Hawai’i – May / June 2017

We were in need of a holiday to look forward to, and a stress-free break from our regular routines, and Hawaii came to mind – English-speaking, welcoming to tourists, warm, scenic, only a ten-hour flight. We knew a bit about it – volcanoes, beaches, palm trees, Hawaiian music. The more Pete researched it, the more interesting it became.

It was a wonderful break! Our first day was a bit long – bus to Sydney at 4pm, plane overnight for ten hours, landing in Honolulu, flight on Hawaii Airlines to Kona on the Big Island (also called Hawai’i), pick up car, drive to our condo, shop, cook, eat, enjoy the sunset and finally sleep.

We had seven nights on the Big Island, three in a lovely condo at Kona and four at a delightful airBNB near Pahoa. The western side is mostly very dry. There are old lava flows everywhere, and consequently not too many sandy beaches, but lots to see and do. The eastern side is lush and receives many times more rain than the west, so there’s lots of rainforest and waterfalls. And then there are the dormant and active volcanoes, (the two largest dormant ones over 4000 metres in height) with Kilauea, the youngest, still pumping up lava, and for the first time in a few years there’s lava flowing into the sea on the southeastern coastline. Spectacular!

Then it was off to Maui, a short flight and drive to our next condo in Kihei on the western side. A lovely long sandy beach fifty metres from our door. There’s a dormant volcano there too, Haleakela, over 3000 metres high, but the majority of the lava flows have had time to be revegetated closer to the coastline, and there are quite a few sandy beaches too. The road to Hana is famed because of its lush rainforest, numerous curves and bridges and waterfalls – a day trip, even though it’s not that many miles.

To Kauai next, one of the oldest islands, and a comfy apartment a few steps from a small beach in Kapa’a on the eastern side. Day trips to the north, where we did part of the Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali Coast (sensibly stopping at the beach before it got too steep and hairy!) and to the south of the island from where we accessed Waimea Canyon and the lookouts towards the southern side of the Na Pali Coast. Wow!

Finally two nights in Honolulu, at Waikiki, where we were lucky to see the 101st Annual King Kamehameha Celebration Floral Parade. Floral is certainly the word – every vehicle and horse was decorated with gorgeous garlands or arrangements. We walked the length of Waikiki Beach (rather narrow in places), and enjoyed the beautiful mild evenings before heading back, refreshed, to rather colder climes!

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Posted on Tuesday July 11th, 2017, tagged with events | comments disabled

North Coast / Gold Coast Hinterland – November 2016

After a wonderful, social friends’ weekend at Cotton Beach on the Far North Coast in early November we took some extra time to enjoy the region. We headed inland first to Murwillumbah and the Mount Warning Area, then north to Springbrook and Green Mountains in Lamington National Park in the Gold Coast Hinterland. Lovely weather, lush rainforest and beautiful scenery.

A brief foray down to the Gold Coast, then back inland (west, then south, then southeast) through Beaudesert, Kyogle and Grafton to the coastal highway once again. Camped for a few days at South West Rocks (beautiful!) and had a look at Crescent Head on the way south. Dodged some pretty serious bushfires on the way to Newcastle for a couple of lovely days with family, before heading home.

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Posted on Tuesday July 11th, 2017, tagged with events | comments disabled

South Australia – April 2016

Time for a quick escape and camping trip to places we’d not been to since 1984 (the southern parts of South Australia and Adelaide), or places we’d never seen, including Kangaroo Island and the Eyre Peninsula for one of us.  It was a two day drive across a dry landscape to Victor Harbor, a pretty town with a historic centre. Across on the ferry to Kangaroo Island where we first camped in Flinders Chase National Park in a beautiful bushy campground, and then on the eastern part of the island for a couple of days before taking the ferry to the mainland once more.

Kangaroo Island was very dry but had some quite unique plants and coastal scenery. The western part has a very isolated feel, and there are tales of shipwrecked sailors who died or only just survived before reaching the only outpost of civilisation (in the west, Cape Borda lighthouse, built in 1858 with much difficulty.)

Once on the mainland again, we headed up past Adelaide, staying overnight at Port Germein before driving to Port Augusta. We spotted a very high tech installation just before Port Augusta, a central tower, masses of solar panels and huge greenhouses. Further investigation found that it was Sundrop Farms, an impressive use of technologies that integrate solar power, electricity generation, fresh water production and hydroponics. It was due to open soon, and has now done so – very impressed!

We drove down the other side of the Spencer Gulf, past mining railways and the port of Whyalla, many wheat silos by the shore and a mostly dry but clearly quite productive landscape. We reached Port Lincoln, where Pete had lived for several years of his youth – an attractive town set on a bay with views to islands and peninsulas. We visited two National Parks nearby with wild coastal scenery, before driving back around Spencer Gulf, to spend a few days in Adelaide and the Adelaide Hills nearby. Did lots of walking around the centre of Adelaide, and watched the Anzac Day march in the city. Enjoyed the lovely Adelaide Hills too, including Hahndorf and Hans Heysen’s studio.

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Posted on Friday July 7th, 2017, tagged with events | comments disabled

The Top End – June, 2015

We allowed ourselves a quick winter escape this year, flying to Darwin and spending some days there before heading off in a hired camper to revisit Litchfield, Nitmiluk and Kakadu National Parks – places we had visited with the kids in 1992 (and Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk also in 1994). Darwin has become a very interesting multicultural city, definitely worth a visit (it was rather underwhelming in 1992).

The weather was wonderfully warm and we had a very relaxing time in general. The camper was just right for the two of us (not sure how you’d ever get five people in there!) and the scenery was as beautiful as we remembered it. We were delighted to see a lot of birds and wildlife and loved the fresh green of the trees contrasting with the straw yellow grasses and the red cliffs and rocks. It was warm enough to swim, though that was not permitted in some places for various reasons (crocodiles and cultural). The crystal clear cool waters at Litchfield National Park were a highlight, as were the sunsets, waterfalls, vistas and peaceful evenings sitting outside.

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Posted on Thursday July 23rd, 2015, tagged with events | comments disabled

South Coast – April, 2015

We were able to get away for a couple of nights down to the South Coast and stayed at Barlings Beach, near Tomakin, exploring further to the south on the second day. We were there in between storms, which was lucky – there was plenty of evidence of high seas on the beaches, from the wild weather earlier in the week. The day we left it rained again, we were told. Highlights were the beach walks, the magnificent sunset on the second day, the drive to Moruya Heads, Congo and Bingi Bingi Head, with short walks at each. Beautiful scenery and such interesting and colourful rock formations. The countryside is looking very lush and green with a dash of autumn colour.


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Posted on Thursday April 30th, 2015, tagged with events | 1 comment

Namadgi wildflowers – November, 2014

A beautiful day for a walk, so we headed up through Namadgi National Park, past Mt Coree, Bulls Head, Mt Franklin and to the top of Mt Ginini. Happily, much of the devastation of the January 2003 fires to that whole area is no longer evident, and the understorey and many of the eucalypts have grown back and were looking green and lush. We walked around the top of Mt Ginini, admiring the views and the clusters of wildflowers (having typically forgotten to take our wildflower book to identify them with!) Then we walked along the track to Pryor’s Hut for lunch. The bush wasn’t a blaze of colour, but there were many interesting and varied flower types, as the close-ups will show.

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Posted on Saturday November 29th, 2014, tagged with events | comments disabled

New Caledonia, – June 2014

A quick two-week winter getaway beckoned and we decided on New Caledonia as our destination – not too far away; a French-speaking country, so the illusion of being in Europe; tropical climate and varied landscapes; the 2nd longest barrier reef in the world; and a much-needed break from routine.

It was a great choice! We were able to self-cater most of the time and found some nice places to stay (there’s not a lot of accommodation in some parts of the island). Our “splurge” was two nights at Le Méridien Ile des Pins (on the Isle of Pines, a short flight from Nouméa), which is as close to a tropical paradise as you can get.

We spent quite a bit of time in and around Nouméa, and hired a car to see much of the rest of the “Grande Terre”, the main island, which is over 400 km long and 50 – 70 km wide. We found a lot to interest us in the history, indigenous culture, flora and marine life, and found the locals mostly friendly and helpful. We did some walks, lazed on beaches and spent quiet evenings. The day trip to the reef at the Amedée lighthouse was a good high point to end the trip before flying back to our rather chilly homeland.

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Posted on Friday July 4th, 2014, tagged with events | 3 comments

South Island, New Zealand – April 2013

A quick two-week getaway to New Zealand’s glorious South Island. We had wanted to do the Kepler Track for some years and thought the sooner we did it, the better. It’s a stunning track in good weather, and we were lucky that for us the second day was perfect conditions. In rain, wind or worse it would be very challenging indeed! The views were wonderful in all directions. The descent at the end of the day was rather a killer, though. It seemed endless and it took some days for our toes to recover. Of course you can never guarantee the weather so we had all the gear and only needed some of it (better than the other way round!). The huts were very cosy, as always. Thanks to the wardens who had a nice fire going in the common rooms when we arrived, though the bunk rooms were very chilly! There were lots of families with kids, and European backpackers – made for an interesting experience.

We bookended our hike with visits and walks in Christchurch, Akaroa, Wanaka, Arrowtown, Queenstown, Mt Cook and Kaikoura. The autumn colours were gorgeous (all introduced trees, but no complaints). A lovely break.

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Posted on Tuesday June 4th, 2013, tagged with events | 2 comments

Bournda – December 2012

A quick two-day escape to Bournda, where we hadn’t camped for years, with Ange and Rohan. Some things have changed – more camping sites, louder bellbirds and the beach seems to have been reshaped and eroded. But it still rains there, and the lagoon and island are much as we remember them. Ah, memory lane!

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Posted on Wednesday December 19th, 2012, tagged with events | 3 comments

Peru and Bolivia – May, June 2012

In May, Peter, Stephan, Ange and Rohan flew to South America for six weeks of adventure in Peru and Bolivia. We arrived in Cusco, Peru, and spent three days there acclimatising to the altitude (3,400 metres) and enjoying its lively tourist scene. Then we went on a 7-day trek, first around the enormous mountain Salkantay and then joining the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. This longer version of the route to Machu Picchu puts you half a day ahead of the other 500 people who walk the Inca Trail each day, and ensures you have peaceful walking and choice of the best campsites. Highly recommended. We had two days at Machu Picchu, which was good planning as the first day was rather wet. The second day was much better and it was a fascinating and memorable experience to be at such a legendary place.

Not content with one trek, we then travelled to Huaraz in the heart of the Peruvian Andes, the Cordillera Blanca, and started a second, 10-day one, called the Alpamayo Base Camp trek. This took us into the most beautiful wild scenery you could imagine, with jagged mountains, glaciers, lakes and green valleys with abundant wildflowers. It also took us over no less than eight high passes, between 4,400 and 4,860 metres, where the thin air made it very challenging. The main highlight was seeing the almost perfect, pyramidal, ice-creamy summit of the mountain Alpamayo (5,947 metres) lit by the sunrise, but on this trek, every day is a highlight.

For a complete change, the next destination was Iquitos, in northern Peru, from where we took a speedboat three hours up the Amazon River and then along a small tributary to Muyuna Lodge, an intimate retreat with thatched huts on stilts in the jungle. Here we spent three days on excursions by foot, boat or canoe into the rainforest or the wetlands, seeing caimans, dolphins, monkeys, sloths, iguanas and all manner of birds. We even caught (and ate, in Peter’s case at least) some small but still toothy piranhas.

We then flew to La Paz in Bolivia, an extraordinary city that grows out of a canyon and up to over 4,000 metres above sea level. It’s also worth visiting for its llama steaks and beautifully colourful textiles, including alpaca wool clothing. From here we visited Lake Titicaca, staying for one night on the Isla del Sol, where we stumbled upon a local festival with people drinking and dancing and wearing costumes that you’d need to be drinking to consider wearing.

The last part of the trip involved a 20-hour journey by local bus and train to Tupiza, in southern Bolivia, from where we took a five-day tour by 4WD into the remote and other-worldly landscape of the southern Bolivian altiplano. Here, in a cold and windswept volcanic world , we saw lakes of green, red, blue, black and silver, deserts of red, orange and sulphur, rivers frozen with ice, bizarre rock formations, the world’s largest salt pan…. and pink flamingos. We also descended into a 300 year old Spanish silver mine, visited a cave with 500 year old mummies and stayed in a hotel made almost entirely from salt. You don’t write a list like that every day!

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Posted on Sunday July 8th, 2012, tagged with travel | 5 comments

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