Monday, November 21, 2016

Tellin' a "Ginny"

We experienced a Bush-walk with Regis’ cousin Wade and his daughter Stephanie, but
Are You Sure This is Only an Hour Walk?
number one son was still in school when we had this adventure and he was a little put out by not being included, so he claimed to have a new and improved bush-walk he wanted to take us on. This one within walking distance of the house. He said he had gone on this walk with his “mates” and it was a good one with a multitude of Australian bush vegetation to experience. When questioned, he assured us it was approximately an hour’s journey, with a great view at the top of the hill. He pointed out a distant cell tower and said that was where we were headed. It looked a ways to me but when questioned he assured me it was probably only a little over an hour’s walk.

A big Gum Tree
Always open to another Australian adventure we said we were more than happy to go with him. Being a teenager, it took a while to actually get to the walk, as homework at the library, and difficulty waking up on the weekend, delayed the walk, but on a sunny warm Saturday, he appeared dressed in camo gear, army boots and a Boston Red Socks hat, saying he was ready to go.

This was a different bush-walk. Instead of following a clear national park trail, we started up a narrow worn stream track with rocks and roots trying to trip you. Other than the narrow track there were no markers on the trail, but he assured us he thought he recalled the way.

He was correct about the varied forms of vegetation. As we entered the bush the distinctive
Finding the Local Wildlife
bell ringing call of the Bell Bird greeted us. We walked through a dense almost tropical section, where we saw an iguana that was a good three feet long that scurried away as we approached, and a little water dragon that ignored us as we passed his spot on a rock by a little pond. We passed massive gum trees including “Ghost Gums”, which are so white they look like they are made of concrete. A group of Kookaburras were roosting on a group of these trees as we passed and their unique laughing call pointing them out as we walked on. Other areas were dry bush and other areas were full of Australian pines.
It was worth the walk.

I'm Tired Let's Head Home
As we reached the top of the hill, and started along the crest, I realized we were being “Ginnyed”, as my watch showed we had been walking for an hour already. At the top, we joined an actual marked track that lead us to a spectacular look-off with views out over the area. I questioned our young guide about the time difference, and he claimed he thought it only took an hour, and I told him the story of our friend who took us on a bike ride that was “Only 20 Km” when in fact it was 20 km just one way so the total was actually 40 km. That is where I invented the term “Telling a Ginny” which means you slightly mislead your friends about the distance of a trek to convince them to go.

We arrived back slightly dusty, and a lot tired and hot, but it was another great Australian experience.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

How to "Stage" your Motorcycle

Kurt & Steph - Tour Guides
I found a local “Hot-Roder” and his girlfriend and convinced them to take me to the Gosford Classic Car Museum today. I spent the afternoon wandering around a huge collection of classic and exotic vehicles. The museum has over 450 interesting cars and other vehicles. Again, rather than tell you about all the great cars there, I am going to just include a series of pictures. This is a little different, I have taken a series of pictures of the various motorcycles featured in the museum, but if you look carefully, you will see some pretty exotic cars in the background, making these motorcycles look their best. I know that many of my friends will not be interested in this post, but I’m sure my car friends will enjoy trying to figure out what cars are hidden behind the motorcycles.  

Saturday, November 19, 2016


Australia Rocks!
I have a friend who has a summer retreat in Cape Breton, and on a walk there I discovered fascinating patterns in the sandstone cliffs that I took many pictures of. I meant to do a post on that, and now here in Australia, in a country so different from back home I discovered a little cove with very similar rock patterns. The post therefore will be mostly pictures. The first two are from Nova Scotia, the rest are from Gosford, Australia. Can you tell the difference?

The trees may be different, and the folks down here may speak a lot differently but I think the rocks are pretty much the same.
Cape Breton

Cape Breton






Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Cellar Door

Tasting at the Cellar Door
Australia has good wine, and with a week in the country, fitting in a day to taste some Aussie wine seemed a good activity. I enjoy a good full bodied red, and the Hunter Valley, an area a short way north west of Sydney and about an hour away from Regis’ cousin’s house, is renowned for its excellent reds; Shiraz, Merlots, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Shiraz is one of my favorites, and this is the grape this area really excels at, so this was a good spot to go do some Australian wine tasting. There are over 150 “Cellar Doors” (Australian for “tasting rooms”), so we had lots to choose from in Hunter Valley.

Having visited wine regions in Ontario, California, Spain and of course back home in Nova Scotia, we had some experience at how vineyards and wineries tend to take over an area,
All About The View
replacing other farms and crops, but the amount of wineries here is amazing. You can drive down section of road and find winery after winery side by side. Just the list on the Official Map and Tourist guide is slightly overwhelming . . . so many wines, so little time . . .

The up-side to so many wineries it that there is a great deal of competition, so the cellar doors offer mostly free tastings. After the $8.00 per taste fee in New Zealand this was a pleasant surprise. Some of the wineries do charge for “Superior” tastings, but the ordinary samples are free.

Cool Name, Good Wine
We left the choice of wineries up to “Cousin Wade”, our guide and designated driver, and he chose one he was particularly fond of, Audrey Wilkinson, but since he admitted that he liked this winery because of the spectacular views from the main building, I did not mind offering my method of choosing wineries with cool names, and requested visiting the “Cockfighter’s Ghost” cellar door I had seen on the way to his choice. As it happened, both were excellent, with Cockfighter’s Ghost having the most delicious Shiraz and Audrey Wilkinson having a delicious red blend I enjoyed enough to purchase a bottle for later.

Ready For The Steak!
Unfortunately, doing wine tasting when traveling far from home does not allow me to purchase much wine as my suitcase is stuffed already. I returned from Niagara-on-the-Lake with a trunk full of wine, but walked away from Hunter valley with only a bottle that will probably not survive this evening’s Aussie Barbecue.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Ready to go Bushwalking
Our first full day in Australia and we had to do something “Australian”. Since it is spring here and the temperature was expected to go up to 25°, our first choice was to go to the beach, and have lunch of Chicken-salt French Fries on the beach for lunch, but Steph, Regis’s niece came home and changed the plans, suggesting we go Bushwalking and then go to the beach.

Great Views
Here in Australia you do not go to the “woods”, you go to the “bush”, and you don’t hike, you “Go for a Bushwalk”. Now they do use the same term for the trails as in New Zealand, and we headed for the Wyrrabalong (Pronounce that “Where I Belong”) National Park Track. This is an interesting park, situated between a residential neighborhood and the steep ocean cliffs, so although a beautiful natural site, it is conveniently close to the city so people can use it easily. There was a nice parking lot at either end, and the track itself was well maintained and easy to walk on with sand underfoot and stairs on the climbs. As you “Walk” the track you come out onto beautiful look-offs with spectacular views all the way to Sydney from cliffs that are shared with para-gliders and hang-gliders launching out over the ocean. Fortunately no one was taking advantage of the updrafts and we had the cliff to ourselves.

Time for Chicken-salt French Fries
Hiking through the woods, or “Bushwalking” in Australia is so different than in Canada, because the vegetation you walk through is so completely different from what we are used to. No maple trees, no oak, and no pine or spruce. There were Banksia, Gum trees, and paperbark trees. It is really weird, It was like walking through a completely different landscape. Even in Asia or Europe there are trees I recognized, but here on a continent not connected to anything else, a completely alien world has developed. The trees are different, the flowers are foreign, everything is new. As I walked along I was constantly stopping to photograph plants and trees I had never seen before.

We still got to go to the beach only it was even nicer after a long bushwalk and those chicken-salt French fries were even tastier.
Termite Nest

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Cruise Review

Sailing Out of Vancouver
When we first told people we were going on a 43 day cruise to New Zealand, many reacted with “Oh my, 43 days on a boat, how will you manage?”. I thought that now that we are back on land a quick review of the cruise might be interesting.

The Length
Tendering to Port
We did not find the cruise long. There is always something you can do and the many sea days crossing the Pacific were perfect times to relax and read. The ship always has things going on to keep you busy; culinary classes, gym sessions, dance classes, lectures or movies. The nice thing is that after 43 days, we were quite prepared to leave the cruise where on a short cruise you are always feeling sad that it is over. It was however sad to sit out on the balcony in Auckland and watch the ship sail away without me.

The Weather
What can I say, we left in the fall just as it was getting colder back home and traveled around to the other side of the world to spring and temperatures getting warmer. We left as
Visiting Another Port
things were dying off and arrived to see everything just coming into bloom. It was 15 – 20 when we left Dartmouth, and that is what it was here in New Zealand when we arrived. Now we did have to sail through a few days of hot sunny south pacific days, but I managed. It rained only once while we visited a port, and Regis missed one day of swimming in the oceanview pool due to rain, and had to use the indoor pool. It rained through Doubtful sound, but I thought it added to the beauty, and we only had one day of rain here in New Zealand so far.

A Beer With Friends
The Food
The food on the boat was always excellent. Although some meals were repeated the menu was usually varied enough to always give us lots of choices. They did not do so well on the seafood early on, but seemed to get much better as we went on. We generally ate in the dining room for dinner, but usually had breakfast in the Lido buffet. This was often our choice for lunch as well. There was often a special lunch put on in the pool area, and there was an excellent hamburger place that served good burgers, hot dogs and fries. We found that the open seating option allowed us to meet many different people and we made a number of friends who we ate with multiple times. . . now if I could just recall their names.

The Entertainment
This was a weakness for sure. I was looking forward to the B. B. King Blues club, but the
Sunset at Sea
band played mostly the same songs for 43 days. The first band had a female singer who could sing the blues, but only knew four songs. She sang four songs at 8:45, and repeated them at 9:45 and 10:45. The real surprise was when they brought a new band on in Hawaii, and I thought I’d get now songs, but all new people but played mostly the same stuff. Needless to say I stopped going after a few nights. The entertainment troop was not much better. They had four shows they performed and these were repeated on each leg of the cruise. They did bring on new entertainment along the way, but most of them were not that good.

Anchored in the Pacific
The Ports
Many of the stops we made along the way were regular cruise ports such as San Diego, Hawaii and Sydney, but some of the Pacific islands were only included because they were convenient stops for the re-position cruise across the Pacific. This often put us in container piers or lumber piers and we had to be shuttled to towns nearby, because we were not allowed to walk through the piers. Some of these ports did not really have much to offer cruise passengers. I also felt that some of the ports were presented by the staff slightly different from the reality we saw.
Sailing Away Without Me

So, all in all, 43 days on a cruise ship is just fine. We arrived in New Zealand happy, well fed, rested and with no jet lag. We are still happily talking to each other and have made some nice new friends. Now I notice that there is a 60 day cruise around South America . . . . . . . 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Wineing on Waiheke

A fast ferry ride.
Our apartment here in Auckland is right on Princes Wharf on the waterfront. It is named Shed 19 after the freight shed that used to occupy the site. Out on the balcony we overlook the main ferry terminal for the city and there is a constant swarm of catamaran ferries coming and going until late at night. They seem to head out in all directions, and you cannot help but wonder where they all go.

A view from the top of the island
On the recommendation of my cousin who lives here, we took a ferry to one of the popular destinations, Waiheke Island. This island, 40 minutes away by ferry is about 90 square Kilometers and has approx. 8000 inhabitants. It is nick-named “The island of wine” for the 17 vineyards scattered around the island. That seemed a good reason to choose this island over the many scattered throughout the area.

We booked a return ferry ride on a “Fuller Fastcat”, a guided bus tour when we arrived and then an all-day pass on the local bus system. The ferry ride over was a comfortable, fast trip out the harbour past many of the sites we had visited with my cousin days before. There was a bus waiting for us and our German tour guide had lived on the island for 10 years and gave excellent friendly advice and information so that by the time we got to the farthest end of the tour we had a good idea of what we wanted to do. We hopped off the bus at a stop conveniently close to a good sample of the island’s wineries, and chose one that brewed
Doesn't taste like $200.00
beer as well as making wine.

The “Wild on Waiheke” winery is an ambitious enterprise, having not only wine and beer but also a restaurant. They also have laser skeet shooting and archery. I’m not so sure about the combination of lots of wine and beer with bows and sharp arrows, but the rowdy crowd there when we arrived seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Seriously, helicopters to a wine tasting?
After lunch, we wandered up to the next winery, but the least expensive wine was $90.00 so we decided this was a bit out of our normal range so we walked on. In the next one “Te Motu” we met a friendly Croatian sommelier, who led us in tasting a good variety of wines from $30 to $195. It was an experience to taste the $195.00, 16 year old vintage, but I found I preferred the $39.00 bottle. The final winery in the area was next door behind a high hedge, but the two large helicopters parked out front gave us a pretty good idea that this one was also out of our league, and the $8.00 tasting fee confirmed our initial opinion. That was $8.00 for each taste; not an $8.00 glass.

Then taking the excellent local bus, we got off at a wrong stop, got slightly lost, found a wonderful “track” along the coast, walked to the next town, caught the right bus, and arrived back at the ferry to head home.
On "Track" to get unlost.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Tracking the Higher Ground

A Nice "Track"
In New Zealand they speak English, but you have to be careful, because it is not always the “English” that you are used to. I think that once they got so far away from the home of “English” they decided to tweak the language to their tastes.

There are many examples of words that have taken on slightly different meanings down under. The one that I noticed was the word “track”. Down here it means trail, as in hiking or walking trail. Regis and I have been making good use of the New Zealand tracks during our explorations.

We have always enjoyed walking and hiking, and when on the cruise ships, I have often looked out from the ship and seeing a high point on the land, think, “That would be a good spot to get some pictures.” As a result, we often find ourselves searching out trails leading up to these high points of land. Here in New Zealand these trails are often called “tracks”. We have found a few of them.

Instead of purchasing the high priced Ship Approved Excursions, we often just walk off and explore on our own, and often on these self-guided tours we find these New Zealand “tracks” calling for our attention. They have proven to be very worthwhile side trips.

Our first “track” was in Hawaii, where we hiked up to the top of Diamond Head, but I already
A Great View!
told you about that, and on Hilo, (Still Hawaii) we hiked to the Akaka Falls. On Pago Pago we tried to find the trail to a National Park, but never found it. On Dravuni Island in Fiji, we hiked to the highest point on the mountain for terrific views over the whole island. In Easo Lifou, New Caledonia we found a track up to a lovely little church on a cliff overlooking the island. In Noumea, New Caledonia, while walking around the town I discovered stairs leading to a track again up to a high point giving another excellent view of the town.

Once we reached New Zealand we discovered that what we were doing was following
Climbing in "Stile"
“Tracks”, and I already told you about the great tracking we did in Port Chalmers, where we found two tracks that kept us from visiting Dunedin. Then in Akoroa after a morning exploring the town we found a track leading up a hillside occupied by “Haggis on the hoof” where we found another Noordam couple enjoying the beautiful view over the town’s harbour.

Switchback to get to the top
By this time we were really getting into this “tracking” around, and in Picton, New Zealand we headed directly to a marked track that led up a mountain to look-offs and down to Bob’s Bay, named after a man who created this track by hand many years ago. This was probably the longest track we took and led to fantastic views out over the area. Wellington had wonderful views but we took a tour and the bus took us up the ‘Tracks”, and although we had a track all mapped out in Napier, we ended up in Jail (Just a tour; don’t fret!).

It was worth the climb
By the time we reached Auckland, we were ready for some easier tracking and I was only too happy to allow my cousin and her husband to drive us up the tracks to get the views over Auckland.

However, after all our tracking over the South Pacific Islands, I think we managed to counteract the wonderful meals on the cruise ship . . . . our clothes still fit.