Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Merry Christmas!

What I learned in 2009!

“Life is Short - Live it

Love is Rare - Grab it

Anger is Big - Dump it

Fear is Aweful - Face it

Memories are Sweet - Cherish them” -

from a chalk board at Tree Crop Farm, Akaroa, NZ

Happy Christmas to all my friends. Its been such an amazing 2009 and I wanted to send thank you’s and photos of some of the highlights! Most of all I wanted to express my gratitude to all of you and to the universe!

January 16th was my last day at Royal Arch Masonic Home having worked there for 7 years. People were so generous with their words, gifts and celebrations. I feel so fortunate to have ended my career on such a positive note, still enjoying my job and good health. Yes, I might have to work again but not planning a “career” job!

Removing myself from my apartment in Kits was the next hurdle and thanks to sister Gillie who is the Packing Queen, my belongings left for a Courtenay storage unit. I then cleaned 23 years of hidden grunge and still managed to be on the plane for New Zealand on February 1st.

Starting on the South Island I explored by plane, bike, foot, bus, boat, car and train reaching as far south as Dunedin and to Cape Rienga, the NW tip of the North Island. I had a 3 month visa. It was an amazing country with fabulous hospitality, no scarey animals, snakes or people to worry about and it had a feeling of gentleness. I stayed mainly in the hostels that are abundant as well as being hosted by friends and friends of friends. There were so many wonderful people who made my experience so memorable and I shall always remember them and hope that I can offer the same sort of gracious welcome to others who might visit me in my home.

To survive in our troubled world we must learn the way

to love and care, protect and share

From Auckland I flew to Perth to meet up with my childhood friend Peter who I hadn’t seen since we were both 16. He was a wonderful host and I based myself in his home, strategically placed on the south shore of the Swan River, across from downtown and on one of Perth’s extensive bicycle paths. For a month I explored the SW corner of Australia on my bike, the fabulous beaches, caves and forests as well as taking the train to Kalgoorlie, an old frontier gold mining town which is once again thriving.

I returned to Canada for 10 days before heading off to England to see Mother and family and friends. The 6 weeks included a week visiting cousin Jane in the south of France and friend Marion who lives close by. I was treated so well and loved the contrast of cultures I was exploring. A highlight was seeing the Tour de France as it sped through a village in the Pyrenees.

England was as lovely as ever and I enjoyed having time to have a more relaxed visit than the usual rushed holiday of 2 or 3 weeks, though the time still seemed to whiz by. I managed to see most family and friends and enjoyed getting up to Yorkshire and down to Hampshire to see Margaret who was my flatmate in Cambridge 43 years ago. Now that realization makes it evident that I am not as young as I feel!

August 4th was the day I moved into my home - anticipated for the previous 6 years and 1,550 sq.ft. instead of the 600 I was used to, it’s a duplex(semi in other parts of the world) with garden to develop. I’m loving everything about it and enjoying being in a smaller community that feels to me more gentle and closer to nature. Certainly there is lots to do, great cycling, mountains to explore and lots of friendly people with similar interests. It is great to live close enough to Gillie and Murray to see them regularly and, other than that many people think we are twins and Gillie is more than 3 years older than me, all is well!

I’ve enjoyed having lots of friends visiting since I moved and it is exciting to show them my new home and new life. I hope others will come and explore my new space and see the joys of retired island life! There are daily flights into neighbouring Comox!

My friend Joyann gave me this great quote of Albert Einstein’s before I left on my trip

“Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance you must keep moving”

Wishing you, me and the world a year of balance, movement, peace, gentleness and

grateful hearts and a year of good health, good fun and good friendships.

Special thanks to all my family and friends for giving me so much to be grateful for.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

England is lovely and the birds are singing!

Its a week already since I arrived in Cambridge and its been a great week - so lovely to see my dear Mother again and of course her neighbours, brother Peter and Katy, Ana and Alec.  I have of course been totally spoiled and am having a hard time imagining a time when I am going to have to settle down to "normal life" in fact I am choosing not to think about it but just enjoy these great moments!
Getting back to Canada from NZ and Oz was fun too - seeing old friends - thank you Cindy for picking me up at the airport and Ian and Isabelle for the comfy bed and hospitality - and for storing my bike - 
After dentists and hair appointments I headed over to Courtenay to stay with Gillie and Murray and recovered there from my jet lag - helped a bit in their garden - lucked out again on finding a treasures at the Sally Ann - more clothes and at the Restore a brand new push lawn mower - $25 - oh lucky me!
Also rescued railings from G&M's old deck to be used in my new garden - somewhere - not quite decided where yet!  My timing was perfect and of course G&M spoiled me again!  The weather was fantastic the whole time I was in BC with Perth temperatures in Courtenay!

Came back to Vancouver and got together with friends for supper and cycled over and had a lovely visit to "work" - so nice not to have to even have to think about the problems to be sorted or work to be done but just to enjoy saying hello to everyone and having some great visits.    As usual some amazingly creative things being done by the amazing Recreation staff!  Also had a lovely luncheon on Josephine's beautiful patio and really felt like a retired lady "doing lunch" - I liked it a lot!

Got to visit the open gardens in the local village here last Sunday but other than one that had a real windmill in it the gardens here at Peter and Katy's and Ma's are superior to the others we visited!  They really are lovely - so I am trying to be helpful and am searching for weeds to pull etc.

The only not so good thing is that Rosa's husband Joe was rushed to hospital on Thursday night having had a heart attack - he is still there and weak but now seems on the mend so we all have our fingers crossed - He says he is tough and anyone who has met him knows that is the case so hopefully he will pull through this as he has all the medical challenges that have gone his way.

Alec returned home today from university having completed his first year of medicine at Cambridge - he has been celebrating this last week and went to a "May Ball" on Tuesday so I went to see them all lining up in their finery - lots of different fashions to be seen - Alec spotted me and actually came out of the line and gave me a hug - acknowledged his aged auntie in front of all his friends - I thought that was pretty amazing - and special!   He promises to take us all punting next Friday.  Anna is swatting for important exams next week as well as taking a course to become a qualified diving instructor so she is super busy.

I am still sorting photos and my dear Mother is still claiming to be interested in seeing them all!  I have selected "the best of NZ South Island" and now have it paired down to 253!  Perhaps I shall have to do "the best of the best"!   Now I am reconnected to Mac so there is no stopping me!  Don't say I didn't warn you.

Best wishes on this the longest day of the year - somehow because I have had summery weather since February the solstice doesn't seem so bad this year!    I love sunshine and warm temperatures, flowering gardens, Pims, new potatoes from the garden, fresh strawberries and all the other wonderful things that summer brings - and next week is Wimbledon!  How amazing life is!   How lucky I am!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Last week in Southern hemisphere

So my last week here has been just great and I shall be sad to leave tomorrow - a week filled with new hospitality, new adventures, goldfields, outback, train journeys, sunshine, new people and even a bit of romance!
Quite the ending for this last 4 months!
I had a lovely visit with JoyAnne's friends Ian and Pam who live in Perth - their garden is lizard friendly and they had lots of blue tongued lizards lounging in the sun - they are growing their own vegetables and are very environmentaly aware - they built a house, then a boat and lived on the boat for 4 years - Joyanne met them in Tonga at that time - anyway had a lovely visit with them and Ian rode back to Kings Park with me.
Monday I took the train 700km to Kilgoorlie where the goldfields are - there is a massive "Super Pit" there and the town has a real frontier feel to it - "skimpys" in the bars and 3 brothels next to the backpacker!
It also has some lovely old buildings from the wealth of 110 years ago - and of course another side which is the new quite luxurious homes -
One of the things its famous for is that there is a pipe line to take the water there from Perth which has been there for almost 100 years - the earth is very red and the vegetation scrubby and very sage green and I was reminded on Utah. It is very flat. I visited the Flying Doctors base there which was interesting - its certainly a pretty essential service to these remote communities.
Back to Perth on Wednesday and visited the museum and then yesterday met up with Ian who I had met on Rottnest at the beginning of my time here - we had a great day together and enjoyed one another's company.
Today Peter took me to visit his work which was impressive - they have all these huge trucks being loaded with all manner of things which will be taken up to the NW corner of Oz. Quite the operation and lots of work!
So tomorrow I leave for Auckland at 7.30pm and then have Sunday in Auckland leaving Sunday night at 7.30 and arriving in Vancouver on Sunday afternoon at 2.30 - Amazing -
Then onto the next exciting installment on Angela's adventures.
so this time the challenge to write this was not my neighbour though there is some girl singing into the videocam on her computer - its the fact that the space bar doesn't work -
Oh for Mac!
Love and hugs

Friday, May 22, 2009

My Lucky Stars

So yes once again I am totally the lucky one! Had a wonderful 10 days down in the SW corner of Oz - great weather, great beaches, huge trees, spectacular scenery and wine tastings as well!

Left here on Sunday May 10. After leaving Peter's place I cycled along the Swan river (which seems more like an estuary) to the bus station in East Perth. Along the way there was a pod of dolphin really close to the path.
I watched the dolphins for a while and tried to get a good photo of a dolphin leaping with the city in the background but that wasn't so successful! Anyway got some pictures of a fin and the city!

I took a bus to Busselton about 4 hours south of Perth. Saw my first kangaroo on the way from the bus though actually since then I have seen lots though some were dead beside the road. Apparently they are a big problem at night just like the deer in Canada.
The bus/train system is impressive with helpful drivers and clean comfortable coaches, no hassles about taking my bike and no need to take wheels off etc -
Got there and went to the Backpacker I had booked into which was actually not very nice!
Anyway I survived and left the next day for Dunsborough which was just down the road and I checked in there and had a room to myself and only 2 other people staying there so that was lovely!
Went off to explore Cape Naturaliste which is the lighthouse at the north end of the Cape - There is a walking track from Cape to Cape which would be good to do as well -
Next day cycled down to Margaret River - stopped in Yallingup and watched the surfers in this tourquise water on this beautiful beach - the "Caves Road" which is one I took down to Augusta was rather narrow had to ride on the white line and only earth shoulders - anyway fortunately not much traffic and just undulating - a lovely ride into Margaret River - Along the way while I was going through the National forest I heard bagpipes being played - so stopped and went back to explore - found a chap playing away so had a nice chat with him and he piped me back to my bike!
Got to stay at a new Backpacker in Margaret River that was very decent - the town was pretty - a bit more upmarket than most around there in fact quite touristy with the wine industry as the major draw. So I booked on a 1/2 day wine tour and went to visit 4 boutique wineries and taste all sorts as well as visiting chocolate and nuts places - it was a good day out and we went though some lovely farmland and forests.

Left the next day and moved to another backpacker at Prevally Bay out on the coast about 15km from Margaret River and stayed at another really super nice place - stopped on the way at a big winery "Voyageur" which has lovely gardens - lots of roses - so chatted to one of the the horticulturalists and had coffee on the terrace and then a little wine tasting. All very civilized -

They were burning the ungrowth under the trees all over the place so the air was quite full of smoke. Went down to Augusta, about 40km south - stopped at the Jewel Caves which were spectacular - 850,000 years old - apparently quite recent in cave years - discovered just 50 years ago and with long "straws" hanging down from the ceiling that were just 1 mm thick - certainly no seismic activity around there.
Stayed in Augusta which is close to the bottom of the cape and cycled to Cape Leeuwin where the Indian and Southern oceans meet - it was lovely out there and the town of Augusta was nice with a lovely Backpacker too - The mouth of the Blackwood River is there and it was lovely with lots of huge pelicans and a stingray that must have had a wing span of at least 1 m.
Left on the bus on Sunday evening to travel 115 km to Pemberton - and then explored around there - Pemberton is a logging town and there is a famous fire lookout tree "Gloucester Tree" 61 m high with metal steps around its trunk so climbed that and got the great view - Walked in the Karri forests and generally had a great day finding all sorts of birds I hadn't seen before and taking lots of photos.
Cycled next day to Manjimup and the weather was changing so got a bit wet and experienced some head winds but nothing in comparison to the weather since I arrived in Perth! I just timed it right as Wednesday it was horizontal rain and super stormy.
Manjimup again is a logging town so went to visit the tree museum - reminders of Joni Mitchell - stayed at a very average B/Per and explored around there then took the bus and train the 300km back to Perth. 300km and $50 for bus and train ride - What a deal -

So have had a chance to do laundry and today visited the art gallery and have been on line here - Its been everso hard to concentrate though as I had a chap at the next computer who was talking to his potential lover"Tim" in USA! A very moronic conversation and very distracting. Crazy days.

So have booked to go on the train to Kalgoorlie on Monday and come back on Wednesday - this is 600km east of Perth and has a huge open pit gold mine - Its an old mining town in the outback and I thought would be a whole different look at Oz. Hopefully I will see Emu!

Weather is much cooler and intermittently really heavy downpours - Autumn is here!
Up until 2 days ago the weather here has been fabulous and I am looking forward to having spring and summer again in a weeks time!

Lucky suns and stars I guess!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Down Under

Well my reservations about visiting Perth have all been blown away - Its a wonderful city - the sun is shining and there are bike paths everywhere!
Peter met me at the airport - I had a very good flight with a lovely neighbour, a retired farmer and politician from NZ, coming to Oz for a Caving and Karst Conference - who knew there were such things - anyway we talked the whole way and dear Peter managed to get me, my bike and luggage as well as Derek and his bag into the car to drop Derek at his hotel downtown!

More great hospitality is happening - Peter and I probably saw one another 45 years ago which is scarey but true so it was lovely to see him and reminisce about playing in the garden on Yarmouth Road!
Peter now lives in a lovely home on the river right across from "DT Perth" with an uninterrupted view and about 100yds from the bike path.
On Saturday we went to Freemantle and wandered in that delightful little old town - had fish and chips and then got me maps and some tourist info so I can make a plan! Picked up a great bike map for Perth and surrounds and got a new sim card for the phone.

Peter is not going to the Kimberly and I'm not going on a "Road train" - instead I have explored Perth on my bike - Kings Park is the largest urban park anywhere in the world apparently - I did a tour of the botanical garden and still have to spend more time exploring there.
I did manage to get a booking for a hostel on Rottnest Island and have been there for 3 days this week. I cycled from Peter's to Freemantle - 30+Km all along the river - the Swan river is huge and seems more like an estuary or lake but they have done a fabulous job of keeping the shore line as park and creating the best bike path system I have ever seen -

Rottnest Island is 4km from Perth and originally was used as a jail for aboriginal people and then a military defence druing the war - now it is a sanctaury with only service vehicles allowed and everyone riding bicycles - It is 12km long and 8km at its widest. I stayed in a dorm room in the old Barracks for $25 a night and it was great - again met some interesting people -
There is a wide variety of accomodation available but mostly it looked pretty basic and I don't believe there are any private homes there.
But the main thing on the island is the amazing beaches and stunning scenery and the Quokkas.
These are the smallest marsupial and were initially wrongly identified as rats - hence the name of the island. Very cute of course but a bit scoungy around our accomodation and they kept managing to get into the kitchen and were really hard to shoo out!

Anyway its a little paradise and I cycled all around and about back and forth and had a great time - Got to see 2 fabulous sunsets from the 2 high points. Its probably pretty busy in Summertime with masses of people visiting by private boat but this week with beautiful weather and not many people it was really special.
I rented snorkel and fins one day and ventured out in the crystal clear tourquise water - managed to find a chap to take me out the first time and then went in again on my own later - I saw all sorts of fish and blooming coral and can see how people could get hooked on exploring the underwater -
Yesterday I came back to Perth and cycled a different route, going up the coast north of Freo and then cutting across into Perth - Riding beside this beautiful beach with white sand and tourquiose water was more of the spectacular! Certainly got to see all the humungous houses along the river - realy lifestyles of the rich and famous stuff - must be lots of money in Perth!

So now I am planning my next little excursion and took Colin and Gabrielle's advice and on the internet found a bike route that looks very doable - "The Great Escapade" Route - about 550km if thats what I end up doing - It goes from Bussleton past the wine region of Margaret River down the coast to Augusta - the SW corner of WA and then inland into less touristy parts, past huge trees and farmland I think and back up to Bunbury. So I have booked the bus on Sunday to take me to Busselton and then hope to start riding on Monday. Everyone says how lovely it is around there so hopefully the weather will continue to be gorgeous and it will be a great trip.

I have 3 weeks left in Oz so will make the most of this great experience! I even managed to update my wardrobe at the Sally Ann today so I shall feel like a new woman!

I found a lovely quote in one of Peter's books on Oz

"Nature has left us the most beautiful gift; the most wonderful opportunity. The standing of this generation will ultimately be measured not by the sophistication of our toys, or the grandeur of our structures. Our ability to preserve the integrity of nature's garden - that will be the true monument to our progress"
by Hugh Brown

I like that!
hugs to you all

The Time of My Life

Oh yes!
Since April 19 when I last entered I have written 50 pages in my journal highlighting the incridble hospitality I have received, interesting people I have met and the amazing scenery I have witnessed - flora and fauna, beaches and "no worries" Life couldn't get much better could it?
So to do a brief recap!
I left Wanda's on April 21 - walked part of the way up the mountain TeAroha - Mtn of Love - and got a great view over the mainly dairy farm land around there - then headed up on the highway right through Auckland to a place called Orewa which was close to where the ferry was leaving the next day to go to TiriTiri Matangi Island. Had booked to stay overnight on this nature reserve - they have dorm rooms/backpacker style in the old lighthouse buildings -
The island was fabulous - they have removed all the predators and reintroduced numerous birds and the kiwi and they are all flourishing so that was a treat. Saw saddlebacks, stitchbirds, robins, whitehjeads, bellbirds, tui, kokakos. karikari, and the Takahe which is a large flightless bird. I heard the kiwi at night but though we looked didn't see them though others did.
It was lovely when all the day visitors left and the place was so peaceful with only a few of us left overnight.
I had planned to leave in the morning so I could get to Ann and Dave Murphy's in Dargaville, Maureen's friends who had kindly invited me to stay but didn't realize the ferry only goes int he pm so managed to contact them and changed plans. Hopefully I can see them next time - or in Canada! So stayed at a backpacker where I was the only person and I only saw the owners as I was leaving the next morning! It was a nice house and I enjoyed the space! Wonderful statement about the safety of that area and the relaxed and casual way of life.
April 24
I stopped at the Kaori Museum in Matakohe and was amazed at the place and the size of the trees that had been taken down - one was 28' in diameter - the museum did a good job of showing the lifestyle of the loggers and gum diggers ( amber) - this area was settled my 10,000 "Dalmation" people in the 1,800's and there are still signs in Croation - stopped at a forest with the largest Kaori trees that are still standing and they were spectacular - huge fat trunks with the branches coming out of the top and pointing heavenward - apparently very valuable wood - and of course now not many left -
there are also some that were covered in a swamp/peat bog and they are digging up these stumps that are 45,000 years old - in fact one that they found has been carbon dated to 100,000 years.
The weather at this point and until I left NZ was cooler and wetter and windier - I had to take a ferry across an inlet and the wind was howling - I was thinking how if that was Denman I don''t think the ferry would have run! I stayed at a lovely backpackers - "The Tree House" which was surrounded by huge cottonwood trees with their leaves yellowed and fallinng off - so unusual to see this in NZ - It felt like autumn at home for sure! Anyway I had a wonderful room with a view out into lush NZ bush and agin met some really interesting people including the owners who had moved there 28 years ago and built the place and raised their children there - a very small and quite isolated community but famous for its artists and I visited the gallery which was just opening a show of Rachel Wilson's work - stunning and lots of social comment.
The day was very wet and blustery and I wandered my way up to Ahipara, hostel called "the Endless Summer" on a beautiful surf beach - a lovely old house that had kaori wood floors and balcony out the front that looked over the beach - pretty good for $25 a night.
Next day left at 8.30 for a tour up to Cape Reinga - Had wondered about driving up there myself but so glad I took this tour - the Maori chap Dennis who was our driver/guide was full of knowledge and we stopped at the Gum Museum then as wer got closer to Cape Reinga the sun came out - its a very beautiful headland - the NW tip pf NZ and is known in Maori tradition to be wehre the souls of the dead depart the earth slipping down on the roots of this old tree into the underworld - It is also where the 2 oceans meet - the Tasman and the South Pacific I thionk -
Anyway it was lovely. On the way back we stopped to sand surf down these huge dunes - I found myself on a hot pink plastic toboggan at the top of this big hill and got to the bottom very fast screaming the whole way especially as I hit a tuft of maram grass almost at the bottom and me and toboggann became airborn and separated - painful! I managed better the next time but by using your feet as brakes you get totally covered in sand - I was still finding it in my ears 3 showers/days later! crazy fun -
We drove back along the famous 90 mile beach which is actually 60 miles - stunningly beautiful and a great journey on the hard sand -
So Cape Reinga was one of the things I really wanted to see when I was in NZ and it was very worthwhile for me - the sun shining on me again. Oh lucky me -
April 28
So left there and headed south, stopping for a cup of tea with Colin and Gabrielle's friend Gene in Totara North - Jody was at work and Gene was very busy with the garden in the rain - they have a fabuylous vies away from it all in a lovely part of NZ -

So the next visit was with Jeanette and Lillian Olivant's friends Jean and David Morrison who very graciously invited me to stay with them in Paihia. I hadn't realized they own a lovely guest home called The Top fo the Bay - so you can imagine the view! It was very beautiful and they were incredible hosts. They had so many interesting stories of all sorts. They used to be farmers but had got bored with retirement and moved to Paihia and bought motels and apartments and are constantly working and on the go. They took me to the RSA club for a real Kiwi supper - including pavlova and the next night we had cold smoked lamb - from their son's farm - I got to languish in their hot tub and was treated like a queen! Home made bread, blackberry and apple pie and dear Jean even made brandy snaps for me!

I spent the morning exploring Russel which is across the inlet and a very old and interesting village where at the Catholic Mission they printed prayer books in Maori back in 1840's I think . That afternoon I went on a Dolphin watching and Bay of Islands tour. We didn't make it out to the Hole in the Rock as the seas were raging but in the bay saw dolphins and some of the people did go swimming with them. I was happy to be watching and not to have to get in the cold water and everso happy we didn't go out into the wild seas!
It was a lovely visit and I do hope they will visit Canada again so I can attemp to return some of their fabulous hospitiality.

The next day, April 29, I visited the Waitangi Treaty grounds which are next to Pahia then headed to Whangerei in search of a hair stylist! Not the best but not the worst I had and at least I got it done.
I stopped in Waipu - oh what a funny name - and happened upon a really interesting museum - 1,000 Scottish people had settled there having originally emigrated to Canada, Nova Scotia, then Cape Breton in the early 1,800's and eventually not feeling happy with things there continuing on and ending up on N. Island NZ -
What resiliant and hardy people they were - once again I feel so sorry for those women with their children and no food etc - the hardshipe must have been immense. Anyway its a very Scottish little community still.

My stay in NZ is rapidly coming to a close at this point - I decided not to go into Auckland but instead stayed at the hostel in Orewa again which was only 35km from the airport - that worked out well - got to do my laundry, wrote the last of the NZ PC's and mailed my guide book and various things I'd collected up back to Canada. Had a lovely evening walk on this huge surfing beach and took myself out for supper, which I really hadn't done since I arrived.

I am feeling very releived as Peter will in fact be in Perth and is going to meet me at the airport. I had made arrangements with a Warm Showers person but am really happy that Peter will be around after all.

My stay in NZ had been extraordinary - so many spectacular things to see and so many wonderful honest to goodness lovely people I have met. The hospitality has been more than I could ever have imagined and I feel truly blessed to have had this experience.
It will stay with me forever.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

OK - a bit more info

So will try again! Got to Wanda's in TeAroha on April 3. she lives in a town that is famous for its hot springs - soda water though not suphur and the "mountain of love" is what TeAroha means. Wanda is the best hostess and its been great to spend time together and she has introduced to me to some of her interesting dramatic friends, sent me out mountain biking with other frriends and we spent a day at a felting workshop. I made hat and bag in one day! Hope I can remember how to do it by the time I return.
Having a spent a few days with her I rented a car and took off for the East Cape area which is much less commercial than some of the other places I had been to in the North Island. Lots of Maori living there and the most amazing beaches and cliffs and scenery! Stayed in some great backpackers, met interesting people and generally had a lovely time - took masses of photos and found some great walks. Stayed in a place at Hicks Bay where I never did meet the proprietors but just made myslef at home, left the money on the side in the morning. There were 2 big dogs who followed me when I went for a walk along the beach - I had the feeling of being a local talking the dogs for a walk - on this huge beach with only me and dogs - lovely! - Went out to the East Cape lighthouse which is where people flocked to be the first to see the sun rise in the new millenium. Spectacular coastline!
Easter Sunday I stopped at the national Arboretum. Eastwoodhill which has the largest collection of trees from the northern hemisphere - lovely place but unusual to have autumn leaves on Easter Sunday! The chap who developed this was of course an eccentric Brit who apparently gardened with only his rubber boots on -

Came back to Wanda's again for laundry and more wonderful meals and visits and then headed up to the Coromandel penensular which is just north of TeAroha. Went up the west coast and stayed at a farm in Colville a delightful little village on the coast. The farm was run by 6th generation NZer's which is prety unusual I would imagine. They had sheep, cattle, horses, a cow and some "chooks". Had the opportunity to go "sheep mustering" which was a real highlight - we were driven up to the highest point on their property 2,000' and then with the 7 dogs and 2 "shepherds" brought all the sheep down - the shearers come on Tuesday! Would have liked to stay for that but time marches on!
Drove up this treachorous gravel "metal" road to the tip of the peninsular and walked the coastal path - again with breathtaking views and heartstopping driving on the road up and back - big SUV's pulling boats on this narrow twisty road with extreme drop offs - and of course they are not driving slowly - that is not a NZ custom!

Visited Cathedral cove which is a famous beach and was lucky to be there late in the day with only 3 others on the beach - and the same the next morning when I visited Hot Water Beach - 8.30 am only 4 others there - had the experience of sinking my feet into the sand which got progressively hotter as you sank down into it - No I didn't put my body in it - just my feet!
I did walk along the huge beach and found these amazing "blue bottles" - the colour of blue cool aid and tranparent things - took lots of photos of these strange creatures - as well as beached blow fish - and later discovered they are "Portuguese man of war" jelly fish! They weren't going far though!
Explored more beautiful beaches and did some lovely walks and then returned to Wanda's again for her great hospitality.
I leave tomorrow for Northlands - the area north of Auckland and hope to go up to Cape Rienga the northern point of NZ.
I have booked to haveWednesday night in a cabin on Tiritiri Martangi which is an island bird sanctuary - that should be great.
The weather has been fantastic except today which has been very wet and windy - a good day to get it over with so it can get back to sunny tomorow.
Will be back in Auckland on Thursday April 30th to prepare to leave for Perth the next day - and that will be a whole other adventure!
So thats the brief version of the latest in my wondeful life!
love and hugs to all my readers!

A trial update

Spent ages this morning writing a blow by blow description of Taupo, Rotorua and TeAroha, mountain biking, hot pools, Maori cultural evening, old geysers and other interesting things only to lose it somewhere in cyberspace so will try to post this and see if it works and if so will write a bit more of my amazing adventures!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Retirement Works

Almost into my 3rd month here and feeling the pressure as I only have a month left in NZ! Poor me eh? Have been doing so much and loving it all - so here I am already almost in the middle of the north island having been to Wellington and Napier and Taupo - where I'm sending this from -in the last week!
Wellington was a shock after the south island - a big city although it has much less than 1million people - (just checked and its 164,000 in the city and 424,000 in the region) I had a very rough ferry ride across Cook Strait but thanks to gravol managed to survive - Wellington has a wonderful water front/ harbour with its highlight being the TePapa museum - the Monet exhibition was there so not only did I get amazing NZ history art and culture but a look at some great impressionist art - -I visited the mueseum 3 times int he 4 days I was there it was so great - lots of interactive computer driven displays - really loved it! Also0 loved the botanical gardens and the fact that the city is surrounded by hills so the views are great - the botanical gardens were up the hill of course! Also visited the Kaori Sanctuary which is a place in the city where they have put a rodent/psssum/cat proof fence aound the 9km perimeter and now have all these birds and the Tuatara which is a lizzard from prehistoric times native to NZ - actually saw them mating so that was super cool - saw brown teal which is one of the most rare ducks in the world with its 5 little ducklings - unfortunately while we were standing there a black backed gull descended and scooped up one of the babies - endangered indeed - guess the fence doesn't keep seagulls out! It was sickening.
I was the only one on the 2 hour tour and it was great - there are more of these sanctuaries being developed using this special fencing - there are lots of kiwi there but I didn't see them because it was still daylight - lots of Tui, Kea the native parrot, heard the grey warbler and the saddleback. Also went for a wonder bike ride - about 40 km around the waterfront - past surfing beaches and little waterfront communities - I had been told about this ride by the owner Adrienne at Miners Bay, one of the places I stayed on the Queen Chalotte track - it was really a highlight too.
I stayed at the Cambridge Hotel in Wellington - thought that was approprite - it actually is a backpacker place - $23 a night in a dorm room - can't beat that in the middle of a big city with kitchen facilities -
Left there to take the bus to Napier which is the art deco town - It was hit with a bad earthquake in 1931 and all the brick buildings downtown were levelled so it was rebuilt at the time of art deco - this has now become their great tourist attraction - The other thing to see around there is a huge gannet colony - so cyled back to Clive and out to where the road ends and then walked along the beach to Cape Kidnappers which is where the birds are - the beach walk was tide dependent byut fortunately fit with my schedule! It was about 25km ride each way and must have been at least 8km walk each way as I was really striding it out to get back to Napier in time for the art deco tour! Made it in time! Not a moment of that day wasted either and I did get the idea that this retirement thing is work! I love it!
So since then I arrived here in Taupo which has the largest lake in NZ - the former crater of one of the volcanoes - of which there are lots around here - in fact yesterday I did the Tongararo Alpine crossing - Bus picked me up from the hostel at 6.15 - started on the trail about 8.15 - its a 20km walk with 850m elevation over old volcanic craters and past still active volcanoes - smoking vents and tourquoise sulphur pools - quite challenging but not as bad as I had been led to believe - not a wilderness experience though - there must have been more than 500 people walking the track - a steady stream of people - like they were on their way to Mecca! Super neat coming down and seeing the vegetation go from virtually nothing, getting taller and taller and then literally walking through a "gate" into the native bush - and beside a bubbling stream -
Lovely day -
Today I met up with Lottie who I went to Norwich High School with - she lives in Taupo and we both marvelled that we had grown to be well functioning adults in spite of Bartho! She has lived here since 1974. We had quite a bit in common so that was a good visit.

So I have missed the bit out between Golden Bay and Wellington and it was lovely too - I loved Nelson as a city - again on the water with hills all around - nice downtown area, lovely market and one of the things they are famous for is the WOW display - Wearable Art - a crazy fashion show that was established there and now happens each year in Wellington - much to the displeasure of the local Nelson people. Inspiring costumes of all sorts - I loved it!
Actaully went to Circu Oz which was in town - thinking of Laura and the circus in Vancouver and of course Cirque de Soliel - was not quite that! in fact costumes and presentation were a bit disapointing - have been spoiled in the circus department I fear - it was nice to be out with the locals though! Also stopped for a recommended pub the "Sprig and Fern" - best beer ever and next door is a pizza and fish and chip shop which will bring your order over to the pub! what a neat idea! Unfortunately I didn't have time to do tht as I was going to the show but I did have a great chat with a local guy who was a cyclist etc - people are so friendly and the place seems full of "my sort of men"!
Headed down to Nelson Lakes the next day and stayed there - hiked up Mount Roberts and had wonderful views and a great alpine experience - would have liked longer up there - anyway it was lovely - the only thing that did make it a bit different was that the jet boat competions were there so the town wasn't quite as quiet as usual! Another element of NZ all together with lots of motor bikes and big 4wd trucks!
Back to Picton to regroup and organize to head over to Wellington - Stayed at Dee's again whcih was great and got invited to a real NZ barbie - including white bait - not bbq'd though - quite delicious little skinny things which you eat eyes an all - lovely hospitality from Joan and Scott -
Left the next moring on the rough ferry!
So think I'm up to date - a brief version of course - not going to bother proof reading so excuse the misteaks!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

NW corner of South Island

Visiting Farewell Spit and the Golden Bay area - there are masses of interesting birds - including godwits getting ready to migrate - gathering along the vast sand spit that extends out from here - got here yesterday and walked as far as one is allowed out onto the spit along the bay area and across huge sandunes and back along the outer beach - weather was good until the end when a storm blew in and heavy rain - was lucky to time in just right!
Am staying at a lovely backpackers and will stay tonight too and then head back to Nelson and back to Picton on Sunday and then Wellington and the north island next week -
Discovered that it was way too far to cycle out here and to take a bus would limit me in where I could explore so rented a car at a very reasonable price in Picton and got here safely - the roads are amazing - so many twisty and super steep hills - the Takaka hill was memorable in a car even - can't imagine that one on a bicycle!
So since I last blogged I've taken the bus to Chrstchurch from Dunedin, visited the Antartic Centre which was really interesting - lots to see and they have a room that simulated -18c - eveyone gets dressed up in parka and stands there waiting for the artic winds and cold to arrive - reminded me of a bunch of penguins - I must say that being a true Canadian who has experienced much colder temperatures - esp memorable waiting for the bus in Edmonton - I wasn't as wowed as most of the participants who obviously hadn't even seen frost or snow before! Thre were lots of very interesting facts and videos to watch - I thought it was very worthwhile -
I called Peter and Katy's friends Sue and Brian Storey - he is a researcher in the arctic when he is not teaching at university in Christchurch - had a nice chat with them both.
Stayed at a backpacker "The Jail" that was a jail until 1990's! It was a neat place! Did I mention I stayed in an "Assylum" ealier - poor people who had to live there but as a backpacker it was good! I could leave whenever I wanted!
So on from Christchurch on the best train ride I've been on - along the coast and up to Picton - spectacular -
Friend Rrobert met me in Picton and I camped at his friend Dee's home. Went out exploring and had a lovely lunch and glass of famous Sauvignon Blanc - so many winderies around this Marlborough region.
Next dayy took of on the Queen Charlotte Track - getting a water taxi to Ships cove - where Captain Cook moored 5 times - then 71 km to Anakiwa to another water taxi - stayed at 2different and delightful "huts" that I had all to myself and another "Treetops" backpacker that was surrounded by tree ferns - Fabulous vegetation and lovely views although one day was socked in with cloud - overall the weather was pretty good - and the last day the sun was shining which made the water even more tourquoise.
Back to Picton last Sunday and then rented a car and have driven out here. Planning to stop in Nelson for a day+ to explore - it looks like a lovely city.
I stopped and hiked on the famous Abel Tasman tramp for a day - just going in from the southern entrance and walking up to Anchorage Bay - beautiful day and wonderful white/yellow sand beaches and vivid tourquise water - I even went swimming! it was a good 25+km walk but fairly flat and very doable and I totally loved it. Aren't I the lucky one when I hear there has been snow again in Vancouver.
Thinking about all my family and friends feeling extra lucky to have this opportunity to escape from the daily newspaper and TV news but also sending extra thoughts and love to those of you who are having health challenges and not such an easy time of it right now. It makes me appreciate even more all that I have to be thankful for.
hugs - Angela

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Albatross and Penguins

Back in Dunedin after the 4 days on the Central Otaga Rail Trail. Left from here last Sunday taking the old railway across the Taieri (sp?) Gorge to Middlemarch and the start of the 150 km rail trail - there was a race ending there - people who had cycled and run the whole trail in the previous 2 days - so it was fun cycling along beside the end ones and encouraging them as I started my trip! My journey was much more relaxed and great - There are interesting information boards all along the trail about the railway - which was for gold mining originally - stayed in various backpacker hostels I met really interesting people along the way - including Kristina and Sammy - a German woman 28 and her 5 yo son - she has been cycling around NZ for the past 4 months pulling Sammy in a child carrier behind her as well as all their gear including tent etc. The hills here are amazing and I can't imagine how she has managed to do it! Makes me feel like such a wimp complaining about the hills! Anyway they had borrowed a little bike for Sammy for the rail trail and he did everybit of it - cycling 35-40+k each day - I enjoyed meeting up with them along the way - Met Jean, who is from England and has been nursing here for the past 7 years and she is in Dunedin so we went off to the Otago Peninsular yesterday and had a great day seeing the albatross, shag, turns, sooty shearwaters and numerous other interesting things out at the tip - we actually went out on the boat and it was SO rough and I did feel everso sic!
At dusk we walked down to one of the more remote beaches and were thrilled to have our own private showing of about 8 or more yellow eyed penguins - they are the rarest of the penguins and we watched them coming ashore in the surf and then walking across the big sandy beach up into the sand dunes and to their nest presumably. It was so thrilling and wonderful to watch this - I shall never forget that experience. There were also huge Hookers Seal Lions lying on that beach - looking like big lumps of kelp - watched one of them hump itself down into the water -
Had a lovely visit at the end of the rail trail with some people, Judy and Tony, who Cindy had stayed with and helped on their Peony farm about 13 years ago! Anyway they were everso gracious and lovely intersting people and I had a lovely evening with them for "tea".
I'm still just the most fortunate person! On Friday morning before catching the buys back to Dunedin I cycled along the river path to Clyde and figured I had lots of time - except that the cable on my derailed snapped and I was stuck with 3 gears - anyway I made it back in time for the bus and there was a cycle shop as soon as I got to Dunedin - it could have been way worse! I am the lucky one and give thanks everyday for my amazing life.
Am off the Christchurch tomorrow and plan to go to the Antartic Centre and then have a train ticket to Picton - the top of the south island on Tuesday morning. So much more I would like to do down here so am already planning my next visit.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Arrived in Dunediin over massive hills

So I am still the blesed one - enjoying this hugely and having all sorts of amazing experiences - I just spent the last 3 days cycling to Dunedin from Oamaru - beside huge long beaches, on quite a lot of side roads rather than the highway - which is pretty busy with truck traffic - and visiting small communities and talking to everyone - The last 2 days I had BIG hills to cross and managed them just fine which was exctiting for me - I was feeling quiqte daunted by the size and steepness but happy that these were both little used side roads so I could wobble my way up with no cares.
In Dunedin today and tomorrow going on an old railway line called the Otaga Rail trail - the grade should be a bit more biker friendly! It is 150 km and I am taking 4 days - then back here again next w/e before heading north -
Had some great experiences - Met the female team NZ ice hockey goalie on the bus to Oamaru - sat next to a woman artist - a book designer - who was holding a huge basket of vegetables including a large bunch a basil - we talked the whole way and she told me about a great restaurant in Moerecki so I had a fantastic dinner at Fleurs restaurant - this little village where I had a tiny cabin overlooking the water, fishing boats - and the restuarant. Stopped at Shag Point and stopped at a gallery for a coffee and met James - a most interesting and creative man who had the "to die for" home - super neat visit and more home/garden ideas for Courtenay - stayed at a hostel called The Assylum Lodge which the chap Frank had made into a very positive and happy place as a hostel - still haunted me with the thoughts of all those poor people - got here about 3 and showered and wandered off to make arrangements for the train/bike route and then on to the huge and lovely Botanical Gardens.
Am running out of minutes on this internet - am of the the Farmers Market for breakfast and then to the Museum and Art Gallery - Its foggy today and I thinkin I will wait to see the Albatross till next w/e when I should be back here.
Might go the "The Last Night of the Proms" concert with an interesting woman from Paris tonight - how wiered is that! Its all very British around here! I fit right in!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Heading south to Dunedin

I haven't been getting on line that much as mostly it eats up the NZ$'s but today there is free email at this hostel in Omaru and I have decided to stay put here for the day as its wet and windy out - the weather isn't very summery right now but hopefully will improve soon - they have had it so dry for so long they need the rain but now the roads are flooding and the south wind blows! The hills are very daunting - I have been speaking to a chap here at the hostel who is a serious Scottish cyclist who said that the cycling here is tougher than the Alps! I have hardly ridden so far and have given Robert my tent to take back to Picton as the hostels are great and cheap and I can lighten the load a bit - anyway its all good! I took the bus dwon from Christchurch yesterday - $40

I'm staying in Omaru at the Empire Hotel backpacker south of Christchurch on the east coast of the south Island - built in 1866 - a lovely city with lots of limestone buildings in very good repair too - and some lovely public gardens -
Have visited the penguins last night which is what Omaru is particularly famous for - saw 4 yellow eyed and lots of little blue penguins - they are SO wonderful to watch tumbling in off the surf and waddling and hopping up the slope to get to the colony - we saw 30 of them - they tend to come up in groups of 6 or 7 - there was a fur seal on the slope which they were a bit worried about and at one point when the seal moved all the penguins tumbled back down the slope into the sea again - the babies are all waiting and squawking for their parents and we were watching all this with the area lit with special lights so that supposedly aren't disturbed - in fact they apparently come right into town and nests under the builidngs here - quite amazing
Tomorrow I will go down to Moeriki where the bolders are and apparently a lovely little community with a famous restaurant "Fleurs" which I think I should try out -
So all is good - will do more exploring here today and some down time to write pc's - and then head south to Dunedin - so hopefully I will be on the train to Middlemarch and the start of the Otago rail trail on Sunday - Cindy has given me a contact at the end of that trail so I shall try to get in touch with them -

I am enjoying this freedom - retirement is a wondeful thing - though I haven't got a cheque yet it will hopefully magically appear in my account at the end of this week!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Visited the wild west coast

Back in Christchurch tonight having spent the week on the west coast paddling in the Tasman Sea and bieng eaten by the sand flies - the scenery was of course speactacular - we drove through Arthurs Pass and out to Greymouth were we stayed in a "Top 10 Holiday Camp" - not my thing at all in fact but we were camped just the other side of the sand dunes and the sound of the waves was lovely - Went to Hokitiki which was a nice litle town and did a walk around there and them camped in a "DOC" dept on Conservation campground with just the basics and that was good - woke to the sound of bellbirds - headed further south but north of the Franz Joseph glacier to Okarito which Cosmo had recommended and that was lovely - a time little community on the beach and about 12km off the main road - went out on a boat to see the lagoon and the bird life - white herons especially which were exciting -
was taken with the amount of space - huge river valleys, enormous hills with twisty roads and the sparcity of population - the amount of vegetaion and reserves - and amazingly only 3 deciduous native trees in NZ!
Had a lovely visit with Cosmo and Sarah last w/e in Lyttleton and their little people Scarlett and Thomas - It was a special visit and I felt very welcomed by them and hope to meet Cosmo's parents later this year in France -
So now my plans are unsure but I'm likley to put my bike on a bus down to Dunedin and spend time there and then do the rail trail in central Otago - will keep you posted -

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Banks Peninsular tramp

Yup I'm still smiling! It was amazing - highlights of course were the views the flaura and the penguins! The accomodation in the huts was fun as well as the group of people who were on the tramp at the same time - 13 of us - the oldest Dorothy age 75 with her daughter Chris - super nice friendly people -
first night I slept in a stargazer hut - a little cabin with glass roof - the moon was so bright I had to wear my eye mask! kind of defeated the purpose you think! I loved it - anyway another highlight the hut at Flea Bay was full and so I got to stay at my own little cottage in the middle of the fields - no-one else around - no power and just right for me! - the Stony Bay huts are famous with the outdoor bathtub heted with a wood fire underneath - loved that! Yesterday the weather was a bit wet so got to climb back up though the Hanawai reserve in ther rain - the giant tree ferns and the red beech forests looked even beter int he rain - the horizontal rain this morning has stopped and it is quite bright out there now - I am back in Christchurch and Jane Lee's friends Cosmo and Sarah have offered for me to visit them - Sarah will meet me in town as they live in Lyttleton which is the harbour and "character" part of Christchurch - supposed to be very beautiful - looking forward to that - hope they don't mind me arriving with my dirty tramping clothes - my feet are still wet from yesterday!
Not sure what next week will bring but Robert is in town on Sunday so plan to link up with him for a visit anyway -
Its hard to believe its been less than 2 weeks since I got here - and I have 3 months! Life is GOOD! I am the lucky one!
Shall try to get photos on for the next blog!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

From Christchurch NZ

This is my first visit to an internet place! Happy to discover that it isn't very difficult to figure out! Not sure about downloading photos but will try another day!
Anyway here I am in central Christchurch - arrived on Tuesday their time, having had a great flight direct from Vancouver. NZ airlines is excellent! I had a pretty good sleep and really haven't had any jet lag - just operating a day later and 3 hours earlier. I was met at the airport by this couple, Diane and Les, who I met on line through the Warm Showers organization. I have stayed with them and they have been helping me get oriented and making suggestions as well as letting me join their tramping group yeterday for a walk over some ridges on a farm 100 km north of here - it was a bit wet actually but lovely anyway and I got to meet some other kiwis and enjoyed my day - they have these amazing "prickly bushes" which one just pushes through - not to mention the barbed wire and electric fences to manoevre over/under/through!
My bike arrived safely even though I wasn't able to put it in a bag as I had planned - there were no bags at the airport - anyway everything including myself arrived safely -
I have just made arrangements to go to Akoroa tomorrow - its a national holiday - Waitangi Day - and there is a big celebration there - I shall take the bus and stay in a hostel and then on Sunday go on the Banks Peninsular tramp for 4 days - along the cliffs east of here - staying in little "huts" - I don't think any kiwiws do it but by all accounts it is very worthwhile - hopefully the weather is good -
Anyway I am feeling great about this whole experience and to think this is day 3 of 3 months here is wonderful! People super friendly and laid back -
I'm off to explore Christchurch on my bike and tonight there is a classical concert in the park followed by fireworks - retirement is excellent!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Hi there!
I am heading off to the airport right now!!! 3.00 Sunday Feb 1
Can't believe its happening at last - thanks to everyone for the comments and especially for all your support!
I'm off to the sunshine!
Talk soon
love and hugs

Monday, January 26, 2009

still testing

This was in September at the end of a 100 km day - half way through the 200 ride to raise money for the Lung Assn - raised $1,100 in 2008 the 5 th time I did the ride - with wonderful people and a great trip.

6 days to go

This was a summertime pic at Bridges on Granville Island but the general feel is the same - still drinking wine and trying to figure out how I shall get everything done before I leave!

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The blog day 1

10 days of work left - it feels scarey and exciting and I must say that as another blizzard blows outside I look forward to being in the southern hemisphere in less than a month - 
Meanwhile my lists of things to do get longer and I have to make some serious decisions and get to the action part -

Just trying this blog business out so that I can cross that off the list too