Location: Gold and Sunshine Coast, Australia
Hope you like our photos from this part of Oz.
We would like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Thank you all so much for taking the time to log on, view our pictures and leave messages.
We will be spending Christmas in Hervey Bay, we've hired a cabin for three nights, really spoiling ourselves and will be eating prawns on Christmas day!
Enjoy the turkey and love to you all.
David & Allison xxx
Location: Sydney, Australia
Where do I start with Sydney?
If you remember we'd booked our accommodation above an Irish bar on the Rocks, George Street - well it was awesome! just 100yds from the Harbour bridge, a live band every night and a short walk to everything in the Harbour area.
Allison says the Sydney Opera House is the best building in the world and there is a different aspect every time you see it. we did the backstage tour and also went to see Handals Messiah - I even put my best flip flops on!
We visited the zoo, Darling Harbour, Rose Harbour, but best of all we did a seaplane trip which gave us another view of SOH! Allison says its the best thing shes ever done!
Sydney also has fab beaches with Manly to the north and ones we visited in the south, Bondi and Coogee.
They also have an excellent hop on hop off service, which even takes you to Sydney Cricket Ground, even though it was closed and no amount of begging and pleading would persuade them to let me in.
The restaurants and bars in the Circular Quay are lively with pretty good food too.
There is a street market on George St at the weekend and Allison helped herself to more jewellery! George Street is the oldest street in Australia. Many of the buildings are constructed from sandstone and is very similar to Newcastle.
Next we move onto the Blue Mountains and a camper van - heaven help us!
Location: Soren Larsen, New Caledonia
Thanks for being patient, but our amazing South Pacific Tall Ship adventure is over after an emotional farewell in Auckland this morning.
First of all we must thank the crew of the Soren Larsen for their professionalism and alcoholic abilities! Skipper Darren, Engineers Gavin and Andrew, Matt, Gareth, Katy, Ali, Karsen, Cat, Gemma, Mike, Daz, Laura, Dave and last but no means least Maho.
Also, the making of any voyage is the people you share it with and our fellow voyage crew were amazing too, old but amazing!!
Rolf, Ken, Bruce, Carl, Spyeros, Tracy, Janet, Peter and Janet, Ian, and Marcia and Jeremy.
We had problems before we left New Caledonia, which is by the way a little part of France in the South Pacific. The French used to send their convicts there, we had Australia, they had New Caledonia - what does that say about our respective countries??!! Anyway, Poor Rolf was in New Cal, but his baggage was in Sidney, and Spyeros was somewhere else in the South Pacific without a flight! However, this meant we were able to enjoy some day sailing around the beautiful coral islands of New Cal, before finally setting sail for Norfolk Island.
We each had to work, yes work when we were at sea, we drew the 4 to 8 shift which meant we saw the sun go down and then come back up again. The skies are so clear in the southern hemisphere with the milky way and southern cross visible most evenings. We also had to steer, be on watch, do safety rounds and haul sails up and down. It could also be a bit boring and cold when on standby, hey but thats all part of the adventure.
Norfolk Island is an Aussie island that Capt Cook found on his second circumnavigation (I think thats the word I mean). Its covered in Pine trees which Cook thought might be useful for ship repairs. The people are so friendly, they stop and give you a lift to wherever you want! The Islanders are either from Norfolk or Pitcairn and many of the historic graves are Christian, Adams and Evans - See Mutiny on the Bounty for full details! Bronze tipped sharks and Stingrays roam the bay and according to locals all the kids swim in the waters with them, they're only sharks!
The Soren Larsen isn't your five star accommodation, our cabin was the size of a double bed, which meant only one person at once in the room, even then it was crowded! And if you didn't bang your head at least three times a day there was something wrong. The novelty of using a head wore off after the third use - just give me a toilet that flushes!! But its a brilliant tub and I wouldn't have swapped her for any other vessel. On at least one occasion when we were on duty we reached 10 knots! which is not bad for a square rigger (thats a technical term) weighing over 300t. Its awesome traveling at that speed, the wind blowing a hoolie and the sea breaking the sides of the ship - I only ended up on my ass once!
After Norfolk we headed for the Bay of Islands, yes the Bay of Islands again! we didn't mind at all, except in rained, the whole time - still the Duke of Marlborough has SKY so for two afternoons i watched sport, the rugby league world cup final, cricket and a premiership game, brilliant!
Our journey towards Auckland began with a trip to Great Barrier island, at the mouth of the Hauraki Gulf, such a beautiful, tranquil spot. The big Kauri tree used to grow here until white man arrived and chopped most of them down to build ships and houses. In the late 19th century and early 20th we cut down 95 million feet of trees. The whole island is now protected as they attempt to regenerate. The axemen would build a dam up stream, cut the trees down and wait two years for the water to build up and then pull the plug and all the trees ended up in the bay - along with anything that got in the way! The dam is now a monument.
The Hauraki Gulf is such a massive stretch of water that its easy to understand why Aucklanders love their sailing, watersports and fishing. The water is pretty safe, even when its a bit blowy.
The last stop was Kawau, where the Mansion House for Auckland was once situated. It is now a museum and the island has been cleared of predators and allowed the roaming of the Weka bird. A Kiwi type of creature which wondered the beautiful gardens which we took over and played football, not with the Weka bird though, well not all the time.
The last night meant fancy dress with Advent calendars as the theme, although most of the male members of the crew thought this just an excuse to dress up as women! It was a great evening, Allison went as one of the three kings (not sure which) and in tribute to NUFC I went as a bar code! they're on every advent calendar.
It was a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning when we sailed in Auckland and our birth on Princes Wharf - we were even bombarded with water bombs by Soren Larsen crew aboard a yacht on arrival. But it was very emotional, it seemed that everyone on board had bonded, no idiots, not even me and the end of the most exciting, backside twitching adventure we've ever done.
Location: Burnt Pines, Norfolk
Just to let you know we are safe and well after our first week at sea on Norfolk Island. This is a former convict island and where the occupants of Pitcairn moved to when they outgrew their island.
Its hard work at times, but were having a great time.
Location: Northland, New Zealand
Our visit to NZ wouldn't be complete without a visit to Northland.
Allison took a bus up to Cape Reianga, the northern most point where the Tasman sea meets the Pacific ocean and 90 mile beach, where the beach is the highway.
Here's a question for Chris and Kevin, guess where we stayed in Russell? go on have a guess. you do know it - yes The Duke of Marlborough! They had a spring special on 95 dollars! And it is just as beautiful as when we first visited, we really saved the best til last. Allison has even said I can get a job here!
On Saturday we move onto New Caledonia ready for our tall ship challenge, how difficult can it be!!
Location: Back to the North Island, New Zealand
It was with very heavy hearts we said goodbye to the South Island and returned to Wellington.
After all our action we opted for a few days r+r in the nations capital. This involved visiting a Cricket Museum at Basin Reserve and watching the final of the Air New Zealand provincial rugby cup final between Wellington and Canterbury. Even Allison found the museum interesting, although she was watching clips of Ian Botham! Did you know that Sir Don Bradmans batting average against South Africa is 201? I like to bore you with useless information! The rugby wasn't much better. It was marred by infrequent bouts of entertainment, like the captain of the All Blacks dropping the ball on his own 22 and getting trampled on by the opposition! It was great to be there and part of the occasion.
We moved up to National Parks, where you may emember we skied earlier on. Mt Ngauruhoe looked amazing in the late afternoon sun, but it was bloody cold!
Monday saw us in Waitomo (wai meaning water and tomo meaning big hole!) We had to get into wet suits and with the aid of rubber rings floated through an underground labyrinth. The water was bloody freezing, but it was great fun. We went over waterfalls and saw Glow worms (really glow maggots with shiny arses). I managed to upset the guide by implying she had a large backside, so during the trip she managed to up end me twice! Showers and hot soup were ready for us at the end.
Location: Nelson and Abel Tasman, New Zealand
Our last stop on the South island is Nelson and Abel Tasman.
We decided to visit Nelson winerys rather than Marlborough and, as Allison put in "I didn't taste one I didn't like all day!" Our favourite was Rimu Grove, a very passionate American who has a small winery. So small that this year he only produced 45 cases of Reisling. Needless to say we purchased this one and it was outstanding. but then so was the Pinot Noir 2005. Please visit his website www.rimugrove.co.nz I know Kevin will.
Next up was something Allison and I had wanted to do since 2005 when we cam here with Kevin and Chris. To kayak the Abel Tasman. Three days and two nights, no hot water, no showers and very hard ground, not quite your five star! It was though great fun. We started at Onetahuti Marine reserve where we paddled(!) to an Island where seals hangout and they even joined us in the water. Our first night was bark bay where Chris and Kevin you should remember thats where we srated our walk from in 05. and remember the swing bridge? well thats called Falls river in Sandfly bay and we paddled up the river too. The first two days the weather was glorious, but the third day it poured all day as we paddled to Split Apple Rock to capture illusive photos of the Rock. We've never been so cold or wet and the shower that was waiting for us couldn't come soon enough!
Next stop back to Wellington and with a bit of luck the Rugby cup final between Wellington and Cantebury!
Location: Fox Glacier, New Zealand
We opted for the all day walk at Fox and we neither saw a fox or a bear! It was a long day though, first walking through a rain forest and then five hours walking around a glacier, we were both well and truly knackered by the end!
But it is an awesome experience and as Allison says the most frightening thing she has ever done. (apart from white water rafting....). Did you know that ice is blue? Also Fox glacier is expanding and has grown 1.5km in 10 years.
Location: Fiordland, New Zealand
Ok, whats the difference between a Fiord and a Sound? answers on a postcard.
After Queenstown we travelled further south to Te Anau to be close to the Sounds. First up was Milford. They have 7m of rain a year in Fiordland, but as you can see from the photos we were blessed with a lovely sunny day. First we took a coach through the Edlinton valley, past beatiful lakes, rivers and mountains to the Homer tunnel. This is the only access by land and construction started in the 1930's but wasn't completed until the 50's. On the western side the valley is also known as the valley of waterfalls, because there are supposed to be over a thousand waterfalls, especially in spring as the snow begins to melt.
The Sound itself is majestic, haunting (Allisons word) and just how it was formed millions of years ago. It could be the most beautiful place in the world.
Next question - How did Doubtful Sound get its name? Use the same postcard.
To get to Doubtful, you need two coaches and a lake crossing, yes it is a bit remote. The journey is amazing though crossing NZ's second largest lake, Manapouri. Past the countries only Hydro electric power station. (recently survived a 7.1 earthquake!). Then you can travel up the Sound. The weather wasn't as good, but the mountains are covered in rainforest so they appear rounder but still as majestic. The water is different, its black from the vegetation. Its also a much larger Sound, Milford would fit it ten times.
Location: Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown is so stunning it deserves a page of its own! Just when you think NZ can't suprise you anymore up pops Queenstown. The scenery is amazing. The town sits at the foot of the Remarkables and is also surrounded by other snow capped mountains and lakes.
Its an outdoor activity centre where you can do almost anything, as long as it involves mountains and water.
First we tried white water rafting on the aptley named Shotover river. The river had been shut for two days because it was too fierce, so when we went it was 4+! Allison has never been so scared, but hey she did it, nearly drowned a couple of times but she lived to tell the tale. There are several rapids to go through on a 16km course and it is a bit scary.
Then I went for a Bungy jump, all 134m of it. First of all though, you have to ride out to the pod which hangs suspended on wires, stand on the edge and jump, easy! Adrenalin is brown you know!
Both were fantastic, easy to say after surviving.
We also went up in a gondola where we took many pictures of the amazing scenery which surrounds Quennstown and, visited a Kiwi sanctuary - they're big buggers, bigger than a chicken, but like me still very cute!
Today we head for Te Anau and the Sounds.
Location: Ferry to South Island, New Zealand
We'd both lokked forward to this crossing since we last here three years ago, and we were not disapointed. It takes three hours + to cross, leaving Wellington, heading out into the Cook Straights before turning into the Queen Charlotte Sounds. Its an amazing trip, with views out into the pacific and channels so narrow we didn't think our ferry would fit through!
We landed in Picton, nothing like Hartlepool, its pretty and inviting and were booked into a backpackers called Tombstone where the guarentee you rest in peace!
Location: Wellington, New Zealand
Wellington. capital of NZ, pop 375,000.
Its a very pretty city, built around a harbour with lovely walks, shops etc. We visited the Te Papa museum specifically to see a piece of art by Allisons friend Liz. The exhibition was about Scots who came to settle in NZ from the 1850's to the present.
We followed the Billy Connolly trail, if you remember from his series. There are poems written in tablets of stone along the harbour walk.
We also took the cable car up above the city for lovely views and walked back down through the botanical gardens. remembering of course, that its spring here and everything is starting to bloom.
After Wellington we head for the South Islands, Queen Charlotte Sounds and the Tranzs Coastal railway from Picton to Christchurch.
Location: North Island, New Zealand
Coming back to NZ is like visiting an old friend and we both feel very comfortable here. We did actually see old friends too. We stayed with Brian and Jay in Auckland - the finest B+B in the world should anyone be visiting. Also, Allison met Liz whom she used to work with in Sunderland half a lifetime ago. It was lovely to meet her and her daughter Rhona.
Auckland was sunny but cool, just going into spring here, which is fab especially as you are going into winter! Liz showed us the sights of Auckland and we had a lovely couple of days before moving onto Waihi beach (site of NZ largerst goldmine), Pukehina Beach and then to Ohope beach. We visited White Island, NZ only active marine volcano where you can go through the crater - see photo of Allison geared up!
We then drove through the Waioeka Gorge to Gisborne, the most easterly city in the world, the first place in NZ to see the sun and where Captain Cook landed in 1769. So lots of Cook stuff here and also earthquakes, although Allison says she is yet to feel the earth move.
Napier is an art deco town, after being destroyed in the 1930's by an earthquake. More importantly, its a wine producing area and we did a winery tour on bikes - perfectly legal, apparently, but great fun. The tour includes The Mission which is the oldest winery in NZ.
We then had a bit of a departure and drove off to Mt Ruapehu, a place we visted previously in 2005 with Chris and Kevin. Only this time it was covered in snow! So we had a ski lesson, on the Happy Valley beginners slope! But it was great fun. Allison hurt her arm when I crashed into her exiting a ski lift and I fell over at least five times!
But not bad for oldies and we may even try again on the south island!