this time, right around our
boat. They were bottle nosed dolphin and at 3 to 4m long, much bigger than those we get around the Cornish coast.
SPLIT APPLE ROCK ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK
Thursday, saw us drive back to Nelson and check in with the very small Sounds Air company to fly us to Wellington to connect with an Air New Zealand flight for Sydney. As we had to get the car back at 10.30 we were somewhat early for a 12.30 flight but went to see if we could check our luggage in 2hrs early. We were told that was fine and as we were the only people booked on the flight that day, would we like to go now? We were escorted to board the flight to find that our check in guy was also our pilot!
We took off with warning that it would be a quick flight as the winds were with us but it might be a bit bumpy coming into
Wellington. Understatement! We enjoyed looking down on the sounds and the Queen Charlotte track as we left South Island but it soon became very rough and Jeremy was nearly prostrate, eyes tight shut and literally shaking. I have never seen him so frightened, I don’t think he will be flying in a light aircraft again for a while! After we landed, our pilot told us that aircraft such as his (12 seater Cessna Caravan) were grounded at 50k wind speed we had just journeyed in 48k!
QUEEN CHARLOTTE TRACK FROM THE AIR.
Luckily, the onward flight to Sydney was in a larger craft and although again somewhat bumpy out of Wellington, much less frightening than in a light single engined one.
We are now comfortably ensconced back in Sydney and P and M back in Cornwall. Have had a busy weekend child minding and J helping with jobs down at O and A’s. Their house sale completes next weekend and they are also busy trying to get some decorations done before imminent arrival of Kelly (A’s Mam). Not sure how much help J is actually being as whilst they are painting the sitting room he is knocking out the hearth of the fireplaces and filling the house with dust!
He had his foot X rayed and they thought it may have had a small fracture but most problem related to tendon damage so just to continue to strap as and when needed.
Well done, if you have got to this point, you have stuck with a rather wordy blog! Sorry I will try not to leave it so long next time. My reasons are twofold. Firstly, as you see, we have been rather busy but mainly Oli has moved my blog to a new site as the old one was becoming rather cumbersome and difficult to post to. I hope that I have moved all my subscribers with me but it will also prove easier for new readers to subscribe to if they choose.