Monday, 31 December 2007

Cave Rock Cottages

We left the luxury of Carolyn Court (and the impending forecast cyclone moving in from the North East) and drove two hours south of Brisbane to the rain forest and a bungalow called Cave Rock Cottage for two nights. The noise of the Cicadas was deafening and the bird life varied including Cockatoos, Parrots and Gallars. We were also told there were Koalas and Platypus but we failed to actually see them.

The view from Cave Rock,which is behind our bungalow, the roof of which can just be seen in the forest below.

We used the 4WD capabilities of our car going on an offroad track to visit a bush top walkway.

The walkway above the rainforest.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Christmas Aussie style

7.30am - surfing

then home for breakfast and presents

Then off for a walk in the national park at Noosa to see if we could see a wild Koala. We failed, so we had another swim in the sea

Home for a hot tub and then our Christmas meal.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Merry Christmas from Australia

We have been busy over the past few days enjoying the warm, if not sunny weather. As well as swimming in the sea at Dickie Beach and surfing at Alex Headland we went kayaking at Bribie Island and climbed up Mount Beerum. We also visited the Andy Warhol exhibition in Brisbane for our design enthusiasts.

Kate and Sharon on the summit of Mount Beerum in the Glass Mountains. To get there we had to scramble up rock slabs for one hour. The mountain looks like the one in the background

Sharon and Kate under the bridge to Bribie Island

Outside the Modern Art Gallery Brisbane

Today is Christmas Eve. So ... Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. We look forward to catching up with you all in 2008.

Love the Travelling Gerrishs.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Wreck diving

Dived the wreck of the ex-HMAS Brisbane today in 27m of water. The ship was sunk deliberately two years ago in a marine park to provide a natural reef for corals, sponges and fish to colonise as well as a diving attraction. Over two dives I swam from bow to stern and back through the interior of the ship. There were thousands of colourful fish, fantastic sponges and sea life.

Me just as I entered the water for the second dive.

ex-HMAS Brisbane

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

We meet some of the locals

We went for a drive inland today and went for a walk in the rain forest. We met some of the locals...

A lizard showed some interest in the Poms.

We met a Carpet Python under a log.

Then near home we passed a field and it was full of kangaroos.

and ... while we were canoeing we met some soldier crabs. See a video of them here

It's a hard life down here.

In our hot tub with Ben's friends Pete and Kym (who live here in Oz)

Ben fighting off the local wildlife

You can just make out Ben and I going out to surf. It was just about to start pouring with rain.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

We reunite in Australia

After a long and trying journey of nearly 70 hours, 3 planes and one hotel in Abu Dhabi the family arrived tired and a little worse for wear. After a quick drive up the east coast we arrived at our home for the next two weeks in Little Mountain near the sea at Coloundra. Weather great, house fantastic.

On Alex beach

Kate in the pool at our house!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Final days in NZ

We are sitting in Christchurch now having just handed Keith back ;-(. It is pouring so we don't feel too bad! We fly to Australia later today. Ben Matt and Kate have just texted to say they are in their hotel in Abu Dhabi, which is lucky as Kate remembered that she had left her passport in Leeds just hours before she was due to leave Kendal for the airport! Ben had to do a mad drive in the dark to collect it. They arrive tomorrow - Thursday.

Anyway - after leaving Doubtful Sound we travelled to Mount Cook where the weather broke. We spent the night on a campsite where we heard the sounds of icefall and avalanche all night on the glaciers high above us. The next day we walked up to the Hooker Glacier in the mist.

Then we went to a beautiful area called Akaroa where we went on the sea on kayaks and saw Hector's Dolphins.

That night we were told about a plot of land on a col with views to the sea in both directions. We drove there and camped in the most amazing scenery for the our last free night of camping.

The view West.

The view East

Friday, 7 December 2007

Doubtful Sound

When James Cook saw the entrance to a large fjord he was doubtful that he would be able to sail out if he entered. If he had, 44km from its entrance and about two hundred and fifty years later he would have seen us setting off on a two day sea kayak trip into his Doubtful Sound. The journey to get to the start included a minibus journey, hour long boat trip across a lake and a four wheel drive track.

After paddling for five hours with no other boats or people in sight we camped in the bush, where we were mobbed by sandflies (also named by Cook. They are actually blackflies). There was an insect shelter, however, where we coudl sort of escape from them.

Next day we set off again in beautiful calm weather and paddled around Elizabeth Island and back to the start, another 5 hours paddling. Apart from the sandfly bites, it was a wonderful, peaceful adventure in the awesome surroundings of the fjord with 1000m cliffs going straight into the sea.

Sharon on Doubtful Sound

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Gertrude's Saddle was too slippery

We set off to do a great walk, which had been recommended to us by at least two sets of friends... Gertrude's Saddle, a 1817m high col between two mountains in the Southern Alps. We intended to camp in the valley half way up. As we climbed up the valley we came across old avalanche debris and as we got higher encountered deep, unstable snow. After a scramble on slabs we reached Black Lake, which was frozen and the track up to the saddle over rock slabs was covered in wet snow so ... after taking photos we headed back to our tent and tea. During the night we were woken on three occasions by avalanches and rock fall in the mountains high above us. This morning it had clouded in and was drizzling as we walked back to Keith.

Gertrude's Saddle is the low point on the hill behind. We would have had to cross the slabs on the right to get there!

Black Lake.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Cruising on the Milford Sound

We have just returned from an overnight cruise on Milford Sound in Fjordland. The views were amazing with 700m cliffs rising sheer from 200m deep water. We saw three Fjordland Penguins and lots of Fur Seals. In the evening we anchored and then kayaked from the boat. At 4am, unable to sleep because of the hum of th generator, we got up and watched four seals hunting fish around the stern of the boat, attracted by the lights.

Friday, 30 November 2007

The Rob Roy Glacier

Today we went to the Rob Roy Glacier. We had to drive a fantastic dirt road for 44km into the mountains, then walk up a track through beech woods. The views of the glacier were stunning and the sound of the ice falling off when it happened was awesome.


We return to school again

Mount Aspiring College. 11 - 18 comprehensive.

In our quest to visit schools we contacted the Principle of this college to see if we could see round. He agreed and suggested that our friend Kay showed us around as she works there part time.

It is a school of 650 students years 7 - 13 (like England). The big difference is that years 7 and 8 are taught in home rooms by a small number of teachers along the primary model.

In year 11 they sit level 1 exams (GCSE equivalent) and in year 12 they sit level 2 (AS level equivalent) and in year 13 they do more level 2s and some level 3 qualifications (Scholarship level). They do a lot of outdoor education ... in the timetable! There is a national curriculum but it seemed to outline key concepts and areas to be studied and left school to fill in the scheme of work as to how it would be covered. All exams are set nationally by one body.

The school was very relaxed and the staff and students friendly but ... they were only two weeks off their 8 week summer break! The seniors were in the middle of their exams.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Caption contest

Why did this Maori look so shocked? Email your captions to us and the full picture will be forwarded to the best.
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Tuesday, 27 November 2007

The best cinema in town

Forget those hard rows of seats, forget the rule that only soft drinks and popcorn can be taken into the auditorium and come to a most civilized cinema experience at the Cinema Paradiso in Wanaka.

Here they have comfy old sofas, 3 seats in an old Morris Minor, a cafe and bar serving meals before, during or after the movie, homemade icecream and hot cookies for the intermission (do you remember those?) and an expectation that you will go and get a drink (alcoholic of course) during the film! It was a real experience and one that we wish to repeat.

Spot me eating icecream

Wanaka is a beautiful place in the Southern Alps surrounded by big mountains and next to a large blue lake. See some pictures of it here.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Rain and Glaciers

In the rain today we visited the glaciers of Te Moeka o Tuawae and Ka Romiata o Hine Hukatere (which imperialist Europeans saw fit to rename Franz Joseph and Fox after themselves). They are world famous for coming down to almost sea level and also for reacting to the weather quickly - they actually advanced in the early 21st century. The problem with this west coast is it catches the weather and so it rained for part of the day and the cud was down over the Southern Alps ... just like the Lake District!

Below the Franz Joseph Glacier

At the resurgence of the river below Fox Glacier

Pancake rocks

Having left the far North of South Island we drove down to the West Coast to a place called Pancake Rocks. The scenery was a great example of geology in action and the blow holes were spectacular.

Sharon at the blowhole with the pancake rocks.

The 'chimneypot' in full spout

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Seals Penguins and Sandflies

Sharon cooking breakfast on the second day

We have just returned from a three day kayaking and walking trip along the Abel Tasman coast with our Israeli friends Sara and Yuval. We canoed among seals as they swam and showed interest in us, saw a penguin fishing, camped on beuatifel white sand beaches and ... got eaten badly by sandflies (a cross between a midge and a mosquito, whose bite itches vadly for ages afterwards!). After the second day our kayaks were picked up by water taxi and on the last day we walked the remaining distance (that involved an estuary crossing, which was tide dependant) to a beach where we were picked up by water taxi and taken back to the start. The weather was cloudy and cold on day 1 but the other days were blue skys and sun. Beautiful.

The seals were as interested in us as we were them

Monday, 12 November 2007

Mount Doom

The day after finishing the river trip we did the Tongariro Crossing. 18km across an active volcanic region. Fantastic views, good weather.
Sharon with Mount Doom (or where they filmed that part of Lord of the Rings) in the background. It is still an active volcano.

Beautiful weather in NZ at last.

Canoeing the mighty Wanganui

88 km, three days, two huts. We joined two other couples and a single guy to canoe the Wanganui River, a fast flowing river that flows through a deep gorge buried in the New Zealand bush.

Heavy rain over the past week had risen the depth from its usual 1.5m to 3m but this had the effct of speeding up the flow and smoothing out the raids. The effact was like canoeing on moving mud. The weather was fantastic, getting sunnier as the three days passed. 38km day1, 29km day 2 and 21km day 3, great company, great adventure.

Sharon high above the river after we had struggled up through the bush to get to the viwepoint

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Kia ora Keith

We picked up our campervan yesterday and drove him to Hot Water Beach where we sat in a hole dug in the sand bathed in water that varied from scalding to pleasantly warm, drinking beer as darkness fell. The campervan is called Keith and stars in a TV show on C4 (NZ Channel 4 that is) Wednesday nights at 9pm. We will have to watch it to see our home on TV.

Hot Water beach where hot springs come out into the sand
Keith the Escape campervan (star of the TV show mentioned above)

Rained last night and the mozzies were bad but today went kayaking around Cathedral Bay in a double kayak. the sun came out and the sea was blue.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Time zones and lost days

We said goodbye to the Harley and California yesterday (or was it the day before?) and flew from Los Angeles at 8.30pm on the 30th October. The 12 hour flight landed on time at 5am in Auckland on the 1st November. Where did the 31st go? Something to do with the rotation of the Earth and crossing international datelines.

Security in NZ was interesting as they are very hot on bio-security not wanting alien species to come to their country (understandably). Because we had been in the desert an forests we had to unpack our bags and have our boots and camping gear checked. They took the tent away for twenty minutes and thoroughly checked it for insects and pollen. We passed! People who had been on farms or were fishing had their gear taken away and sprayed!

We are now in a coffee shop in Auckland, staying at Base Backpackers. Campervan tomorrow.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Flying lessons and hairpin bends

We have just had an amazing three days. We hired a Harley Davidson and have ridden quite a long way up towards San Francisco. Last night we stayed with a family we met ten years ago when they lent us their vehicle to take our family to Death Valley.

Mike is an aeroplane mechanic and flying instructor so this morning he borrowed a plane and gave us a two hour lesson, so I now have a log book with my first lesson logged in it! We flew up the coast to Hearst Castle, then inland to the San Andreas fault and then back to San Louis Obispo, it was fantastic. Then we left and rode along an amazing road which had ten mile straights in which we drove at 90mph and then twisty mountain roads. We are staying at a place called Ojai now. Tomorrow we take the bike back (we will have ridden over 600 miles in three days) and then leave California for NZ. We love California, it is just one great playground.

The three of us flying over California. Thanks Mike!

The sun sets for our final time this trip in California