New Zealand trip Day Three 

(Saturday 29th October, 2016) – sorry folks no photo yet. I have a brilliant one of the hawks but can’t upload it on this wifi…I will ASAP! Update 3rd Nov: finally sorted the wifi connection so your photo awaits!

What a brilliant day! A really wonderful experience. As always, not every part of the day was perfect but overall what a wonderful day. Waking up to sun on the bay coming through the floor to ceiling window of the hotel.  Out of my comfort zone breakfast at Milk and Honey: French toast, Greek yoghurt and orange slices with toffee on top, just like what’s on top of creme brulee, hard and has to be cracked with a spoon. Then packing up our cases for the first day, our first briefing of what the day will entail and heading off on our bikes together! The tour company collect our luggage from the hotel and take it to the next hotel which is great; all we have to do is ride! So off we headed after 9am.

The start of the ride is around the estuary: these are always fabulous for birds because of the shallow tidal water and this one was no different with so many birds: wading birds, water birds, birds of prey, darting little tiny birds. Bird bliss for me! I couldn’t do the boardwalk along the estuary last night cos no bikes allowed, but I’ve got it well bookmarked for a walk when we arrive back on Monday. Ever the optimist I slung my camera over my shoulder as we took off riding and ended up have the best bird day in New Zealand so far! That doesn’t say much does it, first day and all, and last time we were here I wasn’t into birds then like I am now, but it genuinely was a amazing day for looking at birds and photography. So, what did I see? An Australian bird that I’ve never seen before in Aus, a white pigeon, a black-ish ground dwelling bird, “New Zealand hawks” (according to the guide, but now that I have a guide book there’re everything but hawks! I dunno what it is) hovering several metres from the path, a total of SEVEN tiny kingfishers along the way (I’ve been trying to find these in Aus for ages!), those gorgeous storybook white swans gliding on someone’s lake, goslings, duckings and I could go on! Wow! Too many photos, but I just want to capture everything! So far we’ve been travelling on cement paths out of town, fine gravel paths for the first bit of the estuary, across an old bridge then onto packed limestone which would make up most of the rest of the ride. We rode at the level of everything else for a tiny bit, then up onto the elevated flood levees that make up most of the 200km of cycle path in the region, the result of a passionate mayor and super passionate tourism minister/Prime Minister with a real vision for the region.

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We continued following the inlet and channels for most of the morning before calling at Mission Estate, a winery owned by the Catholic church and which makes the church wine and a handsome profit! A quick wine tasting there cos we were running a bit late, then on to Church Road Winery for a tour. Fascinating facts about the history of the winery, its current activities and the tour guide’s hilarious private life! Tastings from the vats of incomplete wines, then a wine matching lesson…brain bursting! What an interesting experience, although I think we were all done with wine by the time we finished! Onwards before we all drift off to sleep! Hubby was going off to the mountain bike park after lunch, while we continued on the planned tour; the guide has been super accommodating! He mentioned he’d like to do it, and immediately they organised a personal shuttle and made it happen! Very impressed with Takaro Tours and I highly recommend you pick them for any riding you do in the Hawkes Bay area.

 

Most of the afternoon was spent on the purpose built bike path on the levee passing through paddocks and orchards and along the river. This is awesome for views but when the rain comes…there’s nowhere to hide! As we found out. The weather wasn’t cold, we were just wet so we ploughed on, me in short sleeves with a waterproof vest…I don’t actually have a fully waterproof coat and my semi waterproof coat was in my luggage somewhere. Had decided on no paniers and no coat this morning cos I couldn’t see myself using either! But would have really been good to have somewhere waterproof to stow my camera (luckily someone else let me stow it in their panier) and something to keep my arms dry! Something to keep my legs, head, feet and neck dry would also have come in handy but you can’t have everything in life. So head down, with water landing on and pouring off my arms, water dripping off my helmet onto my face with legs getting progressively damper and toes starting to feel the wet. But luckily there were still birds all over the place to fascinate me. If I hadn’t kept going at this point I would never have seen the second pair of hawks, all the beautiful huge white swans on the lake and the sun as it came out after the rain. As it happens, we sought refuge in a pub that was on our itinerary anyway and that is the epitome of any country pub anywhere. And had the menu of one! The specials board alone was classic: venison pie, lamb’s fry with bacon and something else old school that you never find anymore, blood sausage maybe, I can’t remember. So we sat inside and tried to dry off over a hot beverage. I went into the bathroom but of course no hand dryer/hair dryer/heater, just hand towels so at least I dried off my arms and my hair, a bit. That didn’t really work but the rain stopped while we were drinking so off we went again and finished off the ride. Cold and damp, although we did dry off surprisingly quickly once we got going. It was heads down tails up and homeward bound! We could have gotten picked up, but we opted to continue and the path we took was gorgeous! Green, fresh, and scented by the rain. In the end we did 37km today and it was all so scenic, despite wind and rain! I haven’t ridden that far since my last tour so I was pretty pleased. One thing that was a tad annoying was the gates. The path runs through lovely orchards, paddocks of beef cattle, onion fields and so on. So every time one farm ends and the next starts there is a fence and a gate! In the last stretch it felt like there was a gate every kilometre! And not just gates that someone can hold open, although there were some of those. These were swing gates where someone holds the gate towards themselves, you back the bike in, they push the gate as far as it can go the other way, and you wheel your bike out! It’s quite the rigmarole! It’s meant to prevent cattle; it nearly prevents humans! It does break up the ride and bit, and in the end I couldn’t complain cos every time we stopped I got some photos of the little grass birds that were continually flying up out of the grass as we rode along. Ever the opportunist.

I should have taken advantage of the spa or heated pool when we got back but it was still raining so I thought I’d wait for hubby who wasn’t back yet but wasn’t too far away, but I fell asleep in my bathers! Oh well. A very good dinner at Shed 2, and another good night’s sleep ready for another day on the bike.

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New Zealand trip Day Two

(Friday 28th October, 2016)

A delightful day with friends. Then dinner with our tour group before starting the cycling tomorrow. Some really lovely moments.

When your day starts like this…

We woke at 5.30am to so much birdsong! Incredible! Lovely tunes from all kinds of different birds…I was tempted to go straight out with my camera but it was pitch black so back to bed. This house that we stayed in! Beautiful and so interesting with travel momentos and clever architecture and different styles. We really loved it! A fabulous guest room for us with a Harry Potter cupboard (we didn’t have to sleep in it!), a day bed and great views over the extensive grounds with gorgeous gardens! Bliss!! After brekky I took my camera out into the garden and had a lovely wander around! A lovely blue sky, sunshine, warmth, a light breeze, stunning surrounds and birds I’ve never seen popping out of everywhere  just made for perfection! Then the lady of the house took me on a bit of a guided tour and we had a lovely chat and the day just got better! Of course I always have an ear and an eye out for birds and I’m fascinated to see what birds they have here as compared to home. I already have found a thrush, a chaffinch, some different ducks and a tui that are native here and not found in Australia! Not a bad morning’s work I reckon. I’m very excited for the rest of the trip and the birds I’ll see. A trip into town was well worth it to see all of the 4 or more batches of ducklings just chilled out on the grass of the botanic gardens in Palmerston North at different stages of growth from just hatched to awkward molting teenagers. The aviary was interesting, the hothouse gorgeous, the esplanade walk really enjoyable and the river so pretty. A lovely jaunt.

Then a few groceries for lunch and hello what’s this? Instead of a whole bunch of self serve counters like Melbourne or Canberra, there’s someone to scan AND someone to pack the food! 2 per counter! “Home” for lunch, salmon cream cheese and asparagus rolls and a relaxed chat around the outdoor table; yum! Then goodbyes and on the road again back to Napier. Have I mentioned petrol prices? 176.9 for unleaded! Even talking into account the dollar difference that’s very expensive! We met our tour guide at the airport as we dropped off our rental car and she’s fantastic, already think she’s great. And meet LeRoy the spoodle who is very much part of the operation. Check in at the hotel, then off for a little explore on our bikes, 7km around the inlet before dinner just to get us going. A wonderful dinner at the hotel restaurant and meeting the other tour people then back to our room to go to bed. Oh yeah, our room: over the road from the beach so full ocean views through the huge windows and from the deck, queen bed, spa and just lovely all around! Luxury really: The Crown Hotel in Napier definitely gets our recommendation; also their restaurant Milk and Honey. And after a lovely 2 course meal, that’s just about us! See you tomorrow for the start of the bike tour proper.

New Zealand trip Day One

(Thursday 27th October, 2016)

A traveling day today. We woke up early ish to drop off our car to the commercial car park and get our shuttle to the airport. We’d put in a time for when we wanted to go to the airport, but didn’t know it was a booking! So we got a hurry up call at 7.30am, but we were nearly ready to go by then so off we go! A slight hitch in the plans when we went to deconstruct hubby’s bike to pack it in the bike bag piece of luggage…the front wheel skewer had seized! Even when the lever was open and hubby was putting the force of one foot on it, it wouldn’t budge! Until it did but instead of opening, it tore off part of the metal casing!! Uh oh. Still stuck and now we’ve broken part of the bike! If we can’t get the wheel off and the bike packed down we can’t get it on the plane which creates quite a few problems! So we just put it in the shuttle with the wheels on and hope for a solution once we get to the airport! Thankfully after a phone call to a mate, some grease, some Googling, some tension and use of further force…the lever turned properly and we got the front wheel off! YAY. By this time I was feeling some serious time pressure to check in so we lined up for who knows how long only to find that our Virgin flight was being run by Air New Zealand! Can I just say? Christmas decs up already all over the place?? Too soon! The queue was tiny at Air New Zealand luckily so all good. And turns out I’d been allowing way more time than needed anyway so….time for breakfast! Just have to get through immigration, security and duty free! Security was irritating. Hubby got held up for a 110mL bottle of contact lens solution that was clearly nearly empty, but they binned it. Having had his case open to check through his stuff the security dude then picked it up and of course all his neatly folded and organised clothes fell on the floor! Seriously! He apologised 10 times but it’s was just annoying! Breakfast was weird. We were sipping our OJ and every other of the 7 tables were sipping beer or bubbly at 10am! Then the wait for a late plane and up in the air! 7 episodes of Season 9 of the Big Bang Theory and we were landing in Auckland. Highlight of the trip? Photochromic window! No shutters, but a button with several shades of dark to choose from. So cool! Love Air New Zealand! Of course our flight didn’t include a meal or cold drinks that we actually drink (cheap flights eh?) but luckily the airline throw in entertainment, otherwise I’m sure we wouldn’t have had that either! 

My cool window darkened using a little button, compared to the usual window

Unfortunately as we were running late we didn’t get to appreciate Auckland airport. Pick up luggage, go through customs, WALK to domestic airport in the half drizzle (Melbourne, thank you for having international and domestic terminals in the same building, an escalator away!), and arrive with enough time to drop our luggage and walk on the teensy turboprop to Napier. No lunch but chocolate covered almonds from my trip to Junee will have to do! A really comfy ride for a small plane, I slept all the way apart from when they were handing out free fudge! Then touch down in Napier!! Pick up the rental car, get some dinner and head down to our friends for a night and day. I’m exhausted from all the not doing anything! 

Canberra Day Forty Five

Tuesday 25th October, 2016

Today was a travelling day, from Wagga Wagga back home to Canberra. I’ve sort of gotten used to calling Canberra home now, possibly to the alarm of some people! Don’t worry, we’re not necessarily settling in for life but you have to be able to feel like some place is home. So I slept passed the time that the rest of the house had to leave this morning but I imagine it would have been a morning dash anyway. So I had a slow morning getting my stuff together and clearing out. Months ago I’d printed out a list of places to check out in Wagga for birds, so I had a look and decided on Willans Hill. Unfortunately the summit was blocked off with roadworks or something, but I drove the back road as far as I could get and had a fun time anyway with 3 birds I’ve only seen outside Victoria. There were gorgeous bush flowers including yellow paper daisies, some bulbs that are probably strays, some teeny tiny purple star flowers, another teeny flower popping out of a big bulb, some Salvation Jane/Patterson’s Curse, and a bunch of tiny blue flat flowers. I wish I knew them all, but birds are really more my thing. Eventually I’ll get them up on my website, and I might get names by then; I’ll let you know.

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There were a couple of other options but I was sort of mentally home bound by then. I’ve been having a bit of anxiety lately, and once I get thinking about any kind of a deadline I start to get antsy and can’t sit around doing anything else and just have to get going towards my target! I’m working on it, but today it meant hurry up down the highway. I did make a stop off at Gundagai for lunch which was lovely, such an old fashioned town still. Then home for a nap, dinner out with hubby for fresh Vietnamese and a relaxing night in. And realisation: its day forty five! That’s halfway to ninety!! Yikes! Dunno if I’m ready for that!

Canberra Day Forty Six

Wednesday 26th October, 2016 – the uber late edition!

Well folks, this is going to be the last regular blog for a while. I’ve kept going writing about my journey in Canberra throughout weekends away and visits out of Canberra that somehow related to our stay in Canberra, but now we’re headed to New Zealand for 10 days on a trip planned well before we knew about Canberra. And I’m not at all sure how much internet I’ll have as we travel. If I can, I’ll absolutely let you know what we’re up to, otherwise I’ll pick up where I’m leaving off with Canberra days when we get back. The only dilemma: should I keep numbering the days as they pass, or pause until we get back? Still undecided…any ideas?

Aaaahhhh wifi! I’ve been dying to finish this blog today the 27th but the airport wifi signal was appallingly weak, my phone wouldn’t let me use the Maccas good wifi because it decided it wasn’t safe and I couldn’t override it, and neither plane had wifi! Yes I’m here safe and sound in New Zealand but that’s tomorrow’s news.

I’ve been meaning to get the car serviced for a while. Like a month. It’s overdue in kilometres, and by date. Of course I put it off until the very last minute when hubby realised that we need it tonight to drive to Sydney to catch a plane overseas! Luckily yesterday I found a place that would fit me in today so I had an early-for-me-right-now start before 8am to drop the car off at 8am. At the same time I needed to hit the bike shop for disk brake spacers that hubby needed for deconstructing his bike into a proper bike bag piece of luggage to take with us. So check and check, 2 jobs down before 8.30am! Kicking goals. Now I have to walk home! It’s not far but you know, it’s walking. Not always my first love. I walk home along Lonsdale Street, the hip eating out venue with lots of nice restuarants then through the beautiful lines of trees in Haig Park, over the hill and home. This park has cement paths around it and through it but everywhere there are tracks cut through the grass into the dirt going wherever! Do that many people not want to walk by the squares? 

Now onto packing day for our New Zealand trip.

I won a 5 (read 3) day cycling tour for 2 people from the tour group that ran the 7 (read 5) day tour that I did with Wheel Women earlier this year in April. Why the edit? I’m just a teensy bit more than tired of the arrangements being misrepresented by the individual from the tour company that I’ve been dealing with since I found out that I’d won this tour. 5 days? Okay technically yes, but dinner on the night before the tour hardly makes one day and ditto for breakfast on the day after the last day of tour. I’m calling it 3 days. Grrr. I’ve had not a little annoyance and anxiety with this person today, and since June!! From 1) not booking us the new direct flights to New Zealand from Canberra because we won the tour and weren’t actually paying for it and they were expensive, oh and the T&C’s back them up, to 2) having to pay for our Napier to Christchurch transfer on the way home because we aren’t paying for the tour and had changed the New Zealand exit point from Auckland (even though they would have paid it if we went back to Auckland!), and 3) most annoyingly, after saying they would book the flights in June, July and August, they finally booked them 12 days before we flew out! So much for forward planning for our planned catch ups with friends!

I hadn’t intended on it, but yet another reminder from him that we weren’t paying for the tour and therefore should settle with grace for whatever he saw fit to organise for us and be grateful saw me start the process of “feedback” a little earlier than intended! Then I got “what if” anxiety: did I say too much, did I say it too soon, would there be repercussions, but seriously he was out of line but was I too? Have I really “misunderstood” as often as he is suggesting? A giant lump in my throat all day because of this that I couldn’t get rid of! Onto the packing, do something to soothe your anxiety by ticking of your list. 3 sets of bike clothes, helmet, bike shoes, casual clothes, smart clothes for eating out, etc etc. All packed in half of my suitcase ready for hubby to put in his stuff. I still had a few things left over to pack but I figured I’d wait for him. Then I decided to do a cull. Out go the sneakers, I’ll wear my bike shoes on the tour then when we meet up afterwards with friends in Christchurch I’ll wear my casual shoes. One down. Don’t need my tripod, I never use it at home so doubt I’ll use it on holidays. Etc. Out went anything I couldn’t absolutely justify; trimming the fat. Turned out hubby only needed a tiny bit of my suitcase, but that’s okay, room for souvenirs!

So up before 8am, jobs ticked off, anxiety, packing, that bloke!! I knew he could be disorganised but we are now amazed that his business survives! I felt exhausted so looked at my phone; only 12pm! Bad luck, back to bed. I’m waiting on a call from the society of hospital pharmacists on a continuing professional development (CPD) deadline issue, and they ended up waking me up after an hour, but that was about right. A phone call to say I needed to head down to Canberra Centre to pick up hubby’s contact lenses. I was meant to ride down, but when we went to ride down the street to get tea last night, my front wheel had a flat even though it had just been in the car! Not wanting to change it in a hurry, I stuck it in the apartment and meant to change it this morning but you know! I bought a new spare tube though; does that count for something? So Uber it is! By this stage the tour operator stress is behind me; now I’m fretting about getting my CPD record printed and posted before we head away. I know, so old-fashioned! Hubby reminded me that I can print screen it into paint and save it as a Word document then email it! In the middle of a stress event, changing your thinking process is difficult. You have been going around and around in circles, and have more or less worn a path into the grass; you’re kind of rutted into the path. Stepping up out of it isn’t easy, so every time is a victory! I managed to squash the no I couldn’t possibly and say I’d think about it, and a while later I accepted it as the new approach. Aaahhh anxiety! A wander around the mall near Canberra showed some of the dirtier seedier side of Canberra city; don’t think I’ll be back around there. Needed another nap later on to recover from all that.

Picked up the car and paid 4 times the usual service amount! Got my CPD sorted largely by hubby doing it! Got the bike bag, suitcases, hand luggage in the car and bike on the roof and drove off into the most gorgeously vivid strongly colored bright pink and deep orange sunset that I can ever remember seeing! Our snaps just don’t compare! And off we drive to Sydney!

Canberra Day Forty Four

Monday 24th October, 2016

Not exactly a Canberra day but…

What a lovely day! A truly delightful day. Beautiful weather and excellent company. Today I hung out with a good friend of mine and her charming little 3 year old man; Mr Independent. I drove down to Wagga Wagga last night to stay a couple of nights with them. We’ve been trying to organise it from Melbourne for AGES but it hasn’t happened. Moving to Canberra actually made it easier cos its closer than Melbourne so FINALLY we’re having our hangout! A sleep in for me this morning, aahh! Then a quick brekky and off down the green highway to the lovely town of Junee in New South Wales for a unique experience visiting the licorice and chocolate factory. If you are ever in the area, this is absolutely a must visit and I’m so glad I got to see it. You can see the rotating machine that coats organic licorice made from scratch on site with Belgian chocolate, the chocolate polishing bubble machine that buffs up the chocolate pieces once the THIRTY to FORTY layers off chocolate have been applied creating a matt effect, the licorice pipes and cooling system, and you can actually make rocky road or an enormous chocolate freckle. Plus a brilliant gift shop, great cafe, a great little video tour and a rustic setting…shall I go on? Oh, and vertical bowling with a ball make entirely from licorice!! Such fun. Plus chatting all the way there and back, like old friends can. What a lovely time we had!

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How adorable! Mr 3 pretty excited to be making his own giant freckle!!

And that was only the day time. Another friend of theirs had a birthday today: I know, how many birthdays can there be? So my friend worked through the afternoon while I sat and chatted (I know my specialties, plus I dunno how to work the Thermomix) and cooked us up an enormous feast! Even the 10 of us couldn’t finish it off, with a huge main course, dessert, birthday cake and fruit platter plus drinks laid on. A lovely evening making new friends and catching up with old ones. Then to bed on a full stomach ready for a huge sleep.

Canberra Day Forty Three 

Sunday 23rd October, 2016

Well if you don’t know by now, it’s my birthday! On the weekend! YAY! I don’t make a big fuss for my birthday, but it is today so that’s that. And yep, hubby’s was yesterday. Somehow it just worked out that way. I know 5 other people who also have their today, a couple I just found out about yesterday or today; how’s that?! 5 other people! So we didn’t have a big celebration today, dinner last night was equal parts hubby’s birthday and my birthday treat. So our usual quiet morning, hubby made me lunch, our usual nap and meeting scenario then I left with a girlfriend to visit her down south for a couple of days. A beautiful scenic drive down to Yass, a town with lovely old buildings, and tea with her cousins, and friends of our family. Lots of birthday texts and messages which I’m very grateful for. And then how about this? We arrived at my girlfriend’s mum’s house were she lives, and the sweet mum had made me a birthday cake with candles and all! So three of them sung my happy birthday! What a moment. How lovely. And it was a delicious soft moist chocolate mud cake; anyone for cake for breakfast?