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