Thursday, 29 January 2015

Bob Geldof

We are staying at the Harbour Views Hotel in Melbourne, when I booked it on line I specifically requested a room with a view of the harbour. Guess what if you want a view of the harbour you have to get out of the hotel and either walk or take the tram for two blocks to view the harbour, why are hotels allowed to get away with this sort of subterfuge. We wanted to stay another night in Melbourne, when I enquired at the desk I was told the rate for another night would be $60 higher. I politely told them to poke it and we moved next door to the Atlantis a better hotel cheaper rate with breakfast included.

I love visiting new places but I hate being a tourist, I seem to hear  Bob Geldof's voice all day shouting at me GIVE ME YOUR F$$#ing MONEY. Maybe I'm just getting too grumpy.

We have been out and about today on the free tram service that runs around the City visiting Queen Victoria Day Market, Federation Square, Royal Exhibition Building and the Melbourne Museum. Melbourne is a friendly, diverse city, plenty of open park areas and tree lined thoroughfares but a lack of pubs!

Melbourne's oldest hotel.

Queen Vic Market

Royal Exhibition building.

Exhibit at the Museum.
Tomorrow we are going back to Sydney.

Penguin Parade

Had to keep Sue away from Collins Street and the high end tat they sell. So I took her on the Melbourne Star, like the London Eye without the historical buildings to admire, but still worth a whirl to see the docks, sky scrappers and distant views.

Melbourne Star views

We went over to Phillip Island to see a natural event that has been happening after sunset every night for century's. We, along with a few hundred others are sat on a grandstand facing the ocean, then as the light fades, Little Penguins begin climbing up the beach to their burrows in the dunes and cliffs behind us, for some of them it is a two hour hike from the beach to home. It is an extraordinary event to witness, the penguins leave at sun up to feed all day and make the remarkable journey back each night. Photography is banned so below is an Internet image.

Bridge to Phillip Island.

This lucky chap had Phillip Island's GP circuit to himself.

Phillip Island has a bit of an Isle of Wight theme to it. I had a Victoria Bitter (which I can't recommend) in the Isle of Wight Hotel in Cowes. Another town on the island is named Newhaven.

Cowes pier. 

The Nobbies.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Queen Vic

Hardly slept a wink last night worried in case we overslept and missed the 05:00 shuttle bus to the airport. Consequently when we got to Melbourne at 12:30 we slept most of the afternoon, I did venture out to harbour side while Sue stayed in the land of nod. Unlike Sydney harbour's crowded bar's and bistro's I only saw a handful of customers here. I walked past the Etihad Stadium to get to the waters edge, shame the Socceroo's aren't playing the final here we would of got tickets.

In the evening we walked to the Queen Victoria Wednesday Market, this is where all the people were, it was pulsating with music and street entertainers, the aroma coming from the multitude of cuisines being cooked from stalls was mouth watering. They reckon 25,000 customers can turn up on a Wednesday evening, I wouldn't disagree with that figure tonight. Sue made a purchase from one of the artisan stalls, we also enjoyed a Mojito as we strolled the lanes of vendors.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Alpine Pacific Highway

Yesterday as our whale watching only lasted 40 mins instead of the 3 hour boat trip we had some time to drive the fantastic coast route to Blenhiem, no oranges here only vast valleys of grape vines in the sunniest part of NZ. Blenhiem is named after the Battle of Blenhiem when troops led by John Churchill bashed up the French.

We have now completed the Alpine Pacific Highway Triangle which takes you from Amberley through Waipara, Waikari, Hurunui and Culverden. Then spurred of to Hanmer Springs via the Waiau Pass then back to Rotherham, up to Waiau and Kaikoura back down the coast to Christchurch. (hope I've got that lot correct).

Our Kiwi cousins don't appear  bound by political correctness like Europeans

Today we have been on the tram to tour the city and a walk along the River Avon before meeting up with our friends for one last meal at The Old Vicarage in Halswell. We have had a short but great time in NZ we would of liked to stay longer but the week we spent recuperating in Sydney has been against us.

It has been excellent meeting up with our old buddy's and would love to visit again one day.
Jimmy Cook in Christchurch

Last supper with Pam, Keith, Sue & Andy
We are off to Melbourne on the redeye tomorrow, cant remember the last time we were up before 5am, must set the alarm. Hope the Socceroos make it to the final of the Asia Cup tonight.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Moby Dick

We went for our rearranged 11:45 whale watching boat trip, unfortunately it was cancelled because of expected high winds. This was to be the highlight of Sue's trip to NZ, the disappointed look on her face was too much to bare, so off to the helicopter guys to see if a flight was feasible. If we left right then we could get a 40min flight in before the expected wind hit. I have only been in a helicopter once, around the skyline of NY and swore I'd never go up in one again, they frighten the life out of me. I bit the bullet hard and after a 30 second safety brief we were airborne. We were very lucky to see 3 Sperm whales on the surface before they dived with tails waving goodbye as they dived back down to the deep to feed. On the way back to base we saw a pod of over a hundred grey dolphins. It was very difficult trying to zoom in on the beasts from the chopper, the photo's below are the best of my efforts.

Sue with our pilot.

Kaikoura peninsula below
This one was about 17meters according to our pilot.

Grey Dolphins.

Sunday, 25 January 2015


We drove 120k to Kaikoura through some great twisty mountain roads, the little Nissan Sunny skidded around some of the bends and whined on some of the 2nd gear assents as I put it through it's paces. Sue was relieved when we arrived at the hotel.

We booked a 4pm boat to go whale watching, when we arrived at the sign in desk we were asked if we got sea sick on boats. I replied we live on a boat and have never had sea sickness problems. Then again the canal system in Britain never has much of a chop on it. On second thoughts we will postpone the whale watching till tomorrow lunch time when the sea is expected to be calmer. Instead we had a sedate walk around the Lavender farm.

We spent the evening at Donegal House an Irish establishment with restaurant and bar, I opted for the Irish Stew while Sue had the Sunday roast.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Hanmer Springs

We said goodbye to Christchurch, hired a Nissan Sunny with 230K on the clock and few mm of clutch left at the end of the pedal. It managed to get us to Hanmer Springs. Hanmer Springs is a small town built around thermal springs overlooked by impressive mountains. We enjoyed a couple of hours in the springs although we didn't stay long in 40 degree sulphur pool (very smelly). It was busy in the pools and we enjoyed our time there but we felt it might be a better experience in winter, being overlooked by snow capped mountains with a chilly air.

On the road to Hanmer Spring
The land here is parched with no significant rain expected until March.


Internet winter scene

Friday, 23 January 2015


Diminutive Hector dolphins
Today our friends treated us to a trip to Akaroa, a beautiful turquoise bay rimmed by a long extinct volcanic cliffs. We took a boat tour around the harbour seeing around 75 Hector dolphins. 

Pam, Keith and Sue.

Out to the Pacific ocean.

Can you see why this formation is called Elephant rock.

We enjoyed a meal in Valentino's in the evening

Wednesday, 21 January 2015


We were up early showered and porridge eaten before walking into the city devastated by an earthquake in 2011. The city is a mixture of building sites, roadworks, huge cleared areas awaiting rejuvenating and some new buildings dotted around the area. We had a look around Re:Start Mall and area of where businesses are operating out of shipping containers.

Add caption

Bank in a container

Cathedral being held up by girders.

Re:start Mall.

We met up with with our old mates Keith & Pam who took us on a trip to Sumner where we saw some of the devastation to homes over looking the beautiful bay, after being  treated to lunch we had drinks back at our hosts handsome residence. Here we met with K&P's daughter Amy who I haven't seen for 20 years, grand daughter Grace and hubby Steve.

Sue Keith & Pam

Amy Pam Grace Keith Steve and Sue

It's was good meeting up with our friends, stories of the old days flowed during the day. One story I forgot to mention today but will do so here. I worked with Keith at British Airways and when my dear old mum flew to Chicago to visit my sister, Keith met her in departures got her an upgrade to business class took her by the hand on to the aircraft made sure she was comfortable and gave her a kiss on the cheek as he said "goodbye have a good flight". When I visited mum on her return I asked her if she remembered  Keith at the airport. "No" she said . Do you remember the guy who helped you onto the aircraft and gave you a kiss goodbye. "Was that Keith ? 'Oh' I thought that was all part of the service".

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

To Christchurch

We are leaving Australia today for New Zealand unfortunately there isn't a direct flight from Cairns so we have to fly to Sydney to pick up a flight to Christchurch, this makes it a 12 hour journey arriving in Christchurch at 23:55.

We are really looking forward to meeting up with our expat friends Keith and Pam while we are there.

Quaintarse wouldn't check us in as we didn't have a ticket out of NZ (it's a requirement that you have an exit ticket when you travel), we never plan that far ahead, so we bought a fully refundable ticket back to Sydney at the sales desk (mega expensive) I wont use it and when we decide to leave NZ we will get a refund and buy a cheaper ticket.

Great Barrier Reef

Had our day out on the Great Barrier Reef today, the fast catamaran visits three dive sites during the day with breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea served by an attentive crew.

Unfortunately for me I wasn't able to scuba dive, the meds I take banned me from that activity, no worries, the snorkeling was ace, we saw thousands of the reefs inhabitants large to tiny and plain to colourful. The Wrasse below was probably the largest fish we saw although we did see a reef shark while we were out of the water.


Sue with the captain

Obligatory pose


Rear deck.

Green Island.

Finding Nemo

Sue with the other captain.
The day was great fun and would recommend if you ever find yourself down this way. The crew were excellent the food good and the ship fast, it takes just over an hour to get to the first dive site. Four hours of snorkeling is quite tiring though, I sat out the last session preferring to observe from the sun deck, there is a bar on board.