MistyNites

My Life in Motion

Lochnagar

About an hour and a half drive to the west of the ‘Granite City’ that is Aberdeen, down a long and winding road with no exit, lies an unassuming car park near a small copse. The drive there on a beautiful day is an adventure in itself. The River Dee snakes its way from its origin in Cairngorm National Park towards the North Sea at Aberdeen, and heading upstream, the A93 on the northern side, and the lower grade B976 on the southern side brings you to Ballater. Crossing the river from the northern side, there is little further to travel to the signposted turn-off for Loch Muick. This long road follows the route of River Muick, a feeder river for the larger River Dee, up stream to its source from Loch Muick. Initially through some woodland, it opens up into an open glen of the same name, flanked by hills either side, and a smattering of trees and low shrubbery. At the right time of year, the heather bloom turns the normally green and brown landscape into a glorious purple.

Heather in bloom in Glen Muick

At the end of this long and windy road is a car park which on busy days can get very full. There is also a parking charge here, so having small change handy is a must. From here, the track heads down across a small river to a copse where picnic benches mark a picnic area, and a toilet block is located. From here there is a choice of walks. For a less challenging walk, or with families, the main destination is the nearest shore of Loch Muick. For a longer, but low grade walk, a path circumnavigates the entire loch, and for something more serious, some day and multi-day hikes can be reached from there too. More often than not, when I have visited Glen Muick, there has been a herd of wild red deer grazing in the area, and on one occasion, they were wandering amongst the picnic tables and very close up.

Red deer in Glen Muick

Red deer at Spittal of Glen Muick

Red deer in Glen Muick

Lochnagar, a Munro (a Scottish mountain of >3000ft) is an easily accessible and rewarding hike. Standing at 3789ft (1155m), the ascent can be reached from the copse by not following the main route to the loch side, but by taking the path that goes up the side of the copse, crossing the river, and passing by some buildings before carrying on through another copse and coming out the other side. An easy stream crossing is followed by the start of a gravelled cut out path that starts to wind its way up the neighbouring hillside. A bit of altitude is gained before the path splits: the right fork continuing on towards Balmoral, and the left fork crossing over shrubbery before the slog up the mountain begins.

Looking back towards Glen Muick after the path splits

The start of the Lochnagar track

The path is clearly marked, and in good weather, it is very busy. The first section takes you up to a col between Meikle Pap (980m) and Lochnagar ridge itself. Some of this section involves stone steps, and this col overlooks the water of Lochnagar, sitting below the ridge of the same name. Lochnagar burn can be seen disappearing off into the distance. Even in the height of summer, there can be patches of snow from this point onwards, and it is a fabulous spot to park up for some lunch before the final ascent. The summit and ridgeline takes the brunt of the weather and is often windy and cold, so this relatively sheltered spot is a far better spot to spend some time.

Approaching the col with Lochnagar in the background

Lochan Lochnagar below the ridge of Lochnagar

Lochnagar burn disappears into the distance

The steepest section is the second part, known as the Ladder, which picks its way up through the increasingly rocky terrain, at which point the path becomes a little less obvious, and it is best to focus on a spot to reach and just pick a way there. Eventually a plateau is reached, which is barren and rocky, and the path again becomes slightly vague across the central buttress until an obvious path appears again. A path that hugs the edge can be followed across Eagle Ridge, but as it goes quite close to a very long drop, it is certainly one to be very careful following, and the main route is somewhat further back. Some large rocks mark the west buttress, and finally the last lot of rocks to climb over marks the true summit, marked with a plinth. In all directions, mountains and hills roll off into the distance, with Ballochbuie forest in the far north-west, and Loch nan Eun to the south-west. There are plenty of rocks to hunker down next to if it’s windy, but even on a warm day, it quickly feels cold up here.

The Ladder

Reaching the plateau

Crossing the plateau

Looking through the buttress

Western Buttress

At the summit of Lochnagar

From the summit, you can retrace your steps the way you came, but I always chose to make the circuit, and follow the path down the backside of Cuidhe Crom and Little Pap, which follows the route of Glas-Allt. It is a well-maintained pathway, with an easy descent through low shrubbery, and lots of little waterfalls to ogle at. Eventually, Loch Muick comes back into view at the top of a large waterfall, Glas-Allt Falls. This is the steepest section of the descent which arcs down the side of the waterfall, and offers a viewing point of the falls at the bottom. From here, it is an easy walk along the side of Craig Moseen, and a final, easy descent to Glas-Allt-Shiel, in full view of the western edge of Loch Muick.

Glas-Allt

Small waterfall on Glas-Allt

Loch Muick viewed from the top of Glas-Allt Falls

Upper section of Glas-Allt Falls

Glas-Allt Falls

Loch Muick

The head of Loch Muick

Near a royal lodge (used by Queen Victoria, and later Prince Charles) hidden amongst a copse, the path joins the circuit path of Loch Muick, and the car park can be reached by either taking the left, northern (quicker) circuit back, or turning right, and following the path round the head of the loch, to return on the southern aspect. At the foot of the lake on the more northern route, a little boat house marks the end of a small pebbly beach where you can stroll along the side of the lapping tannin-tainted water, and cross the bridge to join the more southern track back to the car park.

Loch Muick

Boathouse on Loch Muick

Loch Muick beach

River Muick leaving Loch Muick

Realistically, this is a full day hike, averaging 6-7 hours dependent on fitness, and time spent ogling the views at the various viewpoints. With many exposed sections, and potential for year-round snow, this is not a hike to take lightly, and warrants being well prepared. Hiking this route in winter is best left to those with winter skills experience, but in summer it is a fantastic walk well worth making the drive for.

Mt Sunday

Deep in the heart of Canterbury, and down a long winding unsealed road, lies a beautiful river valley surrounded by mountains. Part way along the valley, lies a mound of rock that looks like it comes straight out of Middle Earth. Probably because it does. Astute people, or fans of the Lord of the Rings trilogy will recognise this mound, Mt Sunday, as the location of Edoras, the home of Rohan, the horse-riding warriors, and in fact, if you go at the right time (or wrong time, depending on your feelings towards the franchise), you could be mistaken for thinking it is Edoras, as a tour company brings tourists up regularly where they pose with their swords and the flag of Rohan to flutter in the wind, and pretend to act out a scene from the movie.

To the south-west of Christchurch, the village of Mt Somers which nestles in the shadow of the mountain of the same name, can be reached from various directions depending on how much of a scenic drive you want to take. Roads from here, lead back to Methven & Mt Hutt, Ashburton, Rakaia, and Geraldine. Upon reaching Mt Somers, signs direct further inland into Hakatere Conservation Park along Ashburton Gorge Road and it is a beautiful drive.

Upon reaching the settlement of Hakatere, where the road splits in two, the Hakatere Potts Road very quickly becomes unsealed and remains so the rest of the way (with the exception of the steepest section). On a sunny March day, it was a reasonable road to drive, although it was quite rutted in places in the earlier section. In good weather, it is suitable for all vehicles, and there were a few camper vans about, but out of season, especially in wet or snowy weather, this would be best in 4x4s only. There are a lot of places to stop on route if desired with Lakes Emma, Roundabout, Camp and Clearwater all accessed from the same road. But definitely worth a stop is a small patch to pull over at the top of the hill before the descent into the Rangitata river valley, just before crossing Potts River, where there is a beautiful view of the valley opening up ahead of you.

Hakatere Conservation Park

Rangitata River Valley with Mt Sunday to the right

The route down the hill is the only section which is sealed, and upon crossing the bridge over the Potts River it returns to gravel again and winds its way to a well-marked car park that denotes the start of the walk to Mt Sunday. Depending on route, stops and confidence with driving on unsealed roads, the time from Christchurch to here can take around 2-2.5hrs, and if you want to take any of the side roads to explore more of the Conservation Park, I suggest you head off with a full tank of fuel.

From the car park, a DOC sign denotes to follow the orange markers, and although in some places where there are several options of which exact way to get to each orange marker, it is impossible to get lost when Mt Sunday (611m) is visible the whole way. The initial section is very flat, crossing a couple of streams via bridges including a short suspension bridge, and with mountains in all directions it is a beautiful vista the whole way.

The start of the Mt Sunday track

Mt Sunday from the first stream

View upstream

View downstream

Mt Sunday

Crossing the second stream

Standing at the bottom of Mt Sunday

The initial ascent is up the hilly side, before the steeper (but very achievable) section up the more rocky face of Mt Sunday until the summit is reached. When I arrived there, a tour group was there posing for their Lord of the Rings themed photos, but after patiently waiting for them to finish, after they left, I had the summit to myself. Then it was simply 360o of utter beauty and peaceful bliss with just a swarm of flying ants for company.

Summit view North-West

Summit View North-West

Summit view North

Summit View North to North-East

Summit View South

As is usually the case in the mountains here, the afternoon brought cloud and wind. The best of the weather for exploring the mountains and valleys tends to be in the morning, and as it was, I had arrived in the early afternoon. I managed to get about half an hour of sunshine before the clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped a few degrees. After 40mins at the summit, I retraced my steps back to my car, and started the long drive home.

Roys Peak

I could live my whole life in New Zealand, and still have explored only a mere sample of it. There’s simply an overwhelming choice of places to go. As an avid hiker (or tramper, depending on where you’re from), I love getting out into the countryside, no matter where I am in the world. I may have only been there once, but Wanaka in New Zealand’s South Island, remains one of my favourite parts of the country. It is a place of paradise for outdoor lovers. On the bank of a large lake, it is near mountains, glaciers and ski fields. Year round, there is plenty of choice for adventure, whilst remaining much more quiet and idyllic than its better known neighbour, Queenstown.

Lake Wanaka from the shore

Lake Wanaka

The town of Wanaka lays subtly sprawled along the shore round Roys Bay and Bremner Bay and the vista from the waterfront is spectacular. The water sparkles, and the mountains rise up from the far side and as you inhale the air around you, the freshness invades your pores and brings a glow of total happiness to your body.

Looking round the western side of Roys Bay, stands Roys Peak at 1578m, my favourite hike to do in the area. By car, heading round the western edge of Lake Wanaka on Wanaka-Mount Aspiring Road, a car park will be found on the left from where the hike up begins. But even without a car, it is accessible from the town itself.

Lake Wanaka

Roys Peak

For me, I had arrived by bus, and was keen to explore the area on my own two legs. Following the shoreline promenade, a path takes you through the edge of a resort and along the Te Araroa trail which eventually becomes the Waterfall Creek Track. This track follows the lake side all the way round to Glendhu Bay, but long before this, a sign directs you up another track across private land to the road across from the car park which marks the start of the hike.

The path itself for a large part of it is broad enough for a vehicle to drive up it, and livestock can at times be wandering around the area. It gains height in zig-zag fashion, resulting in a steady gain in altitude without a severe gradient. Behind and to the side of you as you work your way up the mountainside, Wanaka gets smaller and smaller, and more of the lake and its surrounding mountains spread out for miles around. Eventually the town disappears out of view and the long main stretch of the lake is visible in its entirety.

Lower Roys Peak

WanakaPath leading along the lower ridge line

About two thirds of the way up, a path leads across a lower neighbouring ridge line and from here, as well as near the top where the path skirts round the northern aspect of the summit, the mountains of Mount Aspiring National Park become visible on the horizon. In every direction the view is unbelievable, and even rounding the summit edge, and reaching the top, it is breathtaking. The lake, the mountains, the town, and pastures spread out around you, and the day I was up there, two peregrine falcons mobbed each other, dipping and diving around those of us at the summit. With a fresh layer of snow on the distant mountains, there was a nip in the air at the summit, but it didn’t deter me from spending a long time up there breathing it all in. It was a popular walk that day, and well worth the effort. On such a clear day, I could see for miles.

Glendhu Bay, Lake Wanaka

Peregrine Falcon

Summit View of Lake Wanaka

Glendhu Bay from near the summit

Lake Wanaka Panorama

I was exceedingly reluctant to leave, but at least on the way down, I was staring out at the changing vista the whole way, and there was a steady stream of people to smile at and say hello to as they worked their way up. I even followed the spur track along the neighbouring ridge line as well. Down at the car park is the only toilet on the whole walk, but retracing your steps takes you back down to the lake side, and back into town for a well earned drink at the pub of your choice.

Lake Wanaka from the ridge line spur track

Wanaka

The view on the way down

The bottom of Roys Peak

Scottish Castles

There are two things I miss about Scotland: snow and history. Don’t get me wrong, New Zealand clearly has history (and snow for that matter), but with its discovery by Europeans occurring only in the 17th century, and the discovery by any settler suspected to be in the 14th century, its historical background and development are a mere blip in comparison to the 12,000 years of known settlements in Scotland. Getting away from the region known as the Central Belt (the urban region that spans Glasgow to the west and Edinburgh to the east), it isn’t hard to find buildings or remains that easily out-date the point in time when New Zealand was discovered.

Scotland has over 2,000 castles in varying states of repair – some well maintained and open to the public, others a mere crumbling shell left to ruin. Edinburgh Castle is the most well known to foreigners, but for me it is far from my favourite. Living for several years in Aberdeen in the north east, I was within an easy drive of several castles, and over the years of my life and over multiple holidays, I’ve visited and explored many of them in varying parts of the country. Unfortunately I don’t have photos of several of them, having visited them as a child, but below is a mere selection of the castles out there waiting to be explored.

Inverness Castle.

Inverness Castle

Urquhart Castle.

Urqhart Castle, Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle

Castle Fraser.

Castle Fraser, Grampian

Castle Fraser, Grampian

Duart Castle.

Duart Castle, Isle of Mull

Duart Castle, Isle of Mull

Duart Castle, Isle of Mull

Duart Castle, Isle of Mull

Torosay Castle.

Torosay Castle, Isle of Mull

Torosay Castle, Isle of Mull

Torosay Castle, Isle of Mull

Torosay Castle, Isle of Mull

Glengorm Castle.

Glengorm Castle, Isle of Mull

Aros Castle.

Aros Castle, Isle of Mull

Invermark Castle.

Invermark Castle, Grampian

Dunnottar Castle.

Dunnottar Castle, Grampian

Dunnottar Castle, Grampian

Crathes Castle.

Crathes Castle, Grampian

Crathes Castle, Grampian

Crathes Castle, Grampian

St Andrews Castle.

St Andrews Castle

Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh Castle

Eilean Donan Castle.

Eilean Donan Castle, Loch Duich

Eilean Donan Castle, Loch Duich

Inveraray Castle.

Inveraray Castle

Slains Castle.

Slains Castle, Grampian

Slains Castle, Grampian

Slains Castle

Artistic License

My favourite thing to have come out of the Christchurch Rebuild is the ever growing amount of colourful and quirky street art. Adorning the sides of buildings as well as hidden amongst the rubble and desertion, some world-renowned artists have left their mark amongst the city. Unfortunately many of them are on buildings earmarked for eventual demolition, and some will eventually become hidden once new buildings are erected next door, but I hope that as many as possible will remain in the city’s new blueprint. Currently running at the YMCA is the Spectrum Street Art Festival which celebrates this art form and is a showcase for some of these same artist’s work. A map can be obtained from the YMCA and an app is available to download which marks the locations of the current outdoor displays dotted around the CBD. I have become a particular fan of the work of Jacob ‘Yikes’ Ryan who is based in Christchurch and BMD who are based between Australia and New Zealand. Most of the outdoor exhibits are large and hard to miss, but in my wanderings I’ve spotted a few smaller hidden gems.

Giraffing Around, Tess Sheerin, 10 Liverpool St (now gone)

Giraffing Around, Tess Sheerin, 10 Liverpool St (now gone)

Mr 4 Square, Artist Unknown, between Hereford St and Worcester St (now gone)

Mr 4 Square, Artist Unknown, between Hereford St and Worcester St (now gone)

Steeple People, Kay Rosen, Worcester St

Steeple People, Kay Rosen, Worcester St

No!, Tony Fomison, High Street and Manchester St

No!, Tony Fomison, High Street and Manchester St

H.M. The Queen, William Nicholson, Christchurch Casino

H.M. The Queen, William Nicholson, Christchurch Casino

Ballerina, Owen Dippie, Isaac Theatre Royal

Ballerina, Owen Dippie, Isaac Theatre Royal

Naked Woman, Order, Calendar Girls

Order, Calendar Girls

Mexican, Jacob Yikes, Manchester St

Jacob Yikes, Manchester St

Hope, Paulie, YMCA Hereford St

Hope, Paulie, YMCA Hereford St

Face, Drapl, Hereford St YMCA

Drapl, Hereford St YMCA

Love Mural, Artist Unknown, Byron St

Love Mural, Artist Unknown, Byron St

Paris, Askew, Colombo St

Paris, Askew, Colombo St

Jacob Yikes, High St

Jacob Yikes, High St

Wongi and Ikarus, High St

Wongi and Ikarus, High St

Wongi and Ikarus, High St

Wongi and Ikarus, High St

Wongi and Ikarus, High St

Wongi and Ikarus, High St

Buff Monster, Durham St

Buff Monster, Durham St

Tilt, Peterborough St

Tilt, Peterborough St

Daek William, Peterborough St

Daek William, Peterborough St

Adnate, Kilmore St

Adnate, Kilmore St

Askew, Gloucester St

Askew, Gloucester St

Jacob Yikes & Leeya Warrander, Hereford St

Jacob Yikes & Leeya Warrander, Hereford St

Jacob Yikes, Hereford St

Jacob Yikes, Hereford St

Jacob Yikes, Tuam St

Jacob Yikes, Tuam St

Jacob Yikes, Tuam St

Jacob Yikes, Tuam St

Jacob Yikes, Tuam St

Jacob Yikes, Tuam St

Jacob Yikes

Jacob Yikes

Elephants, Owen Dippie, Manchester St

Elephants, Owen Dippie, Manchester St

Wongi Wilson, Manchester St

Wongi Wilson, Manchester St

Artist Unknown, Welles St

Artist Unknown, Welles St

Welcome to Christchurch, Dcypher, Welles St

Welcome to Christchurch, Dcypher, Welles St

Artist Unknown, Southwark St

Artist Unknown, Southwark St

Sef, Southwark St

Sef, Southwark St

Jacob Yikes, between Cashel St and Lichfield St

Jacob Yikes, between Cashel St and Lichfield St

Gary Silipa, Lichfield St

Gary Silipa, Lichfield St

The Black Hat, George Henry, Cashel St (now gone)

The Black Hat, George Henry, Cashel St (now gone)

We Got the Sunshine, Fluro and Oche, Madras St

We Got the Sunshine, Fluro and Oche, Madras St

Save the Penguins, BMD, Worcester St

Save the Penguins, BMD, Worcester St

Rapaki Track

It had been a while since I’d headed up this highly popular track within easy reach of Christchurch’s city centre. The view from Rapaki RoadStarting from the end of Rapaki Road, off Centaurus Road, the first challenge is finding a place to park. With no car park at the bottom, it is street parking only, and at busy times, the entire length of Rapaki Road can be crammed with cars. Part of the reason I hadn’t been in a while, despite living less than a 10 minute drive away, is that it is a very exposed track that winds its way up the Port Hills to Summit Road, and on hot summer days where temperatures can get above 30oC, it would be foolish to go up at any other time than early morning or into the evening. Even setting off before 10am on this autumn day which eventually reached 31oC was pushing it quite a bit.

The Rapaki Track is a track of thirds: the initial steady climb up the side of one hill, the flattish section along the false ridge line, and the final push up the steepest section of the track towards Summit Road. Taking roughly 1.5hrs return, it is a nice short walk to do whilst still requiring a bit of effort. Don’t let the shortness of the walk fool you though. The footpath is well marked but quite stony so a proper pair of shoes are recommended, not jandals (flip-flops/thongs depending on which part of the world you hail from).

Rapaki TrackAfter a brief walk through the shade of some trees, a bike grid denotes the entry onto grazing land. Leaving the houses behind on a greener dayThe path snakes steadily up on the side of the hill, which depending on the time of year, can range in colour from a brilliant green to a starchy yellow. On this most recent of walks, it was dry and yellow as Canterbury is currently in a drought. The early part of the hike on a greener dayWhilst cattle are across a fence if they are there, sheep can wander more freely and have been known to be on the path side of the fence. The track is shared with bikers too, so it is best to stick to the left at bends to prevent being caught off guard by a bike whizzing down the hillside. Dogs are allowed on this track, but due to the proximity to grazing animals, are allowed only on a lead (although it is exceedingly common to see this flaunted!).

 

 

On the flat sectionThe steepest section is the final section, and depending on recent weather, can occasionally be slippery in places, The steep section on a greener daybut the reward at the top, after crossing another bike grid, is the view over the far side of the Port Hills into Lyttleton Harbour with Quail Island directly below and the Banks Peninsula’s highest point, Mt Herbert, directly behind. Quail Island within Lyttleton HarbourThe view can look quite different dependent on the tide as the innermost aspect of the harbour forms a tidal mud flat at low tide. Mt Herbert & Mt Bradley behind Quail IslandI will never get sick of the sight of Lyttleton Harbour no matter which part of the Port Hills I go up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summit Road - the walk downReturning the same way, Pegasus Baythe view on the steep section is of the blue expanse of Pegasus Bay and the glistening of the Pacific Ocean. Nearing the bottom of the steep sectionThis view persists till the flat section where it disappears behind the hill, Heading down the hillsideand from then onwards, Christchurch’s city centre pokes upwards, as the houses get nearer and nearer. Christchurch skylineIt may not be the most distinctive of skylines, but it is still a nice vista to look at on the way back. This is certainly a recommended inclusion to any visit to the Garden City.Returning through the woods

A Sandy Shore

“Sandcastle”

From the beach its sandy walls rise,
Its turrets reach up to touch the skies.
A tiny moat dissolves the keep.
Its pavers are strong, though only two inches deep.
Tiny footprints embedded in the sand,
Where once a child there did stand.
Its grace and beauty a short time will last,
Before the sea washes it into the past.

Author Unknown

The 4th Annual New Zealand Sandcastle Competition took place this year on 7th February 2015. It was held on the beach at New Brighton, one of the eastern suburbs of Christchurch.

Sandcastle

Dragon Capsizing Boat

Bottlenose Dolphins

Dolphins

Face

Octopus

Campsite

Robot

Octopus vs Shark

Giant Feet on the Beach

Marae (Maori Meeting House)

Starfish

Hatchling

Pacman

Dragon

Dragon within a dragonSandcastle

Sandcastle

Sandcastle

Terra Australis – Australian Capital Territory

I struggled to hide my disappointment. After driving through a thunderstorm to get there, our luxury accommodation was far from luxury. Under the darkening sky of a very cloudy evening we drove round southern Canberra around the parliamentary buildings and I thought to myself that what I had heard was right: here was a part of Australia that wasn’t worth visiting. We had given ourselves two nights here and one whole day on our road trip from Sydney to Melbourne and the place wasn’t really grabbing my attention. I wasn’t feeling it for Canberra. I was wrong. Not only that, but a day was in no means enough to see everything there was to offer, and we left Australia’s capital city knowing there was enough for a return visit.

Church in Manuka, CanberraWe were staying within walking distance of the shops in Manuka, to the south of the Australian Parliament building. With a choice of eateries, shops, a cinema and a selection of bars, we found ourselves happy with our location the next morning where the sun shone down on us. With the forecast detailing another thunderstorm for the late afternoon, it was time to make the most of the sunny day and explore Canberra. The city is built in a series of circles and triangles. From the front of the nearby Parliament building on Capital Hill, we could see across Lake Burley Griffin towards Russell on one aspect, and the CBD on another. Marking the top point of the triangle is the large flag staff atop the Parliament itself, and it is clearly visible from most of the city.

Parliament Building, CanberraFrom the outside, the Parliament building looks odd and (to me), visually unappealing. Australian CrestA water feature improves the look slightly and above the main entrance, a metal depiction of the Australian crest glinted in the sunlight. Marble Hallway, Parliament building, CanberraWalking inside however, past the security search point, your eyes are filled with the immense expanse of marble. The design and source of the marble was precisely chosen to represent the history of Australia as a nation, and looking around, the entrance hallway alone is worth a lot of dollars. House of Parliament, CanberraJoining a tour of the premises, I was surprisingly enraptured with the history and workings of it all, learning about the Australian political system and visiting the house of senates and seeing those areas where laws are made and bills are passed. House of Senates, CanberraDespite having a largely European founding, Australia has taken a very American approach to its style of governing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flagstaff on Parliament BuildingFrom the second floor, a lift whisks you up to the roof of the parliament which is partly grassed, and wandering around the roof outside, below the towering structure of the flagstaff, there is a 360o view of the city sprawl. Dead centre: the view to the old Parliament and the War MemorialThe area is largely flat but there are some low hills dotted around. Old Parliament building and the War Memorial across the lakeStanding in the centre of the roof, the eye travels immediately to the old Parliament building further down in the grounds, and past the lake to the War Memorial on the far side. Parliament forecourt viewed from the Queen's TerraceThe triangulation of Commonwealth Avenue and Kings Avenue complete the vista. Behind the far end of Lake Burley Griffin, the Telstra Tower stands tall in the distance. Queen ElizabethBack down on the lower floors, a reminder of the country’s ties, a statue of Queen Elizabeth, stands in imposing bronze form in the beautiful and calming environment of the Queen’s terrace next to the cafeteria.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was an incredibly hot day, well into the 30s, and we wandered round the gardens between Parliament Drive and Capital Circle. The ground was dry and crisp, and hidden amongst the trees lay tennis courts, a soccer field and a cricket oval. Only one garden was in bloom and it was full of yellow and orange flowers and a water feature. Old Parliament, CanberraDown the road, the old Parliament building is now a museum, and when we were there it was partly hidden by scaffolding. SovereigntyDespite that it was still an impressive and dominating presence and it is flanked by yet more gardens. Aboriginal kangaroo paintingFacing the front steps, an Aboriginal tent embassy has been set up, and an Aboriginal flag flies on a simple post next to the word ‘Sovereignty’ with the War Memorial visible in the background. The nearby pavement is adorned with traditional Aboriginal paintings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANZAC Parade and the two Parliament buildings beyondWe took Kings Avenue to the far side of Lake Burley Griffin and drove up the dual road of Anzac Parade to the underground car park beneath the Australian War Memorial. It was the first week of January, and it was exceedingly busy. Standing on the front steps, the view looked back across to the two Parliament buildings, and behind me stood the domed roof of the memorial at the back of the museum. Three years prior, I had just moved to New Zealand from Scotland, meaning that just three years ago, I knew nothing about Gallipoli. Australian War MemorialIn history classes at school, understandably, we were taught mainly Scottish and European history. After all, these cover a much more extensive time frame than that of Australia and New Zealand. With regards to World Wars, our classes focused on key battles between the British and German troops. Gallipoli was never mentioned. I’ve slowly begun to learn about the devastating events and losses that occurred on the Turkish peninsula through stories and memorials scattered between New Zealand and Australia, and I’ve learned the significance of ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) day, April 25th which is a national public holiday here each year.

Gallipoli, 1915Taking a self-guided tour of the museum, there were displays from the two world wars, including some impressive dioramas, a special ANZAC hall with the remains of several aircraft, and downstairs there were zones depicting more recent conflicts, and a section dedicated to the war in Afghanistan. Peace StatueProbably one of the most sobering parts was the extensive roll of honour which spanned the length of the outside courtyard on both sides, and listed the names of fallen soldiers. The board was adorned with hundreds of poppies, and at the end under the domed roof, lies the tomb of the unknown soldier. A nameless, faceless body, who will forever represent the thousands of people who lost their lives at war.

 

 

 

Statue on ANZAC ParadeAfter lunch I took a wander down ANZAC parade to view the statues that adorned the side, and then we headed to Commonwealth Park for an up-close look of the lake. Australia High Court & International Flag DisplayOn the far shore lay the National Gallery of Australia, the High Court of Australia, and on the shoreline, a display of international flags. Captain Cook Memorial FountainsWithin the lake itself, a jet of water shot up in a large fountain as part of a commemoration for Captain Cook. It was uncomfortably hot outside of the air conditioned car, so we drove around the waterfront to the National Museum of Australia and then around the city centre itself. Heading out past Acton, we stopped briefly at the Botanical Gardens but felt it was too hot to get out and enjoy them, so instead we followed the road up Black Mountain to the Telstra Tower. Telstra TowerWe had been told by staff at the Parliament that it had previously been open as a viewing platform and restaurant but that it had been sold by Telstra and had been closed ever since. Reaching the car park, there were too many trees to see the city, but we discovered upon getting to the tower, that the viewing platforms were in fact still open so we headed up. Canberra CBDWe could see the impending weather system moving in, but we still got a fantastic 360o view of the city and the ACT countryside around it. Lake Burley GriffinFrom here, the entire extent of the man-made Lake Burley Griffin is appreciable, and Canberra itself is completely visible, demonstrating how small it is as it nestles either side of the lake and in between the various forested areas that surrounds it.Telstra Tower Facts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both evenings in Canberra were spent enjoying different eateries in Manuka, and both nights we went to different cinemas. The first night was at the poshest cinema I’ve ever seen, in Acton, and the second night at the cinema in Manuka. Fittingly that second night, we saw the Russell Crowe movie, The Water Diviner which was based around the events of Gallipoli, and as we sat watching it, the thunderstorm that had crept in during the day, finally broke and it was so loud we could hear it over the movie. When we came out, the whole city glistened as the last of the drizzle fell.

Black SwanThe following morning we were in no hurry to leave. Great EgretTo the east of Capital Hill on the south of the lake is Jerrabomberra wetlands. Bird spottingA mixture of pools and swamplands, there are several bird hides on a couple of tracks that allow you to spy on the feathered occupants of the area. Jerrabomberra WetlandsIt was also a known platypus zone, but as always, these elusive creatures were nowhere to be seen. PelicanInstead, we saw parrots, great egrets, swamp hens, geese, swans, ducks, and surprisingly Pelican preening(due to being fresh water and so far inland), a lot of pelicans. Jerrabomberra WetlandsIt was a peaceful place to be, and a nice way to pass the time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking a detour to the sports district for my partner to see the Canberra Stadium, we rejoined the Barton Highway heading north west, and in no time at all, we crossed out of Australian Capital Territory, and back into New South Wales on route to Corowa.

Hosier Lane

Across the road from Federation Square, nestled between a collection of buildings, lies the apparently unassuming Hosier Lane. Take a wander through it, however, and a world of art is opened up before your eyes. Although evident in many parts of Melbourne, Hosier Lane is crammed with an ever-changing display of street art. This is not graffiti, this is most definitely a highly expressive art form, and it is very impressive.

GaneshWomanFaceMonsters Inc's MikeMonsters Inc's SullyStreet Art on Hosier LaneSignSplit PersonalityGangsterBlue WomanAboriginalNot BanksyWerewolfGrey FaceEyeballWriting

Interstate

The Princes Highway snakes its way south out of Sydney, leaving behind the sprawling suburbs of Australia’s largest city, and winding past the green expanse of the Royal National Park. WollongongJust an hour down the road lies Wollongong, sandwiched between the New South Wales coastline where it meets the Tasman Sea, and the Nepean mountain range that stands tall behind it. Lighthouse at WollongongIt was a perfect stop for breakfast on the first day of our road trip, and we navigated through the streets to find the beach and waterfront where a little harbour nestles next to Flagstaff Hill. Pelican at WollongongIn the sheltered waters of the harbour, people swam, kayaked and made attempts to stand-up paddle board. It was such a beautiful day and we ate our food staring out at the pelicans as they passed by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kiama BlowholeIt wasn’t much further down the road to the little coastal town of Kiama which was buzzing with people. Kiama BlowholeOn a little peninsula to the east of the main street, stands a lighthouse which towers over a rocky outcrop where a blowhole creates an impressive spray of sea water high into the air when the tide is right. Coastline at KiamaEven at the wrong time of day, there were several decent-sized sprays emanating from the ocean below. There was a decent crowd enjoying the sunny morning.

 

 

HuskissonFor a while, the route south cut inland and we skirted past several settlements of varying sizes. We took another detour off the main road to go down to Jervis Bay. Jervis BayBy the time we reached Huskisson on the western shore, a more inclement weather system had started to appear from the south-west. Jervis BayA popular place to go dolphin-watching, and with a lot of accommodation options, and several beaches in the area, it was bustling. Following lunch, we made a brief stop at the beach near Vincentia, and then steadily made our way back towards the Princes Highway.

 

 

 

 

 

Dark clouds rolling inThe clouds had come and gone whilst we’d rested at Huskisson, but the further south we travelled, the closer we got to a front of dark clouds haemorrhaging rain drops. Driving through a thunderstormBy the time we reached Batesman’s Bay, we were in the middle of a thunderstorm, and what I had hoped would be another stop was quickly abandoned. It was hard for the windscreen wipers to keep up with the deluge that hammered us as we took the turning onto the Kings Highway heading inland.

 

Nearing CanberraAs we climbed up into the hills, the route got wetter and wetter until finally it eased off, although the heavy black clouds framed our journey the rest of the way as we exited New South Wales and crossed into the Australian Capital Territory. Arriving in the Australian Capital TerritoryWe briefly swapped states again as the border snaked across the road, before we crossed it once more, finally arriving in Canberra. New South Wales CountrysideTwo days later, we again crossed back into New South Wales to the north of the capital, following the Barton Highway until it joined the M31, the main highway between Sydney and Melbourne.

 

 

 

Dog on the Tucker BoxThe temperature gauge began to climb into the 30s early on, and by the time we reached the famous ‘Dog on the Tucker Box’, a quaint rest stop on the Hume Highway, it was sweltering. Dog on the TuckerboxThere were plenty of people at the cafe which stood next to the well-photographed statue, and we struggled to find a spot in the shade to eat our lunch. It reminded me of Queensland the year before – the incessant heat that saps your energy and threatens to make you irritable. Parrot in CorowaBy the time we reached Corowa on the banks of the Murray River, Australia’s longest river, it was 37oC. Sunset over the Murray RiverAfter a fantastic meal and catch-up with friends, we all took a walk to the river and I paddled in the Murray River at sunset with a caccophony of parrots above our heads.

 

 

 

Lake MulwalaOn our friend’s recommendation, we stayed on the NSW side of the Murray River and headed west to Lake Mulwala which has a slightly eery feel about it thanks to a flooded forest. Lake MulwalaLarge sections of the lake appear as a graveyard to hundreds of trees that poke out the water as a dead reminder of the past. Galah at Lake MulwalaAgain the thermometer was starting to climb into the 30s making it uncomfortable to get out of the car for long. Lake BenallaCrossing south across the bridge at the head of the lake we entered our third state, Victoria, and carried on through reams of farmland to Benalla, another quaint little place with a quaint little lake. From here, it was mere minutes to reach the M31 again and rejoin the Hume Freeway for our final leg to Melbourne.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KoalasWe passed sign after sign for koalas and wombats and kangaroos, and as we reached the outskirts of Melbourne in the early afternoon, the temperature hit 40oC. For the second time in my life, we arrived in Victoria’s largest city, and wound our way through the northern suburbs to reach our accommodation. Unfortunately, by the time we had checked in, a thunderstorm had rolled over the city, and after hiding in one of the city’s plethora of eateries, we got caught out in the rain.

 

 

Queen Victoria Night MarketThat night, we took part in a Melbourne summer tradition and made our way to the Queen Victoria night market. Thankfully the rain had cleared away although the heat was again unbearable, as we wandered through the ever-increasing crowds of locals and tourists who crammed into the space to enjoy the food, the music and the market itself. It was an enjoyable experience and I would have loved to have had enough space in my stomach to try more of the food on offer.

 

 

Giant Bee Sculptures at the base of the Eureka TowerWe didn’t see much sun for the rest of our holiday. The next day was overcast and threatened rain hour after hour. Melbourne CBD from the Eureka TowerWe went up the Eureka Tower so that my partner could get an aerial view of the city. I had done this on my last trip here when I had been on my own, and wasn’t overly impressed with it, Looking towards St Kildabut it helped my partner get his bearings and so we spent a bit of time there before heading along the Yarra river to Federation Square to get a tram pass to allow us to go to St Kilda. Sculpture on the Yarra RiverThis was another place that I had seen but my partner had not. Just like last time, it remained overcast, although there were a few hardy souls lying on the beach and playing in the water. St KildaLast time I had failed to meet up with a distant relative due to having the wrong contact details but this time, Melbourne Skyline from St Kildagetting caught in the rain on the way, we managed to find ourselves in the right location and I made two family members very pleased in the process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Street Art on Hosier LaneBack in the city, we found ourselves at Hosier Lane, one of Melbourne’s most famous lanes, which is adorned with an ever changing array of street art. Over many years, every reachable inch of this lane has been transformed into a myriad of artworks, and over time, some of them are updated or replaced. Even as we wandered up it and its adjoining lane, a couple of artists were busy creating something new. ChinatownMelbourne is famous for its street art and sculptures, and whilst Melbourne will never be anywhere near the top of my favourite cities in the world, I do love its quirky arts culture and its impressive choice of dining. Unfortunately, we lucked out with our choice of restaurant in Chinatown that night, and left rather disappointed.

 

 

 

Our final day of the trip was another grey one. My partner was keen to visit the Melbourne Cricket Ground so we caught the tram and joined a stadium tour. Melbourne Cricket GroundWhilst I would rather watch paint dry than subject myself to what I find to be the world’s most boring sport, I couldn’t fail to be impressed with the stadium and its history, which was just as well as the tour was over an hour long. Painting in Melbourne Cricket GroundThe lady member who led our group round was quite entertaining and it was interesting to get her female perspective, especially as she will never be able to sit in the special reserved area for those members who have been with the club for over 50 years, all because females weren’t allowed to become members until relatively recent times.

Old Melbourne Gaol cellAfter lunch down a busy lane full of eateries, we headed to the Old Melbourne Gaol which housed the infamous Ned Kelly and which continued to be used as a penitentiary until surprisingly recently. Me as Ned KellyWe took part in a brief role play session, pretending to be criminals and being locked in a cell, before being let loose to wander through the dark corridors and around the tiny cells. Old Melbourne GaolAlways keen to get the most out of every available opportunity, I even dressed up as Ned Kelly upon finding a dress-up set in the lower corridor.

 

 

 

 

 

Tower inside Central MallFinally, killing time before heading to the airport for our overnight flight home, we wandered through a couple of Melbourne’s malls before being pleasantly surprised with the Penguins of Madagascar movie. Clock inside Central MallAfter a quick trip to Max Brenners for a sickening cup of liquid chocolate, we made our way back to our hotel, grabbed our belongings and made our way to the airport for a long wait to check-in and an even longer flight home to New Zealand.Melbourne Tram

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