MistyNites

My Life in Motion

Cirque De Soleil

Some things are so amazing that there just aren’t the words to do it justice. Auckland is my favourite domestic city getaway and having the largest population in the country, it is often the only host city in New Zealand for international shows and events. I’ve been intrigued by Cirque de Soleil for many years, and when the opportunity arose to head north for the Totem show I grabbed it. Taking place in the Grand Chapiteau, the big blue and yellow marquee in Alexandra Park, the only thing that marred the night was the torrential rain that we had to walk through outside. Round the circular stage, the seating was crammed together, but any grumbles about minimal personal space were soon forgotten when the show started.

Jaw dropping. Mesmerising. Spellbinding. Awesome. However you want to call it, it’s worth every cent. Following the comedic start as some of the cast wander through the crowd interacting with people, the show swiftly moves through an hour of amazing physical feats from dramatic leaps, spins, and balancing acts. I was blown away, and at times I sat there with my mouth literally open wide. The man to my left would repeatedly let out an enthusiastic ‘WOW’ and the crowd regularly went crazy with clapping interspersed with regular gasps as the athletic performers reached new (often literal) heights. Following an intermission, there was another hour of spectacular performances and I felt so overwhelmed by the time it was finished.

Photography and recording was not allowed at the event, which was understandable due to copyright and performer’s focus, but frankly I was so glued to what was going on on the stage, that it would have been too much of a distraction to me as a viewer, and I didn’t care. As a result, the following images are credited to the source that I have obtained them from. Go see Totem when it comes to your town!

Credit: Totem - Cirque de Soleil (Official Facebook Page)

Credit: Totem – Cirque de Soleil (Official Facebook Page)

Credit: Totem – Cirque de Soleil (Official Facebook Page)

Credit: Totem – Cirque de Soleil (Official Facebook Page)

Credit: Totem – Cirque de Soleil (Official Facebook Page)

Credit: Totem – Cirque de Soleil (Official Facebook Page)

Credit: Totem – Cirque de Soleil (Official Facebook Page)

Credit: Totem – Cirque de Soleil (Official Facebook Page)

Credit: Totem – Cirque de Soleil (Official Facebook Page)

Credit: Totem – Cirque de Soleil (Official Facebook Page)

Credit: Totem – Cirque de Soleil (Official Facebook Page)

Credit: Totem – Cirque de Soleil (Official Facebook Page)

Credit: Totem – Cirque de Soleil (Official Facebook Page)

Credit: Totem – Cirque de Soleil (Official Facebook Page)

The Northern South

When foreign travels feel so far away, it’s a nice break from the tedium of working life to get away for the weekend. The countryside south of KaikouraThe drive north from Christchurch towards Kaikoura is beautiful, especially once the road hits the coastline south of the Kaikoura Peninsula. The Kaikoura RangesI’ve driven this road several times and every time the sun has shone on the turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean and made it sparkle. On this occasion it was no different. Stopping in Kaikoura purely to pick up food for a packed lunch, we continued up the road, stopping to enjoy our lunch with the sea crashing on the rocks next to us. A few New Zealand fur seals snoozed on the rocks in front of us whilst some seagulls eyeballed us, waiting to see if they’d get a snack.

Ohau FallsEver since I’d found out about it, I’d been keen to get to Ohau Falls. About half an hour north of Kaikoura, the Ohau stream opens into the Pacific Ocean, and upstream from here is a pool with a waterfall cascading into it. Juvenile New Zealand Fur SealThe draw for this waterfall is the juvenile New Zealand fur seals that use the pool to frolic, play, learn and build strength in the water. New Zealand Fur SealThere were plenty of people making the short walk from the car park to the falls, and the reward was about 6 pups frolicking madly in the water. One little pup hopped out the water and then proceeded to haul itself up a near vertical slope to dry off and snooze in the woodland above us. They were adorable, and full of energy. On the walk back to the car, we found an adult fast asleep right next to the track, a large blob of mucus hanging from its nose.

It was a gorgeous day for a drive and we still had some distance to cover to reach Nelson on the north coast. Leaving Canterbury behind, we crossed into the Marlborough region, and after hitting Blenheim, it was completely new terrain for me: a road I had never driven on before. Passing endless stretches of wineries, we headed into the mountains on SH6, stopping briefly at Havelock before the road cut inland to the west, leaving the Marlborough Sounds behind. Maitai River in NelsonIt was a long and windy road before eventually the sea came into view once more and we reached the outskirts of Nelson. Christ Church, NelsonThe last time we had been to Nelson it was in the middle of summer but there was torrential rain and visibility was so poor that we had barely been able to see the sea at the side of the road. This time the sun was shining but a high bank of clouds loomed over the surrounding hills, threatening to spill over onto the city. We took a wander round the compact centre prior to heading out to see some friends.

 

 

 

 

 

Tahunanui beach, NelsonWaking the next morning, it was clear that the clouds had finally rolled in. Not to be put off, after breakfast we headed to the beach at Tahunanui, round the coast from the marina. The city of Nelson from the Centre of New ZealandAfter a walk in the fresh sea air, we headed back to the city and to the far side where a path led up a hill through the Branford Reserve to a lookout at the ‘Centre of New Zealand’.City of Nelson from the Centre of New Zealand A marker marks the spot that has been deemed the geographical centre of the country, and from there, there is a beautiful panorama over Nelson and the surrounding hills. Aotearoa Mural, NelsonWe had a quick wander round a nearby Japanese garden, before my partner headed back to the motel to watch some rugby, and I took a walk through Nelson, and back round to Tahunanui beach where I saw a New Zealand fur seal swimming in the harbour. By the time I made it back to the beach, there was barely anybody still there, and I enjoyed the tranquility before heading off to our friend’s place for dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cloudy mountain topsThe day we drove home was as beautiful as the day we had driven up. Snowy mountain topsThe road took us deep inland, past small towns, villages, and pastures surrounded by rolling hills. Driving towards Lewis PassAt the brow of a hill, I recognised a lookout that we had paused at a couple of years before on our way to Abel Tasman, and we stopped here once more to see the surrounding mountains, this time with their snowy caps. Nearing the summit of Lewis PassWe were the only ones there, a marked contrast to the last time in the height of summer, and it was so quiet and peaceful. Mountains near Hanmer SpringsEventually, through the other side of Murchison, we wound our way towards Lewis Pass (altitude 864m) which had stale snow in banks near the road. The snow line was high up due to it being a relatively mild winter, but it was a pretty sight, driving past endless mountains with the their snowy caps. Finally, through the other side, we reached familiar territory, reaching the turn-off to Hanmer Springs and the well-travelled road back to Christchurch.

London Calling

I have mixed feelings about London. The first time I visited London was as an extended stopover on my way to India. I bought a tourist bus pass and proceeded to hop on and hop off at as many famous sites as I had time for. I visited streets straight off a Monopoly board, saw the skyline that I had seen on so many television programmes, and photographed the buildings and signs that I had seen in a thousand magazines. But I felt lonely and alone in what felt like such a soul-less and impersonal city. It was brash and expensive, and felt polluted. I felt a million miles away from fresh air and openness, and I left a few days later unimpressed and wondering what all the fuss was about.

Bridge across the Thames

London church

St Paul's Cathedral

Tower Bridge

The London Dungeon

Tower of London

Sea Containers on the river Thames

London Eye

Westminster

Big Ben

The collegiate church of St Peter

Harrods

Hamleys

Buckingham Palace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my best friends moved down to London after graduating from university, and the first time I visited her down there, I was pleasantly surprised by how different London felt on that occasion. It could be argued that this time I saw the real London, not the tourist traps, but regardless, I could see why my friend liked being there. Natural History MuseumMy friend was at work when I arrived so I had the whole day to myself, so I made my way to what to this day is still my absolute favourite museum of all time, the Natural History Museum. Dinosaur at Natural History MuseumAt the time, the special exhibit on the ground floor was all about dinosaurs, and this mesmerised me, as did pretty much everything in the entire building. I arrived early in the morning, and as it was, I had to rush the last couple of floors in order to get round everything by the time of closure. Animated Velociraptor at Natural History MuseumThe last time that had happened to me was in Le Louvre in Paris. T-Rex head at Natural History MuseumMy friend at that time lived in Bethnal Green in east London, and this felt a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Cetacean Exhibit at Natural History MuseumAn extinct mammal at the Natural History MuseumWe spent the weekend exploring her local neighbourhood and visiting markets, and I left with a whole new regard for the city.Harrod's in winter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A year later and I found myself back visiting my friend whilst coming down for a couple of job interviews. My partner at the time thought he would need to move there for work, and I reluctantly agreed to suss out the job market. My friend by this point was living in Hillingdon near Heathrow Airport. Amusingly, she worked at the exact same hospital that I had been taken to after my disastrous flight home from Delhi. Living in west London this time, it was another opportunity to experience a different side of the city, and again I felt so displaced from the heaving city centre that lay a train ride away. Aside from the job interviews, I had arranged to catch up with some of the people that I hiked to Macchu Picchu with earlier that year. We ate out near Covent Garden and went to a few bars which were so packed that we could barely breath let alone move in. The comedy night on the boatAfter meeting up with my other friends we headed to a comedy night that took place on a boat moored up on the river Thames. One of the best sundaes I've ever had, at an Irish bar in LondonIt was eye-opening to experience night life in the city centre and the hustle and bustle of so many people as well as the long drawn out mission to get home at the end of the night marred the experience for me. It reminded me slightly of what I had disliked about the place on my very first visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In between these trips, and since the last trip, London has meant just one thing to me: an international transit centre that in equal measures opens up the world to me and signifies that home is within reach. Living most of my life in Scotland, I regularly had to take a domestic flight to Heathrow airport to connect to a world of international travel. I have been a repeat visitor to all 5 terminals of that airport, and have whiled away many hours waiting for connecting flights. I love looking out the plane window on the approach to Heathrow, swinging over the city centre to follow the river Thames upstream on final approach. I love spotting the city’s famous structures as we soar overhead, and I know that upon landing, I am either a step closer to an adventure or a step closer to home. After I moved to New Zealand nearly 3 years ago, I made a surprise trip back to Glasgow for Christmas, nearly 1 year after I had left, and reaching London filled me with such excitement for the final leg of my transit round the world. In no other airport have I spent so much of my life as Heathrow, and it has played such an important part of my life. Living as I do at the far side of the world, I cannot get home to Scotland without transiting through, and being both the welcoming arms to my homeland and the foot that kicks me out the open door, London will always be bittersweet to me. I love it and I hate it all at the same time.

In Search of Snow

It’s been a relatively mild winter in New Zealand this year with barely any snow where I live and the local ski-fields have had intermittent falls interspersed with strong winds and unusually warm weather, resulting in a poor ski season. I’m a summer-loving person, but back in my native Scotland, the one thing that made the cold, dark winter days and nights bearable was the promise of snow, and lots of it. I love snow, and in Aberdeen where I used to live, we got plenty of it. It wasn’t unusual to get an autumnal blizzard that would dump the first snow of the season in October, and often into November, but the main snow months were January and February. In one epic year, we had snow every month from October through to May, and then it started again in October. The ski centres still had plenty of snow on the longest day of the year in June, and with the most northern ski-field having daylight till around 11pm, it was an epic day to hit the slopes.

Moving to New Zealand was the right thing for me to do for so many reasons, but boy do I miss snow. I never thought I would, but after three winters here with so little reward for the colder temperatures of the season, I’ve found myself staring jealously at the distant Southern Alps with their white tips and yearning to feel snowflakes fluttering down on me, craving the glorious silence that only a snowfall can bring and dreaming of first footprints on a fresh bed of snow. Clearly my desires were becoming more vocal than I realised, because despite not being a skier, my partner insisted on taking me to the mountains to visit one of our nearest ski-fields.

Mountains near Mt HuttNot quite an hour and a half from Christchurch is Mt Hutt (2086m/6843ft). The nearest settlement is Methven which has a scattering of cheap digs, bars and ski-hire shops – all you could ever need for the perfect weekend trip. From the base of the mountain, it is a long and winding drive up a gravel road that overlooks the vast flatness of the Canterbury Plains. The tall mountains are a stark contrast to the flat barrenness below and they stand tall against the horizon from some distance away. On the drive up to Mt HuttOn that particular day, the snowline was roughly half-way up, although it was patchy and stale. Even at the level of the ski centre, there was plenty of rock face peering through the thicker banks of snow. We were lucky enough to find a parking spot at the top car park and we got out to soak up the view. Mt Hutt ski fieldMy partner looked at me as if to say ‘Ta da!‘ and then couldn’t understand my disappointment. Mt Hutt ski centreDon’t get me wrong, the view was stunning: The view from the car parkwith patches of sunshine making the snow on the surrounding range glisten, and with the snow-topped range flanking the nearby plains, it was a stunning vista. The road down the mountainBut the snow was not powdery under foot, it was stale and crusty. Mt Hutt bungee jumpThere was no fresh flurry of snowflakes falling on my skin, and apart from the buzz of the skiers and snowboarders enveloping me, I wasn’t feeling the vibe that fresh snow brings. One of the closed ski runsIt was better than nothing but I struggled to hide my disappointment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KeaWe stayed for a while, and watched the people whizzing down the mountainside, enjoyed some warm drinks in the cafe and then wandered around the car park watching 6 cheeky keas Kea having a scratch(the world’s only alpine parrot, and one of my most favourite birds in New Zealand) taunt each other and hop from vehicle to vehicle looking for trouble. Submissive keaLike all parrots, keas are highly intelligent and probably the most mischievous of all the parrots that I have seen. KeaThey thrive round people, and are notorious in parts of the country for removing the seal round car windows, and bending aerials and puncturing bike tyres. Needless to say I love them. I could have watched them all day, especially the two that were playing (or fighting, or mating, or whatever they were doing) with each other, one lying submissive on its back for the other who mobbed it open-winged, displaying its bright orange under-plummage. A couple of hours after we arrived, we set off back down the mountain and home.

 

 

 

 

 

On the edge of the stormThe following weekend, my partner’s friend came to visit from Auckland. He hadn’t skied for some years, and my partner was wanting to get a bit of snowboarding in this winter, so we set off back to Methven only to hit gale force winds, sandstorms, and then torrential rain. The road to the ski-field had been closed for nearly a week due to high winds, and arriving in Methven at lunchtime, there was nothing to do and nowhere to go but to camp out in the pub or our lodge. There were hopes of fresh snow being dumped in the night so we clung to the hope of the road being open in the morning. I had originally planned on taking a skiing lesson whilst the boys hit the slopes but having obtained a horrendous cough, I was slightly spaced out on the prescription-strength cough suppressants and it was easy for me to sleep the afternoon away. I didn’t miss much – the torrential rain continued all through the night.

On the Sunday morning, we awoke to the news that the road to Mt Hutt ski-field was open to 4-wheel drives and 2-wheel drives with chains fitted. We gathered the hired gear and set off in our 4-wheel drive early. It was clear from the start that this would be a totally different experience than the weekend before: it was still overcast and raining in Methven and as we started the long wind up the mountain road, the rain became sleet and then snow. The snow became heavier the higher we climbed, and the visibility grew poorer and poorer. The surrounding mountains that had glistened last week were nowhere to be seen through the clouds, and the snow on the road grew denser as we travelled. Like many mountain roads to ski-fields, there is often a long drop down so they are definitely not the kind of road you want to lose control of your vehicle on. But as our altitude increased, so did the snow on the road, and eventually even our 4-wheel drive decided to lose traction after coming round a bend. Icicles at the snow shopThe procession of cars grew slower and slower until we rolled into the top car park in by now quite thick snow, and parked up one by one. Mt Hutt bungee jumpI got out as quickly as possible to see and smell and feel the snow flakes falling down on us. Skiers in the snowShortly after our arrival, they closed the road to all traffic except chained 4-wheel drives, and we faced a possible reality of being stranded up the mountain as conditions worsened. The chairlift to the cloudsAfter an hour of waiting for news on the likelihood of us getting back home that day, we could finally go off and enjoy ourselves. Through the snowflakesThe boys bought their passes and headed off and I hung around the base, Line up of skiistaking photos of them through the incessant snow fall and just generally breathing in the snowy scene.Snowboarding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picnic benchesThere is nothing like the silence of snow. Anybody who has stood outside during a heavy snow fall should know what I mean. Birds are silent, and most other sounds grow distant or still (not to mention the scientific reasons that snow covered ground absorbs sound waves and falling snow causes sound waves to curve upwards towards the sky – but that’s not quite as poetic and romantic, is it?). Fresh footprintsI love that silence and stood happily enveloped by it, watching nearby kids throwing snowballs whilst I looked for an untouched patch to place those first footprints. A 360 degree wonderland of fresh powder snow and I breathed in memories of Scotland. For those hours that we were up there, I couldn’t have felt happier. My toes and fingers grew uncomfortably cold but I didn’t want to go anywhere. For that brief moment in time, I was home.

Channel Island Hopping

As a keen and regular traveller, I think it can be too easy to focus on the next adventure and forget about some of the ones that have already passed. I admit to spending a large part of my life planning and saving for the next trip, wherever and whenever that may be. Sometimes it can feel like the next adventure is just around the corner, and other times it feels like it’s a lifetime away. I’m currently undergoing one of those prolonged phases where I have to knuckle down and earn some money. My partner finds my grumbles highly amusing: after all I’m doing no more than the average worker in the Western world does but for anyone with itchy feet, staying at home can be frustrating. In the Southern Hemisphere it is currently winter, and the cold and rainy weather makes even weekend adventures a rarity. I long for some snow to break up the tedium, but as yet, none has come.

Looking through old photos one rainy day, I stumbled across a trip that I had almost forgotten that I had done. A whole week away somewhere new relegated to a little-looked-at album on my laptop. It is not that it was a terrible week or a banal week, it’s simply that so much has happened since then that it got pushed to the back of my mind, and looking through those photos reminded me of what an enjoyable week it was.

There was only one city in Scotland from where I could fly there direct so I made the drive down to Edinburgh from Aberdeen to catch the plane down to Jersey in the Channel Islands. The Channel Islands are a quaint and unique group of islands that are nearer the continent than they are to the country who’s crown they sit under. They are self-governing, yet are dependents of the British Crown, and Jersey in particular has a rather French flare to it. Flying over the English Channel, out of nowhere, Jersey appeared, its rugged northern cliffs plunging down to the sea below. There was a spectacular aerial view of the island which measures just over 118 square kilometres, before we descended into the airport near the western end of the island. From there, St Helier (my home for the week) was just a bus ride away.

St HelierIt was just me and my two legs for the week. With no transport of my own, and a stubborness to avoid public transport, I decided to explore as much as I could on foot. Elizabeth Castle, St HelierSt Helier itself had a sandy beach and just offshore was a small island upon which stood Elizabeth Castle. The harbour was where ferries left for Guernsey and France and the parish centre resembled an English town with the likes of Marks & Spencer and other British high street chains. Despite using the British currency of the Pound, the stores there refused to accept my Scottish bank notes, accepting only those that bore the Bank of England on it. Both Jersey and Guernsey have their own notes also, but like the Scottish counterpart, they are not accepted as legal tender in the United Kingdom.

Mont Orgueil CastleI was staying in a nice B&B and made the most of the cooked breakfast to fuel me for the day ahead. On the first full day there I headed east, following the coastal road roughly 18km to Mont Orgueil Castle. For the most part the walk involved following the route of the A4, but wherever I could cut down to beaches, I would, and the final approach to the castle itself was along a stretch of beautiful sand. It was far from a sunny day, very overcast with occasional showers, but it was a good walk nonetheless and the castle was interesting to walk around, both inside and out, with fantastic views over the coastline. By the time I was ready to head home again, the clouds had broken and the sun was finally out. After another 18km walk back to St Helier, I limped back to the B&B after grabbing some dinner.

I knew I had as equally a long walk the next day so again made the most of the cooked breakfast for energy. This time I was not so lucky with the weather. Heading west this time, I skirted the long stretch of sandy beach round the bay from St Helier to St Aubin, briefly joining the road across the land for a bit, before descending down into St Brelade’s Bay. I barely got beyond there before the heavens opened and despite it appearing to be a very pretty place to be on a sunny day, there was little to keep me here whilst the rain fell. Corbierre LighthouseWinding my way through the streets, I followed the Rue de la Corbiere to the most South-Western tip of the island where a causeway went out to the Corbiere lighthouse, 13km away from my starting point. It had stopped raining by the time I got there although it was still quite overcast, but there were plenty of people about here, and with the tide out, I took the walk out to view the lighthouse up close. Following the coast north I continued on to St Ouens Bay, walking as far as the beach bar & diner before the next lot of rain turned me back. The return walk was in the rain nearly the whole way, and I was a bit miserable by the time I got home. With over 60km hiked in two days, I was definitely covering a good amount of the island.

Arriving to GuernseyThankfully the next day was gloriously sunny, and I’d picked a fantastic day to book the ferry over to Guernsey, nearly 42kms away. St Peter PortIt took about an hour to travel from St Helier to St Peter Port on Guernsey, and arriving there filled me with that feeling that I always get when I arrive somewhere new and unexplored: pure and utter excitement. At 78 square kilometres (which includes some smaller, neighbouring islands), Guernsey is much smaller than Jersey, but it was still too big to explore in the time that I had before the return ferry that evening. Leaving St Peter Port behind I headed north up the coast through St Samson and up across the northern coastline, skirting round to the west to reach the beautiful sand of L’AncresseNear L'Ancresse Bay Bay. It was too nice a day not to just enjoy it, so I lay back on the sand and soaked up some rays for a while before cutting back across the island to St Peter Port where I spent the last of my time before boarding the ferry again to return to Jersey. Guernsey was such a magical place, beautiful and glorious in the sunshine, and with lots more to explore, it firmly earned a place in my unofficial list of places to return to.

It was another early morning rise for another ferry, this time to head south to France. With Jersey being so near the continent, it seemed a shame to not go that bit further, and so I decided to take a day trip to St Malo in Normandy. St Malo was a stunning place to visit, and again, I did my best to see as much as I could whilst I was there. It was another sunny day, and it was lovely and warm.

The walled city of St MaloThe ferry docks near the walled city and round a bay from an expansive marina. I wandered round the cobbled streets of the walled city past boutique shops and cafes and restaurants and people everywhere. I headed round the marina in search of somewhere to get a bite to eat. I always dread practicing my foreign language skills, especially after a previous trip to Paris where I was laughed at for my attempt to order. This time proved no better. I stood in line at a baguette stall, and on my turn I misunderstood a question and again got laughed at by the vendor who obviously spoke about me to the elderly gentleman standing behind me. It knocked my confidence again. I always felt that it was better to attempt the local dialect than brazenly speak in English and assume everyone can understand me, but with the French, I’ve found myself the object of their ridicule every time.

Tour SolidorNevertheless, I headed off to explore the surrounds of St Malo. From the marina, I followed the coastline round a headland to the mouth of La Rance where Tour Solidor stood proudly on the shore. Tour SolidorNear here was a beach where many topless bathers lay soaking up the sunshine. The waterway was littered with yachts as far up river as I could see, and at the river mouth, it was a broad waterway with the opposite side a good distance away. I walked for a while up river before looping back and cutting through the streets to head back towards the ferry terminal and the nearby walled city. St MaloThis time, I kept to the outer wall of the city and walked round to the beaches on the coast of the English Channel. St Malo from the causewayWith the low tide, a causeway was exposed snaking out across the sand and I wandered out on it before heading back to catch the evening ferry back to Jersey. On the ferry leaving St MaloIn the height of the summer, the daylight was still plentiful and it was a beautiful view as the French coastline receded into the distance. Back in Jersey, it was just another night’s sleep and a plane ride away to get home to Scotland.

Alternate Mt. Herbert

From Lyttleton Harbour, it is just a quick 10 minute ferry ride across the turquoise waters to tranquil Diamond Harbour. On a glorious May day, my partner and I set off on the trail up Mt. Herbert, the highest peak on Banks Peninsula at 919m. Lyttleton Harbour from Diamond HarbourFrom the pier, it is a short walk up the road before the path turns off and down onto a rocky beach where there is a glorious view back across the water to Lyttleton Harbour on the far side. Like Quail Island a few weeks before, there was still evidence of a recent storm, and the usual path was closed. Even the path that was still open involved a bit of scrambling up over the remains of fallen trees and we had to get our hands dirty just to get back up to the main road. On another day, the track would be open and easily followed, but on this day, we had to backtrack down the road to reach the path again.

The next section followed a stream up through a copse, and again it was really muddy, and in one small section, the path had collapsed slightly, but eventually coming out at a back road, on the other side was the start of the main hike. I’d previously hiked Mt. Herbert via the Orton Bradley Park as I had read that it was the most interesting route up. To be honest, I prefer the route I took this time partly because there is more of a view for more of the hike, and also because it is a more popular route which meant lots of friendly, encouraging faces as we went. We had set off relatively late meaning that the early birds were already on their way down as we began the climb up.

The track in the lower sectionsA large part of the route is through private farm land, following a path that varies from little more than a sheep trail to a 4×4 trail higher up. Sections of the lower trail were still muddy from the storm a few weeks prior and it made for boggy diversions to avoid the worst of it. Livestock PaddockThe incline came in fits and starts, seeming to level out at times prior to the next hill, but overall the ascent was quite steady. The surrounding mountainsBy the time the 4×4 track was reached, we were in amongst livestock, with some bullocks choosing to test their machismo on the passing hikers. A group of men ahead of us were charged by a particularly challenging one. My days of working on a farm had taught me how to handle them and I wasn’t going to take any bull from him (pun intended). He and the others let us be.

 

 

 

The 4x4 section of the trackThe view to the summit from this route was rather deceiving. The higher we climbed, the more convinced I was that we should be near the top, yet every ridge we reached revealed the next hidden ridge behind it. This upper section felt slightly tedious in its monotony, the one downside to which the other route won over. It was lunchtime, and we were both eager to stop and eat, but didn’t want to rest ahead of the summit. Eventually we reached the path that splits to head round to the shelter, and took the fork that headed directly up the final steep section to the summit. Dodging gorse bushes on the way, we finally summitted to be met by lots of other hikers milling all over the place, eating and taking pictures, and we found a flat spot that we could stop for a bite to eat. The view from the summit with Mt Bradley to the leftBeing May, it was cold at the top despite the sunshine, and we had to wrap up to keep the wind from slicing us in two. Lyttleton Harbour from the summitIt was the first mountain of this height that my partner had hiked and we took in the view over Lake Ellesmere & Banks Peninsula in one direction, and Lyttelton and Christchurch in the other.

As we headed down the way we came up, the clouds had rolled in from Pegasus Bay and Christchurch was suddenly barely visible through the sea fog. Cutting through the lower farmlandFacing out towards the harbour, it was a beautiful view on the descent too. We missed a turn in the path, staying on the 4×4 track too long, meaning we had to cut across an open field to get back to the field that we were supposed to be in. Cutting through farmlandIt was easy to negotiate our way though, being very open and easy to spot where we needed to get to. Back through the lower muddy sections and down through the muddy river-side walk we returned to the main road and opted to follow this down to the pier to avoid the tree scramble we had negotiated on the way up. Calling in to the local shop we partook of some ice cream before heading down to the ferry. On the ferry looking back to Diamond Harbour with Mt Herbert behindWe had just missed the ferry and thought we were in for a long wait till the next one, however we lucked in because the ferry returned straight away due to too many people waiting for it first time round. It was a beautiful run across the water back to Lyttleton, looking back up towards the summit that we had reached that day. Whatever route up you choose, it is a satisfying hike up with a view that is well worth the effort.

Pictorial Guide to Scotland

I have to admit to feeling a bit homesick of late. I live in a beautiful country, which has many similarities to the beautiful country I grew up in. Having recently been to Adelaide in South Australia, a state which feels it has been left out of the tourist stakes by its flashier cousins to the east, it got me thinking about my home country of Scotland, an amazing country that is often overlooked. In some parts of the world, Scotland is considered as nothing more than a state of England, or a country of little significance in the world, or one not worth making the effort to visit. Worst still, is that many people who do visit go nowhere other than Edinburgh and maybe Loch Ness to try and spot a mythical creature that doesn’t even exist. The amount of people I’ve met on my many travels who regale me with their trip to Scotland when in actual fact they saw little more than the capital city is astounding. Certainly, being a Glaswegian, I can’t deny my biased preference for the country’s largest city, but the beauty of Scotland lies in its myriad of islands scattered all up the west coast and to the north, and in the ruggedness of the mainland’s west coast and stark isolation, as well as the endearing draw of the National Parks. Whilst I could write multiple posts about this amazing country, I’m going to let the pictures speak for themselves.

NATIONAL PARKS:

Cairngorm National Park.

Loch An Eilein in the Rothiemurchus forest

Loch An Eilein in the Rothiemurchus forest

Cairngorm Mountains

Cairngorm Mountains

Glen Clova in Cairngorm National Park

Glen Clova in Cairngorm National Park

Mountains near Loch Callater

Mountains near Loch Callater

Lochnagar ridgeline

Lochnagar ridgeline

The old bridge at Carrbridge

The old bridge at Carrbridge

Heather in bloom in Glen Muick

Heather in bloom in Glen Muick

Loch Muick

Loch Muick

Old boathouse at Loch Muick

Old boathouse at Loch Muick

Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park.

Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond

CITIES & TOWNS:

Glasgow.

Glasgow's West End

Glasgow’s West End

The city of Glasgow viewed from the south

The city of Glasgow viewed from the south

Flying over the suburbs of Glasgow

Flying over the suburbs of Glasgow

Strathclyde Park in Glasgow

Strathclyde Park in Glasgow

Edinburgh.

Forth Rail Bridge across the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh

Forth Rail Bridge across the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle as viewed from the back

Edinburgh Castle as viewed from the back

The city of Edinburgh viewed from Arthur's Seat

The city of Edinburgh viewed from Arthur’s Seat

Aberdeen.

Union Square Gardens, Aberdeen

Union Square Gardens, Aberdeen

River Dee frozen in winter

River Dee frozen in winter

Aberdeen promenade

Aberdeen promenade

Inverness.

The river Ness passing through Inverness

The river Ness passing through Inverness

Kessock Bridge spanning the Beauly Firth near Inverness

Kessock Bridge spanning the Beauly Firth near Inverness

Fort William.

Boats moored at Fort William

Boats moored at Fort William

Crinnan Canal outside Fort William

Crinnan Canal outside Fort William

Perth.

Flying over Perth

Flying over Perth

ISLANDS:

Isle of Arran – Firth of Clyde.

Goatfell on Arran

Goatfell on Arran

The view from the summit of Goatfell, Arran's highest peak

The view from the summit of Goatfell, Arran’s highest peak

Glen Rosa

Glen Rosa

Barra – Outer Hebrides.

Traigh Sgurabhal with Beinn Sgurabhal in the background

Traigh Sgurabhal with Beinn Sgurabhal in the background

Cidhe Eolaigearraidh, with Fuday across the bay

Cidhe Eolaigearraidh, with Fuday across the bay

On Barra, looking towards Orosaigh

On Barra, looking towards Orosaigh

Benbecula – Outer Hebrides.

Benbecula

Benbecula

Benbecula

Benbecula

Rueval summit, Benbecula

Rueval summit, Benbecula

Berneray – Outer Hebrides.

Berneray

Berneray

Sandy beach on Berneray

Sandy beach on Berneray

Looking across to Ensay & Killegray from Beinn Shleibhe on Berneray

Looking across to Ensay & Killegray from Beinn Shleibhe on Berneray

Looking towards Ensay & Killegray from a beach on Berneray

Looking towards Ensay & Killegray from a beach on Berneray

Sand dunes on Berneray

Sand dunes on Berneray

Weather forecasting stone at the Lobster Pot Tearoom on Berneray

Weather forecasting stone at the Lobster Pot Tearoom on Berneray

Bute – Firth of Clyde.

Cows on the Isle of Bute

Cows on the Isle of Bute

Looking towards Isle of Arran from Isle of Bute

Looking towards Isle of Arran from Isle of Bute

Cumbrae – Firth of Clyde.

Millport on Cumbrae

Millport on Cumbrae

Eriskay – Outer Hebrides.

Eriskay harbour

Eriskay harbour

Eriskay

Eriskay

Flodda – Outer Hebrides.

Flodda

Flodda

Gigha – Inner Hebrides.

Achamore House on Gigha

Achamore House on Gigha

Looking towards Islay from Gigha

Looking towards Islay from Gigha

Beautiful Gigha coastline

Beautiful Gigha coastline

Grimsay – Outer Hebrides.

Grimsay

Grimsay

Iona – Inner Hebrides.

Iona

Iona

Iona Abbey

Iona Abbey

Isle of May – Firth of Forth.

Looking towards the lighthouse on Isle of May

Looking towards the lighthouse on Isle of May

Lismore – Inner Hebrides.

Flying over Lismore Island

Flying over Lismore Island

Isle of Mull – Inner Hebrides.

Tobermory, Isle of Mull

Tobermory, Isle of Mull

Torosay Castle, Isle of Mull

Torosay Castle, Isle of Mull

The barren west of Mull

The barren west of Mull

West coast of Mull

West coast of Mull

Abandoned boats on the Mull coastline

Abandoned boats on the Mull coastline

North Uist – Outer Hebrides.

North Uist

North Uist

North Uist

North Uist

Triagh Iar, North Uist

Triagh Iar, North Uist

Oitir Mhor, North Uist

Oitir Mhor, North Uist

Farming North Uist-style

Farming North Uist-style

Isle of Skye – Inner Hebrides.

Portree

Portree

Uig bay

Uig bay

Quiraing

Quiraing

Waternish

Waternish

Point of Ness, Durnish

Point of Ness, Durnish

Loch Slaplin

Loch Slaplin

Loch Slaplin with the Cuillins Range behind

Loch Slaplin with the Cuillins Range behind

Isleornsay

Isleornsay

South Uist – Outer Hebrides.

Road sign at the South Uist to Eriskay causeway

Road sign at the South Uist to Eriskay causeway

Looking towards Eriskay from South Uist

Looking towards Eriskay from South Uist

Ludag, South Uist

Ludag, South Uist

Beautiful, secluded, white sandy beach

Beautiful, secluded, white sandy beach

Loch Druidibeag

Loch Druidibeag

South Uist

South Uist

Staffa – Inner Hebrides.

Fingall's Cave, Staffa

Fingall’s Cave, Staffa

Ulva – Inner Hebrides.

Ulva

Ulva

Vatersay – Outer Hebrides.

Vatersay beach

Vatersay beach

MAINLAND REGIONS:

Highlands.

Mountains in the Glencoe area

Mountains in the Glencoe area

Loch Carron

Loch Carron

Loch Alsh

Loch Alsh

Kyle of Loch Alsh with the Skye bridge

Kyle of Loch Alsh with the Skye bridge

Eilann Donan Castle on Loch Duich

Eilann Donan Castle on Loch Duich

Loch Duich in the lowering sun

Loch Duich in the lowering sun

Gairloch

Gairloch

Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness

Flying over the mountains to the east of Oban

Flying over the mountains to the east of Oban

Loch Etive

Loch Etive

Ben More & Loch Lubhair

Ben More & Loch Lubhair

Grampian.

Near Loch Kinnord

Near Loch Kinnord

Loch Kinnord

Loch Kinnord

Loch Lee

Loch Lee

Invermark Castle

Invermark Castle

Balmedie beach north of Aberdeen

Balmedie beach north of Aberdeen

Slain's Castle

Slain’s Castle

North Sea coastline at Slain's Castle

North Sea coastline at Slain’s Castle

Slain's Castle

Slain’s Castle

Castle Fraser

Castle Fraser

Ythan Estuary at Newburgh

Ythan Estuary at Newburgh

Sand dune near Newburgh

Sand dune near Newburgh

Beach south of Collieston

Beach south of Collieston

Perthshire.

Loch Turret reservoir

Loch Turret reservoir

Queen's View, Loch Tummel

Queen’s View, Loch Tummel

St Fillans on the bank of Loch Earn

St Fillans on the bank of Loch Earn

Fife.

St Andrews

St Andrews

South-eastern corner of the Kingdom of Fife

South-eastern corner of the Kingdom of Fife

Patchwork quilt of farmland in Fife

Patchwork quilt of farmland in Fife

Flying over Elie

Flying over Elie

Argyll.

Inveraray bridge

Inveraray bridge

Loch Awe

Loch Awe

WILDLIFE:

Reindeer calf in Cairngorm National Park

Reindeer calf in Cairngorm National Park

Adult reindeer in Cairngorm National Park

Adult reindeer in Cairngorm National Park

Pheasant in Cairngorm National Park

Pheasant in Cairngorm National Park

Red deer at Glen Muick

Red deer at Glen Muick

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Seals on Berneray

Seals on Berneray

Bug at the beach

Bug at the beach

Terra Australis – South Australia

If I’m honest, I didn’t have any desire to go to South Australia prior to my friend moving there. I had previously read about Adelaide when I was considering taking the train from Perth to Sydney, and nothing about the place really sold it to me. Living in New Zealand, we are constantly fed images of Sydney and the Gold Coast as ideal holiday locations, and whilst the east coast of Australia is cheap to fly to, any further west than Melbourne is more expensive. Having not seen my friend in over 2 years, and with her now living in Adelaide, I decided to make use of an airline sale to venture over there to see her.

Adelaide CBDFlying low over the Adelaide Hills, we swung round the edge of the city and approached the airport skirting the north of the CBD. My initial impression was how small it was. Adelaide CBDThe CBD itself is a tightly packed cluster of high rise buildings surrounded on all four sides by parkland, separating it from the suburbs which sprawl out in all directions. It was a very quick bus ride into the city, and I was immediately struck by how devoid of people it was. After checking in at my hostel, I went in search of somewhere to have dinner and everything I came across was closed! For a Saturday night there was barely a soul about and even the takeaways and fast food joints were in the dark. I was shocked. I came to realise that I had arrived on a long weekend, with a public holiday to celebrate the Queen’s birthday. The shops had shut early, and only certain areas of the city were open for business. Thankfully, I eventually stumbled upon Rundle Street where there was plenty of choice to both eat and drink to my heart’s content, and finally there was a flurry of activity about the place with many of the restaurants and bars already packed both inside and out.

The first thing I had done on my arrival was book a day trip to Kangaroo Island for the next day. It was an early start, getting picked up at 6am for the 1.5hr drive down to the ferry terminal. The sun rose as we left the city behind, but unfortunately the further south we headed, the rain clouds rolled in and the mist came down. Still, it was possible to see many kangaroos roaming the fields at the side of the road, and when we arrived to board the ferry, it was clear that the clouds were moving away. Kangaroo Island ferryAfter a 45 minute ferry ride over to Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island, the sun was out and we bundled back onto another bus for a long day of driving. I had been recommended to spend a couple of days on the island, as the day tour would be quite rushed, and if I had had more time I would have done so. As it was, it was quite an expensive excursion for 1 day, never mind 2, and I just didn’t have the time. It was definitely one of those days where more time was spent sat on a bus than was actually spent at all the stops we went to, but it was a good over-view of a very enchanting and idyllic island.

Australian Sea LionThe first stop was at Seal Bay Conservation Park where a colony of Australian sea lions come ashore to rest. Australian Sea LionsEven on the walk down the path towards the beach, there were several lying in the way or in the dunes either side. Pup suckling from mumA pup lay suckling from its mother as we walked by, and several sea lions lay fast asleep, oblivious or unperturbed by our presence. Australian Sea LionsReaching the sandy beach, groups of sea lions lay fast asleep, whilst others mulled at the water’s edge. Australian Sea LionsThey’re such pretty creatures, and having only ever seen them in a zoo before, it was fantastic to see them in the wild.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KoalaA short drive from there, we reached a park area where we were to be guaranteed to see some koalas. Sure enough, wandering through a group of eucalyptus trees, it wasn’t long before some were spotted. I saw 6 in total, and 5 of them were doing what koalas do best: sleeping. Koala climbing downThe other one was climbing down the tree, the most activity I have ever seen a wild koala doing. I once saw a juvenile koala running, but it was in a zoo, and it was running away from older koalas who were attempting to beat the poor creature up. Every tree it climbed it was met by an angry adult koala who swiped at it and groaned at it. I’m sure similar behaviour occurs in the wild, but no matter what time of day I see them, all the wild ones I’ve ever seen are curled up on a branch, fast asleep.

 

KangaroosNearby there were some kangaroos mowing the grass, and we watched them for a very short time before heading on to our lunch stop. Suitably refreshed, we continued west to the Remarkable Rocks. Remarkable RocksOn the southern coastline within Flinders Chase National Park, sits some bizarre shaped rocks on a smooth granite rock base. Remarkable RocksThey are naturally formed, but very localised to one area, and have been sculpted into their current shape by the wind, sea and rain. Our guide told us that tours on the previous two days had spotted migrating humpback whales passing by and I stared out to sea ever hopeful for a glimpse of my favourite marine mammal. By this point it was a gorgeous sunny day, and despite my mild disappointment at not seeing any whales, it was a beautiful spot to be by the sea under a clear blue sky.

 

 

 

 

 

Cape de Couedic lighthouseCape de Couedic with its lighthouse was not much further round the coast, and from the viewing platform it was possible to look east along the coast and see the Remarkable Rocks in the distance. New Zealand Fur SealDown a walkway from the lighthouse was Admiral’s Arch, a sea-blasted archway in the rock, around which was the home of a colony of New Zealand Fur Seals. New Zealand Fur Seal mother and pupI have seen plenty of these guys in New Zealand, and if you know where to go, especially in the South Island, they are everywhere, but this colony was bigger than any I had seen back home. The size of the colony also meant a stronger smell, and with little else happening other than sleeping, I didn’t mind the restricted time that we had been allowed to stay for. It was a beautifully rugged coastline though, taking the full brunt of the southern seas.

ParrotsI got a nice surprise when we stopped at the Flinders Chase Visitor Centre on the way back towards the ferry. Aside from some gorgeous red parrots near the entrance, I went for a short wander to kill time whilst everyone else meandered round the gift shop. EchidnaMeandering round the car park, my attention was caught by some rustling in the under growth and a movement in the corner of my eye. I couldn’t believe my luck to see a wild echidna snuffling through the leaf litter looking for an evening meal. It wandered oblivious to me, and I looked around excitedly wanting to share my find with somebody. I caught the attention of a girl on my tour bus, and the two of us silently watched the echidna rummage about, enjoying our private wildlife experience away from the noise of our tour group. Soon enough, we had to leave it behind, and head back to Penneshaw to catch the evening ferry back to the main land. It was a long day, arriving back in Adelaide at 10.30pm in the dark, and hitting my pillow, I was out like a light.

Church in Adelaide CBDWith my friend not returning from a camping trip till the afternoon of the Monday, I took the opportunity in the morning to explore her home city. Haigh's Chocolates near Rundle MallArriving in the dark and being away all day the day before, I had yet to see much of the place. It was the Queen’s Birthday holiday so still a lot of places were closed, but there was a bit more activity going on with many people having the day off work. Adelaide Railway StationWhat I came to love about Adelaide were the heritage buildings which were all over the place within the city. From churches, to offices, and private residencies, there are some stunning colonial-style buildings from the 19th century, many of them baring the date of build or with plaques detailing some of the history of the place. Like any city, it has its modern multi-storey glass offices, but there was plenty of old architecture to keep me happy.

 

 

 

Artwork by the river bankI didn’t have a plan, just wandering the streets from west to east and vice versa, working my way north towards the Torrens river. Adelaide Convention CentreOn its banks stands the casino and convention centre, and on the north side is the AFL stadium. The riverbank was in the process of being improved, and a relatively new bridge spanned the river. Pelicans by the Torrens RiverPelicans slept by the water’s edge, and I followed the south bank to the east until I reached the edge of the CBD. River TorrensCutting south to the Botanical Gardens, I came upon a group of trees filled with colourful rainbow lorikeets feeding. Rainbow lorikeetWinter time is never the best time to visit gardens, as they aren’t in their prime, and the city council was clearly in the process of doing some renovations. Ibis in the Botanical GardensAfter meandering past the university, the art gallery and the museum, Adelaide UniversityI finally met up with my friend for a much needed catch up and dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t think I’ve ever been on so many wrong turns in my life, but by the time we reached the Barossa Valley, South Australia had really grown on me. Barossa Valley wineryIt is a wine-lover’s paradise, and we set about stopping at vineyards to do some wine tasting. I’m a white wine girl, and my friend is a red wine lover, and between the two of us, we worked our way through several winelists at each place. The first place we stumbled upon thanks to yet another wrong turn, but it had that quintessential Mediterranean feel to it, and it was exceedingly picturesque. Jacob's Creek Visitor CentreWith some more wrong turns, we eventually reached the Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre. For me, Jacob’s Creek had always been that cheap wine that everyone drunk as a student, so I wasn’t fussed about going there, but my friend had loved their special red from a previous visit and she wanted more, so we duly turned up, and I found myself buying some delicious wine that blew me away. The grounds were stunning, and having packed a picnic of cheeses and spreads, we sat out in the cool winter sunshine and pigged out on the most amazing picnic I have ever had.

A few more cellar doors later and we had both purchased enough wine to see us through for a while. It was great fun, and a fantastic way to explore the region, sampling so many local flavours along the way. Lowering sunAs the day wore on, we headed back towards Adelaide and continued that little bit further west to reach the sea at Henley Beach. Setting sun from Henley BeachIt is a beautiful coastline with several beaches and suburbs littered along the way, and we parked ourselves on a bench with fish & chips to watch the sun set over the sea. It was cool, but beautiful, and we headed to the local gelato shop prior to calling it a night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adelaide CBD from Mt Lofty summitTo the south-east of Adelaide lies Mt Lofty in the Adelaide Hills. From the viewing area at the summit, the city and coastline beyond are visible in the distance. It was a hazy day, so the view wasn’t the sharpest, but still you could pick out the airport and the various buildings of the CBD. I had read about the Waterfall Gully Track and managed to convince my friend to do it. First waterfall on the Waterfall gully trackStarting from Mt Lofty summit, it steeply descends down the mountainside through a eucalyptus forest, round bends and past waterfalls to a car park and visitor centre on a lower summit. It was a busy track, and the whole way down we passed red-faced sweaty runners and hikers slogging their way back up. It seemed like a never-ending hike down, but in actual fact, the way back up didn’t seem as bad as we anticipated, although it was definitely a tough walk. Surprisingly, there was very little wildlife in the forest, only a few cockatoos flitting between the branches near the top.

Art in HahndorfIt was only a little further along the road to reach Hahndorf, a quaint little German town which I loved purely because most of the shops were unique and sold cakes, and cheeses, and meats, and chocolates. HahndorfIt was fantastic, walking round sampling all the locally produced foods, and we bought plenty of it to take home and eat later. Cheese & wine nightAfter a delicious lunch in a cosy restaurant, and a bit more wine tasting, we headed back to Adelaide to prepare for a fantastic evening drinking Barossa Valley wine and eating cheeses, and spreads and cakes from our Hahndorf hoard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Japanese gardenThere was still plenty to explore in Adelaide, and with a bit of time to myself to kill, I headed to the southern parks and wandered round the Japanese garden before heading up to the Central Market. Fruit & veg at Central MarketI had read that it was a must-do activity in the city and I wasn’t disappointed. Getting there late in the morning it was absolutely packed, and it was an unbelievable sensory overload. Cheeses at Central marketRow after row of stalls sold meats, cheeses, fruits, veg, fish, bread, cakes, nuts, chocolates, coffee and flowers. Freshly baked bread at Central MarketThere was so much to look at and smell, and with my belly craving lunch, there was just too much choice. Eventually I picked the most amazing sandwich I’ve had in a long time and some fresh yoghurt which I ate whilst waiting on the tram to Glenelg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glenelg town hallGlenelg lies on the coast to the south-west of Adelaide, about an hour on the tram from the CBD. GlenelgBeing winter, the beachfront was quiet and windy, but it reminded me of a quieter version of Surfer’s Paradise with its high rise apartment blocks lining the promenade. Had it been a sunnier day I probably could have sat by the beach for hours, but as it was it felt a bit exposed on that overcast day, and with my friend driving down to meet me, we wandered the streets instead, sampling a local coffee shop before taking a drive to Harbour Town for some outlet shopping. On the way home, we took a detour to go to Ikea, a store which I desperately wish would come to New Zealand, having furnished my flat in Scotland from there. It felt slightly surreal being at the opposite side of the world wandering round that oh-so familiar layout.

Pig on a rainy Rundle MallMy last full day in Adelaide, the heavens opened. After breakfast at Central Market, I took refuge at the South Australian museum. Pigs on Rundle MallIt passed a couple of hours, but I was quite disappointed with it. The exhibitions were average and nothing really wowed me. To make matters worse, there were multiple school classes jostling about the place, and they got in my way and under my feet. With the weather not amenable to wandering further outdoors, I had a lazy afternoon prior to meeting my friend on Rundle Street for an evening of sampling the local nightlife. We ventured only between two bars, one of which had a dance floor upstairs, and I was impressed by the selection of bars, and restaurants in the area. My night club days long behind me, I felt old, but endevoured to last as long as I could, hitting the pillow after 1am.

With more time, I would love to get north to the Flinders Ranges, a region I’d hoped I’d get to on this trip until I realised how far away it was, as well as the Murray River. Having spoken to several other travellers, Adelaide seems to be a great starting point for heading north to Alice Springs and Darwin beyond, and eager to see these places myself, I would most likely head there from Adelaide in the future. Whilst not having the glitzy draw of Sydney and the Gold Coast, South Australia still has plenty to offer, albeit in a more laid back fashion. With wildlife, beaches and vineyards on Adelaide’s doorstep, I think it doesn’t deserve to be so overlooked.

Quail Island

Nestled in the depth of Lyttleton harbour on Banks Peninsula, lies OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAQuail Island. Once the home of a (very small) leper colony, it was subsequently used as an animal quarantine station where dogs and ponies trained prior to several expeditions to the Antarctic continent. Now, just a 10 minute ferry ride from the mainland, it is a great day out for a family-friendly walk with plenty of places for a picnic at the end of it all.

The view west from Quail IslandUp the hill from the pier, it is merely a case of choosing to go round the island clockwise or anti-clockwise. Heading anti-clockwise, some old buildings are nestled amongst the trees. Some of them were old stables for the horses, and a building with an interpretation room is a just a little further along the track. Once out of the tree line, there is a 360 degree view of the surrounding Port Hills and Banks Peninsula for large sections of the coastal track, and the ferry company Black Cat Cruises, provides a leaflet and map of the island detailing important sites to visit on the way round.

Volcanic CliffsContinuing in this direction, there are some dramatic sheer volcanic cliffs, a reminder of how the island (and the peninsula as a whole) was formed. This is also one of the best vantage points to view back towards Lyttleton and the mouth of Lyttleton Harbour. Overgrown historyScattered along the path round this coastline are various remnants of the early inhabitants, from rusty machinery to old quarries, Old quarryone now filled with water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking across to Governor's BayOpposite Governor’s Bay, the Quail Island coast was used for scuppering old ships, Shipwrecksand a collection of 8 ship wrecks can be seen just off a stony beach. Round from here, on the more southern facing coast, the beaches are sandy. King Billy Island across from the beachThe first one to come across is the more secluded one, accessible down the hill, and just a stone’s throw away from the neighbouring King Billy Island.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After passing another quarry and the sole grave from the leper colony, the path became a bit more of an adventure. Visiting on Easter weekend, a storm had blown through the week previously, and there were a lot of trees down occluding sections of the path. With a long detour to take to avoid this, we simply climbed over and under the large trunks, getting a few scratches along the way. The path had a closed sign at the other end for those walking clockwise round the island, but there had been nothing at the end that we came from. It wasn’t too much of a problem for us, but a few families that were coming behind us struggled to negotiate the fallen trees with their young children and picnic bags. Beach on Quail IslandThe reward though, was reaching the main swimming and picnic area at a time when many other people were leaving. Looking across to Mt HerbertThis southern facing coastline looked across to Diamond Harbour and Mt Herbert, the highest peak on the Banks Peninsula. It is a beautiful spot to soak up the sunshine whilst enjoying a picnic, and we spent the rest of our time sunning ourselves first by the beach, Looking towards Diamond Harbourand then a little round the coast on a grassy ridge near a dilapidated pier.

Quail Island is a fantastic place to go for a lovely non-strenuous walk within the beautiful surrounds of Lyttleton Harbour and the Banks Peninsula. Accessible only in the summer months, it is a popular day trip, so don’t go there expecting solitude, but it is easy to find a place for that all important peace and quiet.

Guide to Christchurch

The more you travel, the more people you meet. The more people you meet, the more you learn about different people’s home towns. I’m always intrigued by the opinion of those people that have been to Christchurch, and I can’t help but get a little bit defensive when people don’t like it. Usually, when I press them on it, they skipped round the damaged city centre and then left again. They didn’t find out enough about what the city is all about, and where are the best places to go. If my previous posts don’t give enough information on where to go and what to see, I enjoy giving recommendations on where to eat and drink in the city. The following are very much my own personal recommendations, and I encourage others to give their own favourites. I’m still discovering new places to go, and regularly there’s an opening or a re-opening going on somewhere in the city, so I’m always eager to find new gems. Discovering all the gastric delights of this city is a work in progress.

CAFES:

C1 Espresso185 High Street, Central.

GO FOR: location; atmosphere; the biggest range of teas I’ve ever seen; food flying through pneumatic tubes; the best ice coffee in town

Vic’s Cafe132 Victoria Street, Central.

GO FOR: freshly baked bread for sale

Cafe Procope205 Fendalton Road, Fendalton.

GO FOR: cheerful staff; amazing food

Beat Street Cafe324 Barbadoes Street, Central.

GO FOR: quirkiness; great food

WHEN NOT TO GO: Sunday brunch/lunch when the queue for cooked food on a busy day is >1hr

Black Betty165 Madras Street, Central.

GO FOR: location; atmosphere; Shakshuka

WHEN NOT TO GO: Sunday brunch/lunch when the queue for cooked food on a busy day is about 1hr

Coffee CultureVarious: Beckenham, Upper Riccarton, Riccarton, Airport, Lyttleton, Merivale, Rangiora, Redwood, Sumner, Shirley, Sydenham. – although a chain, I love these coffee shops

GO FOR: great coffee and consistency across the various branches; join their loyalty card for 20% off hot drinks

The Cupcake Collection140 Colombo Street, Beckenham.

GO FOR: the most delicious assortment of cupcakes ever!

Salt on the Pier195-213 Marine Parade, New Brighton.

GO FOR: yummy food within reach of the beach

Ocean Cafe & BarEsplanade Clock Tower, Sumner.

GO FOR: great coffee by the beach

Red Rock CafeGondola Summit Station, Mount Pleasant.

GO FOR: delicious food and coffee overlooking the city and Lyttleton harbour; red velvet cake

Cafe Lumes107 Fitzgerald Avenue, Central.

GO FOR: friendly, welcoming staff who remember your name and your order; yummy food;

WHEN NOT TO GO: at the weekend when it is closed!

Coffee Lovers25 New Regent Street, Central.

GO FOR: location; the best hot chocolate in the city

WHEN NOT TO GO: >4pm when it is shut

Bean Scene Cafe & Cargo Bar, 359 Lincoln Road, Addington.

GO FOR: size – there’s plenty of tables between inside and out, and it has the best of both worlds: a cafe and a separate bar trading out of the same place

Oddfellows Cafe, 5 Disraeli Street, Addington.

GO FOR: great menu; fantastic coffee and it is attached to a local coffee roasters

WHEN NOT TO GO: on a Sunday when it is closed

Underground Cafe, 359 Colombo Street, Sydenham.

GO FOR: Fantastic selection of very tasty food

Antigua Boat Shed Cafe, 2 Cambridge Terrace, Central.

GO FOR: fantastic location next to the Avon River and near the Botanical Gardens; friendly, smiling & helpful staff

RESTAURANTS:

Tutto Bene192 Papanui Road, Merivale.

GO FOR: Italian restaurant run by Italians, and the owner is always full of smiles; the best Italian in town

WHEN NOT TO GO: if you haven’t booked a table in advance – it books out!

Strawberry Fare19 Bealey Avenue, Central.

GO FOR: divine and delicious foods and a huge dessert menu

WHEN NOT TO GO: if you haven’t booked a table – it’s very popular; or if you’re looking for a cheap eat as it’s far from the cheapest place in town

Flying Burrito Brothers77 Main North Road, Papanui.

GO FOR: great mocktails; extensive range of Mexican food; good food at an affordable price

WHEN NOT TO GO: if you want a quick feed at the weekend – they don’t take bookings and the wait for a table can be as long as an hour at busy time

Pomeroy’s Old Brewery Inn, 292 Kilmore Street, Central.

GO FOR: delicious food (my favourite is the pulled pork) in a cozy, welcoming pub-style restaurant; extensive and changing range of craft beers

St Asaph Street Kitchen & Stray Dog Bar, 236 St. Asaph Street, Central.

GO FOR: scrumptious snack menu; central location

Himalayas, 830a Colombo Street, Central.

GO FOR: delicious and extensive range of Indian fare

Spagalimis, Various: Riccarton, New Brighton, Central.

GO FOR: a wide selection of pizzas which are also available to takeaway

The Town Ball Restaurant & Bar, 52 Manchester Street, Central.

GO FOR: delicious food in a buzzing environment; great location to watch rugby

WHEN NOT TO GO: if you want a quiet meal, as with rugby playing on the big screen all the time, it is a very noisy place to eat

EDIT NOTE 23/06/2014. As of today, the Town Ball has closed for business. It was a temporary (though large) business, and will be removed to make way for a permanent structure.

Speight’s Alehouse Ferrymead, 2a Waterman Place, Woolston.

GO FOR: sharing platters; pub grub

Curator’s House, 7 Rolleston House, Central.

GO FOR: location – snuggled at the corner of the Botanical Gardens next to the Avon river; private dining rooms available for bookings and functions

Passengers & Co, 92 Russley Road, Russley.

GO FOR: delicious food and coffee, friendly staff

WHEN NOT TO GO: at the weekend when it is closed

Venuti, 791 Colombo Street, Central.

GO FOR: scrumptious Italian fare; friendly & helpful staff

DRINKING HOLES:

Pomeroy’s Old Brewery Inn, 292 Kilmore Street, Central.

GO FOR: an extensive, and ever-changing, range of craft beers

Cassels & Sons CBD Bar, 208 Madras Street, Central.

GO FOR: location; atmosphere; live music in the summer

Revival Bar, 92-96 Victoria Street, Central.

GO FOR: location in the popular and ever-expanding Victoria Precinct; unique style of a container bar; al fresco drinking on a gorgeous sunny day

The Running Bull, 1 Riccarton Road, Riccarton.

GO FOR: walking distance from Hagley Park; pool tables and large screens for watching sports

Curator’s House, 7 Rolleston House, Central.

GO FOR: a few drinks in the beautiful Hagley Park

WHEN NOT TO GO: when the wasps are out!

No. 4 Bar & Restaurant, 4 Mansfield Avenue, Merivale.

GO FOR: a great location for a few drinks after work

WHEN NOT TO GO: it can get quite packed on Friday nights once the offices have shut

Elevate Bar & Grill, 2 Colombo Street, Cashmere.

GO FOR: great place for holding functions; a nice place to go that’s away from the CBD

The Bog Irish Bar, 50 Victoria Street, Central.

GO FOR: All your Irish desires – Irish staff, Irish music, Irish-style fare, Guinness; scrumptious bar snack menu; live music venue; the decor is fantastic

TAKEAWAYS:

Himalayas, 830a Colombo Street, Central.

Food: Indian

Order in the restaurant, online or over the phone, but be aware that online orders are slower to process

Spagalimis, Various: Riccarton, New Brighton, Central.

Food: Pizza

Beats the likes of Pizza Hut and Hell’s hands down, but it comes at a price

Dimitris Greek Food, Cashel Street Re:Start Mall, Central.

Food: Greek souvlaki

The best, and one of the most popular, souvlakis in the city. Sold out of a food truck in the Re:Start mall there is always a queue, so be prepared to wait

Burger Wisconsin, Various: Cashmere, Papanui.

Food: Burgers

It’s no Fergburger, but although I know some people that would disagree with me, this is my favourite burger joint in the city

Fritz’s Wieners, Cashel Street Re:Start Mall, Central.

Food: Wieners

Quick and tasty sausage fare. They often have a mobile unit at lots of events.

Muffin Break, Various: The Palms, Riccarton Mall, Northlands Mall, Eastgate Mall, Colombo Street.

Food: Muffins, Toasties, Hot & Cold drinks

A chain of food-court style coffee shops, the coffee is good, and if you sign up to their loyalty card, every 5th one is free

Mrs Higgin’s Cookies, 10 New Regent Street, Central.

Food: Fresh baked cookies

Very more-ish and yummy cookies baked fresh

The Sausage Sisters, Unit 5, 456 Colombo Street, Sydenham.

Food: sausage rolls

Listed as a courtyard cafe, it’s little more than a kiosk with a table and chairs outside but the sausage rolls are delicious, especially the moroccan lamb

New York Deli, Various: Addington & Papanui.

Food: New York Deli-style sandwiches

Made to order sandwiches. Choose the bread, the meat filling and the salad, and enjoy. Not as cheap as Subway but worth the extra dollars.

MARKETS:

Riccarton Market, Riccarton Racecourse. Sundays 9am – 2pm

Stalls: fresh produce, bric-a-brac, private sellers, crafts, and a myriad of food carts

The market is on every week of the year regardless of the weather. As an ex-pat Scot, this is my go-to place to get some much loved British foods

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