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Rolling blog: New Zealand day 29. Wandering around Waiuku and surrounds.

We’ve had another slow start to the day due to the cloudy weather, but it’s given me time to catch up on some admin and picture editing, so it’s not all bad. Now the sun’s making a break for it so we’re off  exploring. Watch this space…

23:11.

‘Tis too late for blogging now other than to say we’ve enjoyed another day of changeable weather. We visited a lighthouse which was witness to New Zealand’s worst maritime disaster when HMS Orpheus sank with the loss of 189 lives in 1860 (link). It was just a shame the low clouds gave us less visibility than the Commodore of the ill-fated ship when he preferred to rely on old charts.

Afterwards we headed over to the other side of the Peninsula and enjoyed a couple of hours sunning ourselves on a sandy beach. Pictures will follow soon but right now it’s bedtime as tomorrow is or last full day in New Zealand before flying back and we’re off into Auckland…

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New Zealand day 28: Waiuku (near Auckland).

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We’re having a slow start to the day here in Waiuku, where we’re staying with an old friend of mine from my teenage years in Southport. It’s the first time Lisa and I have seen each other since my sister Ruth’s funeral nearly 15 years ago. How time flies…

We’d actually got a full programme planed for today but the early sunshine soon deserted us and the day was mostly cloudy with a few spots of rain. One thing we did manage was to visit a few local sights. I’m still amazed by how many preserved railways there are on New Zealand and I was delighted to find that Lisa had one on her doorstep – the Glenbrook Vintage Railway. We paid a visit earlier this afternoon and I was impressed by the size of the operation. Not only do they have a lovely little railway, they also have impressive workshop facilities where they’ve a number of locomotives being restored. The line’s only 7.5km in length, but it makes for a relaxed trip – especially if you travel in the Parlour car where you get coffee and cakes included in the fares. Here’s a few shots from our visit.

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Travelling in style in the Parlour car.

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This locomotive was built as WG 480 at the hillside workshop, Dunedin for the NZR in 1910 as a 4-6-4 tank locomotive. The Wg class was designed to meet the need for a more powerful locomotive for the haulage of suburban trains chiefly at Auckland and Wellington. Twenty were produced at the Hillside workshops between 1910 and 1912. The Wg class proved to be very useful locomotive and soon saw a wide variety of duties including haul-freight trains and mail trains.

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Ja 1250, a 4-8-2 express locomotive undergoing a boiler overhaul at Pukeoware Workshop.

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480 running round its train at Glenbrook

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A lovely old signalbox and a fine collection of somersault signals at Glenbrook station

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480 waiting to run a service from Glenbrook to Waiuku.

 

New Zealand day 27. Queenstown to Auckland

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Our time on the South Island’s come to an end today. We’re currently sipping coffee in the “Fat Lamb” cafe in central Queenstown before heading out to the airport ready for our Air New Zealand flight to Auckland this afternoon. I have to admit, there’s hardly anything I recognise about the town since my last visit in 1999. The place has grown and changed that much! As well as being a magnet for adrenaline junkies thanks to all the extreme sports activities based here, it’s also a magnet for a lot of young English people who’ve found jobs. Last night we were sat outside the 1876 bar having a drink and watching all the tradesmen (carpenters, builders etc) having a drink at the end of the working week. The range of regional British accents was quite entertaining! They mingled with others of their generation who were working in the hospitality industry. Tourism obviously generates a lot of money here – not to mention traffic jams! This is the only place we’ve seen on the whole of our trip where traffic is queuing to get in/out of town…

13:30

Now we’re sat at the airport, all ready to go. For an ‘international’ airport it’s a small place where you hang around in the terminal to eat/drink/shop rather than doing so airside.

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Killing time at the airport. Every so often things are enlivened as a domestic flight lands and passengers wander into the terminal off the tarmac to the right of the picture…

Last time I flew from here the turbulence was so bad the plane was like a bucking bronco, which meant the staff weren’t allowed to serve any hot drinks due to the risks. Hopefully today will be a little calmer when our Airbus A320 takes to the skies…

UPDATE (31st January).

Here’s a couple of camera-phone video’s for your entertainment. The first is taking off from Queenstown and heading for Auckland.

The second video is approaching and landing at Auckland on the same flight.

 

 

 

New Zealand day 26. Te Anau to Queenstown.

Rather frustratingly, yesterday’s blog failed to load due to poor Wi-Fi where we were staying in Te Anau. I’ll finish it off today, then blog about our trip to Queenstown (where we are now). We’ve dropped off our hire-car so we’re on foot again now. Not that it’s a problem as we fly back from here to Auckland tomorrow.

Neither of us are adrenaline junkies, so Queenstown’s extreme sports are wasted on us. Instead, we’re enjoying the scenery and exploring. Right now we’re enjoying a drink outside a bar in central Queenstown. It’s “poets day” here (Piss-Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday) so the place is full of builders and hospitality workers – most of whom are English!

Rolling blog: New Zealand day 25. Milford Sound to Te Anau.

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Wow! What a fantastic 24 hours that was. I’ll pick up from where we left off yesterday when we ran out of wifi and phone networks after passing through Te Anau.

Our journey from Dunedin met with a variety of weather including heavy rain at the start but picked up for most of the way – until we left Te Anau for Milford Sound. We could see the mountains ahead were swathed in cloud, but we weren’t too bothered as this had been forecasted. Although we didn’t realise it at the time, this was to lead to a fantastic experience as we saw the Milford area at it’s absolute best – in a range of weather. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll describe much of the rest of the trip with them, using captions…

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On the Milford highway en-route to Milford Sound. The torrential rain had produced waterfalls from nowhere.

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This was the view of the road to Milford Sound once we’d passed through the 1930s-50s built tunnel. The weather made it look more Mordor than anything else.

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The passenger terminal at Milford Sound’s been rebuilt since I was last here. The new building and facilities were opened in 2012.

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We were very lucky to see these waterfalls. They would only last a few hours and be gone by the next morning. The non-porous rock in Milford Sound and lack of soil and vegetation means that in many places the rain runs straight off the tops of the mountains and creates effects like this.

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How’s this for a sense of scale?

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This evening we’re taking it easy in Te Anau, which is a small town on a pretty lake. We’re only here one night so we’re staying in the Lake View backpackers where we have a chalet room out in the rear with a new shared toilet and shower block we share with the people camping in the small grounds. The chalets are new and very comfortable for what they are. The place itself is very well organised and maintained, with plenty of communal and kitchen space. It’s popular with people of all ages and nationalities, especially outdoor types who’re here to walk the various trails in the area or visit one of the Sounds.

Tomorrow we move on to Queenstown, our last port of call on the South Island. From there we fly back to Auckland for our final few days before returning to the UK…

Rolling blog: New Zealand day 24. Dunedin to Milford Sound.

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06:30.

We’re up and packing, ready for the five hour plus drive to Milford Sound this morning. The beautiful weather we had yesterday has given way to cooler temperatures and light showers of rain. Hopefully it won’t cramp our style too much.

12:10.

Despite the fact that it rained heavily nearly all the way to Gore  we had a very good run. Dawn did brilliantly coping with the unfamiliar roads and our car regularly disappearing in the spray from numerous heavy good vehicles heading towards Dunedin. This was passing Milton, a town we made a mistake of stopping at in the other direction!

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At Gore we stopped for coffee and had a brief look at what looks like a really interesting little town. It has some substantial old buildings with a bit of history.

Once off Highway 1, the weather brightened up and the roads were both drier and quieter, giving us a great run as far as Lumsden, where I spotted this bit of railway history. The railway’s long gone, but the town has preserved the old road/rail bridge. These used to be common on the South Island, but only two remain. I remember travelling over several 20 years ago on the West Coast.

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We’re now taking a break in Te Anau before heading on up to Milford Sound. We may be gone some time…

 

Rolling blog: New Zealand day 23. The Taieri Gorge railway and Dunedin

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09:10.

This morning we’re travelling on the Taieri Gorge railway, a tourist line that runs from Dunedin to Pukerangi. We’re travelling on some venerable old coaches hauled by a pair of equally antique Mitsubishi built diesels. Expect pictures as & when…

14:20.

We’ve just arrived back after a fantastic trip. Needless to say there’s no phone reception where we’ve been.

The Trans-alpine may be considered one of the world’s great train journeys, but I have to say, in my opinion this equals if not tops it. The Taieri Gorge is simply stunning and the railway’s a real feat of engineering. Here’s the train at the head of the line after the pair of Mitsubishis had run round. These locos were built for NZR in 1968-69 and are wearing well!

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This is a small selection of pictures from the route.

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The weather was chilly before we set off this morning but it’s certainly warmed up – as you can see from the pictures. I’ve gone from a fleece to suntan lotion and a singlet.

22:35

This is a late night for us! We’ve just got back to our Airbnb after spending the past few hours at Sandfly Bay, looking for Yellow Eyed Penguins. We managed to observe two pairs, but by sunset (when we had to leave) no more had come ashore. Still, it was a great experience as the bay is beautiful. I’ll add some pictures as soon as I can. Tomorrow we’re on the move again – and with an early start too, as we’ve got to get across the South Island to Fjordland in time for an overnight cruise on Milford Sound. This means tomorrows blog may be a bit intermittent. It’s a five-hour plus drive, so tomorrow my role is to keep the driver (Dawn) happy!

Rolling blog: New Zealand day 22. Dunedin and the Otago peninsula

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It’s a sunny but not too warm day here in Dunedin and we’re off exploring to Otago peninsular, so expect a few updates and pictures during the day – and (if we’re lucky) some penguin pictures…

Out first call was to Port Chalmers via the hills around Mt Cargill. The views across the bay were stunning and well worth the drive. The only thing you can’t tell from the pictures is just how windy it’s been today.

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Port Chalmers is only a small place, but it’s a busy deepwater port that boasts a container terminal as well as a general port. When we visited the cruise ship ‘Viking Orion’ was present as well as the Hamburg Sud container ship ‘Rio De Janeiro’.

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Port Chalmers has an older claim to fame. On November 19th 1910 it was from here that Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his ill-fated expedition sailed for the Antarctic, never to be seen alive again…

14:17.

After visiting Port Chalmers we’ve just walked up Baldwin St, which has the distinction of being the world’s steepest residential street. Over the 161.2 metre length of the top section it climbs a vertical height of 47.22 metres, and average gradient of 1 in 3.41 but at its steepest it’s 1 in 2.86!

Over the years it’s attracted tourists and those who want to rise to its challenges – hence these commemorative plaques at the top.

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Dawn’s reaction on reaching the top said it all…

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Now we’re having a quick drink at the railway station which really is a superb looking building and the most Southerly railway station on the planet since the service to Invercargill was withdrawn in 2002.

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16:12.

The drive out along the Otago peninsula to the Waiwhakaheke Seabird Lookout was beautiful. For much of the way the winding road’s been built right on the edge of the sea, which makes for some interesting driving conditions when it’s as windy as today and the sea comes over onto the road! Sadly, we didn’t see any Albatrosses when we got there – or penguins, just lots of Gulls, Gannets and seals. However, on the way back we did see something just as rare and equally endangered. These old tram bodies…

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I’ve a favour to ask
If you enjoy reading these blogs, please consider clicking on an advert – or two! You don’t have to buy anything, honest! The clicks just help me cover the cost of running this blog. Many thanks, Paul

 

Rolling blog: New Zealand day 21. Wanaka to Dunedin.

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08:55

We’re on the move again today, this time heading across to the East Coast and the three and a half hour drive to Dunedin, where we’ll be based for three nights, giving us chance to explore the area and also to travel on the Taieri Gorge railway. As usual on this trip, we’d liked to have stayed longer where we are, but we always knew this was going to be a bit of a whirlwind tour! The good news is that yesterday’s rain has cleared, so we’ve been greeted by a beautiful sunny morning.

Here’s our nippy little hire care and AirBnB these past two nights.

Well, we didn’t get far. We were passing the national toy and transport museum and couldn’t resist. My God, it’s an Aladdin’s cave of memories like this!

15:12.

We’ve stopped for a break at a place called Milton, back on our old friend highway 1. The road from Wanaka’s been really interesting. There’s a collection of quaint ‘One horse’ towns (mostly boasting Scottish names). The area’s also the fruit bowl of Otago. I’ve lost count of the number of fruit farms we’ve passed. The road’s been incredibly winding and very busy. Dawn says it’s also had the worst standard of driving too! She’s been complaining about the sheer number of driver’s tailgating her. Another thing we’ve noticed is the amount of classic cars we’ve seen, like these two specimens.


17:00.

Made it! I never realised just how hilly Dunedin is. Here’s the view from our AirBnB..

22:04.

We’ve spent the last of the afternoon/evening exploring Dunedin, which seems like a really interesting city. I love some of the architecture here – especially the railway station.

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I’ll blog more about Dunedin tomorrow, when we’ve had chance to explore some more…

 

New Zealand day 20: It’s wet in Wanaka!

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After all our travels over the past couple of weeks we’ve kicked back today – but that’s purely because of the weather, which has been wet, wet, wet! The bright side of this has been the chance to catch up on sleep, picture editing and all those chores that you can’t when you’re constantly on the move. I’ve added a huge amount of pictures from across to New Zealand to my Zenfolio website. You can find them here.

After catching up on the rest of the world we wandered into Wanaka as we needed to do some shopping. Whilst we’ve been in New Zealand we’ve become fans of the New World supermarkets, they make Tescos look very old world as the variety of food and drink they offer’s very good indeed – and when your currency’s been tanked by Brexit nutters ‘every little helps’!

Wanaka’s an interesting place. There’s some very nice custom built properties here and it’s obviously an affluent town. The town centre’s hectic as there’s lots of pubs and restaurants on the main road in front of the lake but most of them close before 22:00. This is something we’ve discovered about New Zealand – a late culture it ain’t! In many places you’d be lucky to find anywhere open after 21:00,  That said, there’s still quite a few backpackers establishments here as Wanaka’s an important stop on the road from the West coast, so you get a greater mix of people than some of the other towns we’ve visited. Whilst in town we’ve been dropping in to the Kiwi version of Wetherspoons: Speights. A particular delight is the fact that it’s next to the river so has a resident family of ducklings. Dawn soon had them eating out of the palm of her hand. Literally…

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Apologies for the quality of the picture. It was taken on my phone *hangs head in shame*…

We retreated here again today as it’s a great place to sit and watch the (dripping wet) world go by. You can spot certain nationalities by how prepared they are. For example, the Japanese are fully kitted out with umbrellas and ‘pac a macs’. Europeans who’re tramping tend to be in waterproof jackets and shorts. Families tend to be accompanied by at least one teenager dressed in a soaked T-shirt and sodden shorts. Kiwis? Well, they just wear anything and get wet! I can only presume they’re pretending it’s not actually raining!

With the weather being so crap today I didn’t bother taking the camera out, so here’s a shot from yesterday.

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Lake Wanaka is so big you don’t actually get to see Wanaka town until you get to it. Here’s the view from the highway that skirts much of the lake. Wanaka’s actually out of sight to the bottom left here.

In many ways we’d have like to have stayed longer, but we’ve so much to see and do. Tomorrow we move on to Dunedin, which is a three hour plus drive from Wanaka. It doesn’t sound much by UK standards, but the roads are rather different here!