Saturday, 26 December 2009


Pohutakawa - The New Zealand Christmas Tree

Well I would have to say that 2009 goes down as the year that got away on us.
Great plans etc - but are you like me this year - just how come there seemed to be fewer days - or am I getting older and forgetting most of them? Both of the latter methinks, but we are both fit and well and waking up in the morning - so that is always a bonus.
Because of the economic woes of the last 12 months I haven't had time to think of Global warming. In fact Global warming seemed pretty promising in August with gorgeous weather and an early spring- but then the climate changed as it does, and seems to have been lacking in promise since - until last week that is, when everything has been back to normal.Well summer has arrived and what a fabulous day yesterday was - can you imagine Christmas in the sun? It really is to be recommended - cold beer , a barbecue , bare feet, parks and beaches. Still we have some of the northern hemisphere tradition though- fake snow on the wreath on the door and Santa and his sleigh from the North Pole! It causes a lot of laughter for our guests from that part of the world.

This is the first real Christmas for our lovely grandson Calix - at nearly two - he has realized that Christmas means presents - not just his - he will open them all. Although he was a bit disappointed with his present from his French Nanna - he thought cadeau was actually gateau - and is still searching for the cake!

Calix loves his Mum and his Yogurt ( and Chocolate cake too!)

It has been a slower season than usual so we decided to do a little maintenance during December - see the earlier Blog - it would have been better to take the time off and relax.
We have only just finished the kitchen floor - well I use that word 'finished' loosely - it looks almost finished - except 'the expert' used
a new roller sleeve on the third final coat and while we no longer have runs and ridges we now have fluff - not a lot - but enough to need re-doing.... again- but not by 'that' expert - if you catch my drift!!!
This last coat was applied Christmas Eve - so today I am making my Christmas cake.

Of course this explains why I am also late with my Christmas News and next week I may just get ahead of myself and do the Christmas cards for 2010 - because they aren't on the horizon at all for 2009!
The City Mission however, was grateful for the donation and the gift of food. Plus the Carbon Credits I have gained for not wasting trees or air miles have saved the planet for another year.

As Kiwis we hope we take our environment seriously but we realize we can enjoy saving the planet if we think laterally.We need to plant lots of grape vines to gobble up the CO2, then we need to drink all the wine to save the jobs of the workers and the investment bankers.This is true sustainability!
We need to travel long haul only and not fly short distances ,walk or cycle when we can, eat locally grown food.
We need to live like we used to when we were younger and the world was a simpler place and the choices were limited. We ate seasonal produce from local farmers and we holidayed at home.
Our lives have changed so much, hard to imagine life without Google or texting -
we have even converted to using GPS instead of maps!
I can , however imagine life without tamper proof packaging and plastic bags!
I can do without a four wheel drive vehicle, out of season flowers and produce.
All our guests now receive a gift of a string bag so they can say 'no' to plastic - so I feel we are making a tiny
but achievable difference. All skepticism aside - when Qualmark took on Sustainability as part of our assessment procedure - like others, I groaned - grumpy old women don't like being told what to do. But then I discovered I was saving money as well as the planet and the 'feel-good' factor kicked in - so I will do what I can.We now have Silver status - which we are happy with - Gold means more paper work ( doing it isn't enough - you must have a paper(or record) trail) - and that means bureaucracy 'rules' - and I don't hold with that at all - me being a grumpy old woman!
We also holidayed at home this year - no virtue or sacrifice I might add - but we thought it was time we revisited our own country. It was magic - and more road trips are on the cards.
I have completed the South Island Journeys ( see archived blogs ) and these may be of help to your family or friends who may be coming to NZ.We took your advice and included some of the places you have stumbled upon as well. With GPS you can't really get lost - just as long as you have the destination added - so you can explore and travel the roads less visited.
Our North Island Journey was also fascinating and here we took some of the routes recommended by Tourism New Zealand - their Themed Highways are well worth planning your trip around - however those blogs are in the pipeline for the New Year.

Finally, before you all drop off to sleep, I would like to thank you all once again , for enriching our lives so much when you stay.You are a fun bunch of people and a joy to share our home with.
It is wonderful to hear from so many of you and to have so many referrals and return guests - we have been 'doing' B&B for nearly 13 years now - so you must be doing something right to keep us here.

Don't forget - we give serious discount to returning guests - and your referrals will get 'mates' rates also - if they are your friends they are welcome at The Weston House.

Do check out our web albums - linked from the blog page. You may just see yourselves - and you can also see our family progress as well - Rebecca's blogs are great to read.Hers are talented , have shorter sentences and are economical in the grammatical sense but great reading - there is so much love in them

Of course, him indoors(aka Len), is a big softy and a smitten Grandad and I love being a Granny - it is so much fun. My parents used to say about my grandparents that the relationship was 'all care- no responsibility' - how right they were and how wonderful it all is - I relish and enjoy every minute I spend with the darling little boy - and if I cause a little mischief - so be it - that's part of the twinkle in my eye.
Our son Andrew is still in Argentiere - still loving the Alps and assures us his French is improving - as it should after 5 years!In between snowboarding and some fairly extreme outdoor activities he fits in enough building to finance it all. We didn't travel to France this year but in 2010 we will - we fancy a short drive from Amsterdam to Venice - via the French Alps and the Italian Lakes.

The Big Boy and the Little Boy

Seasons greetings to you all and the very best for 2010

Len & Stephanie

PS Thank you to all who have added lovely reviews about us on the TripAdvisor website.

If you haven't and would like too then Trip Advisor have made it easy by providing the simple link below

Friday, 18 December 2009

The Journey...Part 2 - summary & map

The map of the whole journey - total time taken 4 days.
This allowed for one night at each stop but did not include staying in Hanmer Springs as this is a destination visited on previous occasions (at 90mins from ChCh it is R&R for us.)
Distance traveled 864 Km ... plus the odd bit of meandering and off the record shopping , eating etc.
Doesn't allow for GPS detours....
Recommended accommodation ( all Members of Heritage Inns of New Zealand)
Best Food - nothing to beat Fleur's
Best Takeaway - Oscars is still leading!
Most amazing sights
  • Kaikoura Coast
  • Autumn foliage Awatere Valley Vineyards, Marlborough
  • Queen Charlotte Drive
  • Alpine Forests in Autumn coats south of Nelson
  • Snow on the Lewis
  • Snow & Sunshine in North Canterbury
  • Every inch of highway we travelled and everything we saw - memorable - totally!
  • Home to The Weston House, Christchurch

The Total Route - Part 2

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Thursday, 17 December 2009


As explained in the previous blog - I am actually leaping forward in time - to the final part of our journey sampling a bit of Kiwi Splendour.This will leave our North Island Saga as a separate circuit.

We landed back at Picton - after a wonderful trip through the Sounds on the InterIslander Ferry taken in comfort by upgrading to Kaitaki Plus (the ferry is called the Kaitaki and the Plus refers to their equivalent to Business Class) please note this is not available on all vessels so check first.
Just a short distance away is McCormick House ( a fellow member of Heritage & Character Inns).We had a great time is this brilliantly restored historic property - the restoration helped by the fact that Carl is a furniture maker 'extraordinaire'. while the entertainment was helped by the hosts 'extraordinaire' Jeanne & Carl and their generous servings of wine and nibbles. We stayed in the Palm Suite - with a double spa-bath - how many superlatives can be used? Breakfast was amazing and Carl knows all the bees personally that make the wonderful selection of locally produced organic honey.This property is another of the 'must-stay' list and a real credit to Carl & Jeanne.

The following morning we departed for Nelson, taking the Queen Charlotte Drive - this is an amazing road with breathtaking views - just as long as the driver keeps eyes firmly fixed on the road ahead. It is a very twisty road and has to be taken slowly - which is why the distance calculators have you averaging about 50Km per hour- be warned! Large trucks are not allowed on the route but during the season you will meet camper vans driven by foreigners....many of whom aren't overly used to driving on the left.Saying that - there have been very few accidents over the years- you simply can't drive fast on this roadl! There are numerous places where you can park and enjoy the views so don't fret that only one of you gets to sample the beauty.I have heard this road described as like cruising the Marlborough Sounds without a boat!The drive from Havelock to Nelson was far more relaxed for the driver.
Like all areas we have travelled to in NZ, the scenery is everchanging and even writing this blog some months later I find myself visualizing all the highlights - the sheer beauty we are blessed with in Godzone ( we like to think of NZ as God's Own Country - hence the name - nothing humble about a Kiwi!)
Nelson is a beautiful city - sneakily claiming highest overall sunshine hours on an annual basis - but what a claim to fame. Plus of course it make a grand base to explore the whole region which is jammed full of activites of every sort.
Nelson is also the original home to the World of Wearable Art Festival (now so large that it is held in Wellington - capital cities can do that sort of thing!!!)This is Iconic NZ Art - that truly is WOW in every way.If you cannot make the annual show then in Nelson you can go to the Museum which houses the collection - this is a MUST SEE - you will be amazed at the ingenuity of the artists involved.This museum also houses a Classic Car collection so that covers all interests - isn't that right guys?
Nelson is known for its funky fashion and there is an amazing shop just around from the Cathedral called Tula & Niles... very retro ...and worth a visit even if you buy nothing- I told Len I was just going to have a look (yeah right!!!).Of course - he didn't believe me - and he was right ! Men can be right sometimes - about once a year is fine - whoops, just kidding! But on a serious note they have antiques,jewellery and fashion - the displays are art in themselves -it is one of the quirkiest shops I have ever visited.
Nelson and its environs have so much to offer that I could have stayed weeks and written endlessly about it for months - suffice to say - 'gen' up on the area via and book early as this is where the whole of the South Island go for their summer break in January!
Nearly forgot to mention the lovely little historic precinct - South Street- and guess what? It is also in Niles Street - not far from Tula & Niles - just the other side of the Cathedral!

Unfortunately we had to stay in a motel in Nelson ( De Lorenzo's) - this was a very good motel and centrally located - but we personally prefer the atmosphere of a B&B.Once again the selection of Heritage Inns Members in Nelson and the surrounds is exceptional - remember all members are Qualmarked 4 stars and above - and membership is by invitation only.

From Nelson we travelled south via Richmond - another lovely drive and headed over the Lewis Pass - take the superlatives as said - and we were treated to the first snowfall of Winter- not enough to be dangerous just enough to create a fairyland atmosphere.At the top of the Lewis you can partake of a dip in the Maruia Springs Hot Pools or you can detour on the way out of the Lewis and head for Hanmer.This is a quaint Alpine Resort (note NOT a ski resort - although ski fields are nearby) - but the surrounding forest is a walkers paradise - and the aching bones can be eased at the Thermal Pools - great restaurants too and at 90 minutes from Christchurch we love to pop up for a break.We have stayed at Ripponvale Retreat - minutes from town and set in magnificent gardens.The hosts- John & Helen (an accomplished artist) will make you feel right at home in their delightful surroundings.Another favourite is Cheltenham House - a heritage house in Central Hanmer - with a wine o'clock that could challenge Wine O'clock at The Weston House - Len and Maree will treat you like one of the family in surroundings which have been faithfully restored and equipped with every comfort and convenience.Two days in Hanmer is like a week of R&R anywhere else.
Sadly this was the last leg of our journey, as we drove the final 90 mins back to Christchurch with sunlight and snow making for Picasa Moments.
Oh well - back to cooking and cleaning - I think it is called reality!

The route below....

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Sunday, 13 December 2009


This blog is going to be a little of the start of part two and the final days back home when we returned from the North Island.
The reason is it can be taken as a complete separate journey for someone who wants to tour the South Island only ( whoops don't tell any North Islander this or I won't be allowed back)


We returned to Christchurch from the previous trip as we had to be home to receive guests...and it allowed us a little time to catch up on the necessities and drudgeries of life.All completed we left in the afternoon to head towards the top of the South.It rained and then it rained some more...but the scenery was beautiful and every time a truck went past us the car was washed so all was not bad!
The journey to Kaikoura is only 2.5 hours and takes you through verdant farm land, the Wineries of the Waipara Valley (resplendent in their autumn colours) and onto the magnificent coastal road that stretches up from Kaikoura almost into Blenheim and the Wineries of Marlborough .
The Waipara region is famous for Food ,Wine & Festivals - namely Reisling (superb dry & fruity- not the sticky sweet wines normally associated with those grapes.I don't knock dessert wines though - served chilled on a summer's day- it's as close to heaven as the All Blacks winning the World Rugby Cup!)
Kaikoura is famous for seafood (especially Crayfish - just like Lobster - but dare I say nicer?) Dolphin Swimming and Whale Watching.

The Kaikoura journey can be undertaken as a fabulous day trip from Christchurch and by taking the inland route for one leg and taking in Hanmer Springs ( Alpine Spa Town) you can complete the Alpine Pacific Triangle
(map courtesy NZ Tourism)

which is one of the great themed routes that can be found on
the official New Zealand Tourism site

This site is well worth exploring especially for the driving routes under the Themed Highways
- you can explore the best we have to offer - choose your destinations and accommodation and be on your way.
Don't forget that the following two sites offer some of the best B&B accommodation in NZ - and both select members by invitation only : Heritage & Character Inns of New Zealand plus 5 Star Accommodation .The latter now has a pre-paid voucher system which can alleviate the stress while Heritage Inns has a simple online booking system with one CC entry.
Did I mention the rain....well it continued up most of the coast road but the pounding seas made the journey very impressive and just as we drove into Blenheim (4.5hours from Christchurch) we were greeted by wintry sunshine and the magnificent autumn colours of the vineyards of the Awatere Valley( part of the great Marlbourgh wine region - it was such a site I was wondering where I would find the pearly gates!

In the map below I have shown the inland part of this route via Culverden to Kaikoura (shown as a return journey - Google sometimes works harder not smarter!)

Blenheim is a destination in itself and a must for all wine buffs - it is easily reached from Christchurch or the West Coast of the South Island as well it is close to Picton and the ferry terminals for the Inter Island Ferries from Wellington in the North Island.It is possible to visit the wineries and a lot of fun if you cycle with a guide!
We spent a wonderful night at The Peppertree in Blenheim - a fabulous 5 star Qualmark graded property owned and operated by Werner & Heidi Pluss.This is a
beautiful historic house with it's own vineyard.The hosting is magnificent and the food divine - if I could award 6 stars to Heidi & Werner then I would!

The following morning dawned bright and frosty and after a bit of exploration of the area we headed north the final few Kms to Picton - the port town - where the Ferries arrive and depart for the North Island.
To be it is nearly Wine o'clock ...and I feel the need to open a bottle of Redwood Pass Sav Blanc ...from the Awatere Valley.

Oh how time flies......I am behind again.

Can't believe the last post was August and now it is December...and I have three Blogs to write- two to finish off the trip around New Zealand and one especially for Christmas.
So just a little pre- amble to both.
Although the powers that be, would have us believe the financial crisis is over - certain flow- on effects from 2008 are affecting our Tourist Season.Money lost to the banking gurus and the financial 'wizzes that weren't' , has yet to reappear in the coffers of the touring masses and many like us stayed closer to home.
But all is not lost - we have been doing 'stuff' - and from the look of progress this week - we shouldn't have started! The re-coating of the Kitchen floor failed and has to be sanded back to bare wood...the sealing of the new grout on the hall tiles worked well but spread itself a little too far- and cleaning it off the tiles proved to be a marathon effort.The dishwasher has gone to dishwasher heaven, the bathroom heater died and the time spent in the breakfast room by the bird that fell down the chimney has meant ...well... it did panic.... and guess what a starling does when it panics???Well it did ...and now we have to do some painting.
So a healthy donation to a charity will suffice for Xmas cards this year ... and we may just come to your place as I am terrified to cook the 'dinner' or venture towards baking a cake....
Be warned - I am a menace - must be punishment for being a slack blogger!

Monday, 10 August 2009

THE JOURNEY....PART 1 - the summary & map

The map of the whole journey - total time taken 9 days.
This allowed for 2 days in Dunedin and 2 days in Te Anau.
Distance travelled 2085 Km ... plus the odd bit of meandering around Dunedin and Te Anau and off the record shopping , eating etc.
Doesn't allow for GPS detours....
Recommended accommodation ( all Members of Heritage Inns of New Zealand)
Best Food (ever)
Best Takeaway
Most amazing sights
  • Inland Scenic Route 72 Christchurch to Geraldine
  • Road from Mosgiel to Middlemarch.
  • St Bathans
  • Country around Alexandra
  • Milford Sound and approach road after 500mm of overnight rain!
  • Drive alongside Lake Wakatipu at sunset on route to Queenstown
  • Chinese Miners' Settlement, Arrowtown
  • The summit of the Crown Range
  • Cadrona
  • Lake Wanaka at sunset
  • The Gates of the Haast,Haast Pass,Westland
  • The WHOLE of the West Coast
  • Arthurs Pass
  • Home to The Weston House, Christchurch

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Sunday, 9 August 2009



Well flippant is not what I want to appear...once again superlatives are right up there!
How do you describe a land of rain forest - not tropical - no snakes - verdant - green even(just kidding- I know what verdant means!!!)
Rain is a given - they measure it by the metre per year- it is legendary.Did I mention the sandflies???Well they are pesky little blood sucking insects that creep up on you and your exposed bodily parts - bite without any pain - and leave an unbearable itch that is too late to revenge.Insect repellent is a must ... don't argue or question - these are the Armageddon of the insect world.They are Al Gore's answer to global warming...they are hell!!!Be warned - I don't think anyone has died of them but if you could itch to death then it's a possibilty.As with most things (sales and husband) I over react and swell and scratch but it would not stop me from a visit to bushland that is the unspoiled part of NZ.As Len says - get over it...and I do!
But one thing is for sure if you come to the South Island of NZ then you will go to the West we did- through the Gates of the Haast up to Franz Josef Glacier and here we stayed at Holly Homestead.There Bernie and Gerard will look after you as if you were royalty.Wonderful rooms and facilities - gorgeous NZ crafted furniture by Dag Guest(Christchurch) - no website - just A1 reputation for quality.
The one thing that struck me about the West Coast is that with all the rain everything grows.They cut back the bush - it regenerates- quickly,almost overnight, it seems.
When you drive the main highway it is like driving along a road that has been landscaped.Low ferns, tree ferns and a mown edge - all very park like ,but they tell me ,it is as Mother Nature has done it- I'm not sure on this but local knowledge rules - so it must be right???However,spectacular it is - even when raining.
So on we drove, up through Hokitika,greenstone or NZ jade country, a quick visit to Shanty Town just short of Greymouth- back through Kumara and home to Christchurch via Arthur's Pass. Why so many links?Well,other people have written so enthusiastically about these areas that you need to check them not me - I will oversell these places - you need a little balance - just a bit of backup from the unbiased!
Was it good to come home to Christchurch - of course- but then we were heading North and another saga.....

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Use the reduce button to view journey Day 8

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..and time 9 days...allowing 2 nights in Dunedin and 2 nights in Te Anau



Oh well,that will teach me for talking too much...didn't like the font so I changed it , hit enter and lost the lot....the words I then used are unprintable!

Well back to the beginning- maybe it will be shorter - as I do ramble a bit...
We left Queenstown on one of those wonderful autumn mornings - crisp beginning leading to a beautiful day - not a breath of wind.A day made in paradise - a day for meandering, exploring, taking it all in. Plenty of walking, frequent coffees, lots of photos then only a couple of hours driving as we were heading to Wanaka - over the Crown Range - via the fabulous town of Arrowtown .Lunch was on the other side at the famous old Cadrona Hotel - won't bother with a link here to Cadrona itself - if snowboarding and sking are your thing a quick entry on Google will bring all the info.I don't think I would stay at the hotel but the lunch was fine a draft Speights...him indoors drank wine- really- not a Southern Man at all!!!
Getting a bit ahead of myself here - back to Arrowtown - a true gem - surprisingly unruined by tourism but we were there in the shoulder season - so the tour buses were hardly around.
Everything about the town is great - it has a lot going for it.Great food at Saffron ( a renowned restaurant) quirky boutique Cinema Dorothy Brown's.
The stand out highlight for us though was the visit to the Chinese Goldminers' Settlement - the Chinese also came for the gold but have been, up until recently, largely ignored by our historians but the contribution they made to our country has at last been recognized.I found it as a New Zealander, very moving. CHINESE MINERS' SETTLEMENT,ARROWTOWN

Having explored the little streets we decided that the lofty heights of the Crown Range beckoned .What a road (the highest sealed road in NZ)- well it is now - but when you read about the trek of those first settlers you have to admire their pluck and courage.We come from very hardy stock!The View was - well, I think you should see it for yourselves - make you own mind up - because I will just go on in a gushy, over the top(!!) way - as I do...But forget the European Alps - this is heaven- damn I said I wouldn't go on...but I did....


Well Cadrona is just over the mountains ( she says casually) and after lunch it was on to Wanaka.
After the beauty of the summit it was hard to be impressed with the last part of the drive but we were.There was more wonderful autumn colour - they have planted a lot of Poplar trees over the years - they are fast growing and make excellent windbreaks.Very useful trees - in the country - not so great in town.
I like Wanaka.As a town, it is newer than Queenstown but an elegant little place - very popular as a destination for Kiwis - quite a few holiday homes - nothing cheap - some flashy- but it has what you need plus a great climate.We stayed at Minaret Lodge - great accommodation with everything you might need - Fran and Gary were great hosts, in spite of the fact we were last minute arrivals and they were off to South America within a couple of days.Southern Hospitality - you can't beat it!


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Use the reduce button to view the journey on Day 7

Wednesday, 15 July 2009


Gosh...I though this would be quick and easy to re-tell - but I'm not a diary keeper and I talk more eloquently than I write- but at least I can write in something other than TXT language.There is a reason for this- other than age of course- I'm not good at texting - as I have a need for vowels and still appreciate punctuation even if I'm negligent in its use.
Enough,enough...on with the journey...

From Alexandra we took Route 8 to Rae's Junction....just another road...definitely not.This is moonscape country,stacks of schist stone - flakey layers that defy description- but photograph well.This is the heart of the stonefruit growing area of Central Otago, much of which has been ruined in the name of progress and hydro power stations.Not that they aren't beautiful in themselves - all lakes and dams - I have fewer problems with their impact on the landscape than I do with wind farms - I can't get my head around those at all.Although as an alternative to nuclear power they are no-brainers!
At Rae's junction, we divert onto Route 90 to Gore (about 20K from Clinton -not named after Al or Bill).This detour was to take in a spot of "Dead Relly Hunting"..."relly" being an colloquial abbreviation of relation (as in ancestor).I had to return to my roots in Heriot (home of my Irish/Scottish/German family) and Tapanui (settling place of the McLeod branch).
Beautiful farming country but largely deserted towns - social and technology changes etc- have caused the demise of so many little towns - I wonder if they will ever return... A few interesting graveyard discoveries then off to Gore.
Here we take Route 94 to Te Anau via Lumsden.We are getting so used to this verdant countryside with designer farmstock - including the high fences of Deer Farms (click this link to discover an interesting insight to a NZ developed farming enterprise). I say designer farm stock, as the sheep look groomed and placed just for the tourist buses and the Japanese photographers. Dairy farms look pristine and make a nonsense of the idea of anything other than 'proper' farming techniques are employed in NZ.
As long as we ignore the mobile methane plants that cattle are - all is truely 'green' in this part of the world.
Te Anau is the gateway to Fiordland National Park - in my mind the 8th wonder of the world.Yes, there are probably more spectacular places in the world - but here there is so much crammed into a relatively small area and this an area with World Heritage listing.
We have travelled to many places in the World but this had WOW status- untouched, unpolluted, unpopulated (except in peak tourist season- try to travel here-at least once-in the shoulder seasons). Don't worry about the weather- sunshine is a bonus- it rains by the metre per year here- rain turns the whole area into the most stunning sights you will ever see - anywhere.

We spent two nights in Te Anau at Blue Ridge Boutique Bed & Breakfast
Owned and operated by Julia & Philip Robertson - wonderful hosts, local knowledge in spades, whose purpose built accommodation is close to the centre of Te Anau and part of Heritage & Character Inns of NZ.
This is very comfortable accommodation and an ideal starting point for both Doubtful and Milford Sounds.Stay 2-3 nights in this area and visit both sounds - they are very different.Doubtful sound is a day trip in itself involving a boat trip across Lake Manapouri,a bus trip over the Wilmott Pass and by boat out on to Doubtful Sound itself.If possible try to overnight on this sound as it is a recommended experience. But if you are stretched for time, the day trip will suffice and while you are in the region Milford Sound is a must.The Fiordland National park link above covers all the info.
The views at Doubtful were incredible as the waterfalls were in full swing- a couple of days of rain had guaranteed that, but with 500mm (yes - half a metre) of rain overnight in Milford Sound ( quite a bit of rain by local standards!) we couldn't believe our eyes.You could hardly see the granite of the mountains for the waterfalls.As we approached the Homer Tunnel it was raining too hard to get out of the a quick opening of the window managed a couple of 'snaps' and we hoped the river that ran alongside the road would not wash it out for our return journey.Through the tunnel and through the mist it was all before us . As we drove down into the little township, glimpses of Mitre Peak popped out to see us.Gradually it cleared, although not perfectly, but the affect was magical and once again almost tourist free- so the wonders seemed to be just for us.The rain had been so heavy that even the boats weren't going out- so the buses stayed home too....all in all, an ideal situation..Don't be put off by rain, instead rub your hands with glee and venture forward- after all the rain keeps the sandflies at bay- but do remember insect repellent in this part of the world- these are serious biting beasties!
As if we hadn't seen enough of splendour- we finished the day by driving to Queenstown via Kingston (route 6 from Mossburn) and the journey alongside Lake Wakatipu at sunset was to the West Coast via Wanaka and the Crown Range in the next Blog....our collective attention spans have zeroed out & it's nearly wine o'clock - early tonight as we are off to see Starlight Express!

Above is the journey on Day 4 - use the reduce button to view
Above is the journey on day 6 (day 5 was spent on Doubtful Sound reached via Manapouri)
You may have to use the reduce button again

Friday, 10 July 2009



We left Dunedin on a gorgeous mild Autumn morning heading south to Mosgiel and then taking route 87 to Middlemarch.
It was stunning (you'll read a lot of the 'big' superlatives in the following Blogs as we rediscovered NZ - the country with the WOW factor!) The
countryside had that green park quality- as if we were driving along the approach to a stately home in England - landscape by Capability Brown.The sheep and the trees had been strategically arranged and the road just meandered onward to another photo opportunity.It was 'our' road - well nearly, we only saw one other vehicle - a farm tractor looking for something to mow.

At Middlemarch we stopped for lunch at The Kissing Gate Cafe- homemade bread and soup you could stand your spoon up in.The other diners were all 'age-no object' bicycle tourists starting off on the famous Otago Rail Trail - 150km of manageable stages . By the time we arrived at our end destination that night in Alexandra, we had seen hundreds of bikes attached to cars etc.They were all heading to or from various points along the trail.
Yes, I am considering a spot of lycra myself- it all looked like one of the '100 things I must do before I die'.All safe stuff, as you follow the trail where there used to be railway lines- so no cars,buses,trucks or tractors - just happy cyclists.
North of Kokonga, the road turns left to route 85 and Gold Country.Armed with a map and our now trusty satnav we head off to the towns at the heart of NZ pioneer spirit and gold fever.Ranfurly,Naseby,
Kyeburn,Ophir and my favourite, St Bathans.Hot enough in the summer to fry eggs on the roof of the car and cold enough in the winter to play curling on the frozen lakes.This is bleak but beautiful country - captured magnificently in the paintings of Grahame Sydney. This is the Maniototo - Big Sky Country - stunningly beautiful and in such contrast to the lush farmland around the Dunedin inland area - yet half a days drive away.
Have I got your attention yet? Well let me tell you about the beauty of St Bathans- not a modern amenity in sight- all ghosts and gold diggings - little lakes and wind sculptures - pioneer cottages and overgrown gardens. Where true Kiwi Blokes drink Speights and not Heineken. Where the wives chase the chickens off the one main street and the kids wander at will with their dogs, and time stands still...But that is in the Autumn when the other Tourists have gone home and the local remain to winter over.Cold it must be and you shiver at the thought of the sufferings of those early pioneers who risked their all for a better life on the other side of the world.
My great-great grandparents settled in Lawrence at Gabriel's Gully in 1861 and raised 6 children in conditions resembling a third world shanty town..the race for gold was on and so it is continued today with modern technology at Macrae's Flat where they mine 3,000 kgs of gold per annum.... and that buys a lot of shoes and racing fuel!!!...but that is another website and information trivia.
Such was that part of the journey as we drifted - tired but happy into Alexandra- to stay in a Motel (I must mention the Fish & Chips from Oscars- wrapped in newspaper,little pots of malt vinegar, rock salt & cheap as - utterly scrumptious)
We would have preferred to stay at Rocky Range, a fabulous 5 star B&B but they were away....(I know it is fabulous as we have stayed there before and the location is pure superlative - see the website - the photos are only the beginning)
Nothing about this trip has been boring or ordinary....I must close for now...I'm beginning to gush in a Maxine-like manner!

St Bathans- the Beautiful

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Use reduce button to view journey Day 3

Monday, 15 June 2009


The Introduction

Over the years we have - like all of you- taken small side trips to various localities around our home country.Our 'big' holidays have been spent offshore - after all that is where the adventure is- right?Well,yes and no.
So many of you come back to NZ again and again ( and the WH - for which our Bank Manager,Wine Merchant and ourselves are extremely grateful)...Why? Ok NZ is beautiful but we are a bit blase about this and so this year we went out on a tour of rediscovery.
There were of course several advantages for us - petrol prices are predictable,the currency doesn't fluctuate,we know the local wines and we understand the menus.Len likes the fact I don't need to shop......but need and want are carefully defined in my vocab so I sneak a bit of the retail therapy in anyway!
With certain dates in mind and knowing that April and May are pretty magic months in NZ - Autumn colour etc - we took to the road - armed with the trusty 1953(just kidding)AA Book of Road Maps and Tom Tom telling us in the sweet tone of Joanna Lumley - just where to go!!!
Why Stanav,I hear you ask? Well rumour has it it is quite good and last year in Italy- family guidance in the direction field proved quite stressful - for satnav read 'nagivator'.I drove while others told me where to go...if you catch my drift.Now Len doesn't like being told where to go....and ladies you know exactly what I mean don't you...but if Joanna tells him 'darling,you have arrived at your destination' - he is calmly accepting if not downright smitten!!!!!
I must admit to the odd bit of skepticism especially when the occasional instruction had us turning sharp left in 80 metres - over a vertical cliff - but we stuck to the visible road and discovered Paradise.

The Journey

Day 1 :South we headed via Route 72 - the Inland Scenic Route - to Geraldine then Timaru.Onward to Dunedin on Route 1 via Moeraki (for twilight dinner at Fleur's Place- a MUST DO).Late arrival in Dunedin and two wonderful nights at Fletcher Lodge.

Day 2: Discovered a few Antique shops but main purpose was to drive out to Portobello and the Peninsula and visit the gardens at Larnach Castle. Have to say the gardens were the star attraction plus the views - the castle itself is a little tired in parts but horrendously expensive to run but if you are there it's worth a visit.The drives around the bays and over the Peninsula are stunning. Next stop was a personally guided tour of Olveston - a local historic residence - quite wonderful and appeals to my anti-minimalistic tendencies! This was our second visit but this time we opted for the guided art tour... interesting pictures but they have become so conservation minded they have placed tinted perspex light shields in front of the windows - dimmed the lights - so we had to look at the pictures with the aid of a pocket torch- what a hoot!!!Trust me the ordinary tour is fine but must be pre-booked as it is escorted.
This took us all one day in Dunedin is not enough.
A wildlife trip to see the Albatrosses and Penguins is a must plus a guided City Walk or a visit to the Chinese Gardens...the choices are interesting and varied.

This is the wonderful view from the Larnach Castle Gardens

The next Blog...(I can see you nodding off here) will be Dunedin to the Goldfields and down to Te Anau...but tomorrow for that...

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Friday, 2 January 2009


Well not that slow really - but our guests were off to an early start on the TranzAlpine...soooo I have done a little Video Clip of The Weston House and uploaded it on YouTube.
Watch it here..hope you enjoy it...Gay and Peter - yes, there you are...Wine o'clock with David and Dmitri.

.. and of course a Very Happy and Prosperous New Year from us both.