Monthly Archives: March 2014

2 fun day trips from Christchurch

In our recent post about Christchurch, we promised to share 2 great day trips – both involve a jaunt in the country. Although we drove to both towns, please be assured that there are regular tours and public transport options available.

JAUNT No 1 to Hanmer Springs takes about 2 hours and winds through all the usual beautiful Kiwi scenery and farmland… Even the cattle co-operated in our photo shoot!

Cattle in paddock

“All looking this way, please.”

This little town 130 kms northwest of Christchurch has been famous for its thermal waters for many years. I can thoroughly recommend the Thermal Pools and Spa as a great spot to relax. I gravitated straight to the rock pools and experienced all the varying degrees of luxurious heat. I was fascinated to learn that World War 1 veterans suffering from mental and nervous disorders were sent here for treatment and often made a full recovery – proof perhaps of the soothing effects of water and warmth?

We visited in November, so no skiing for us. However other local activities include jet boating, mountain biking, horse riding and of course the ubiquitous Kiwi bungy jumping. (No, we didn’t do that – my sister was a surgical nurse and I’ve heard quite enough about potential detached retinas to put me off the idea!)

Check out this lovely ‘townscape’ from the Hanmer Accommodation website.

Locals that we spoke with said that simply walking around the town and nearby forest trails is their particular joy. All in all, in spite of being such a popular tourist destination, Hanmer Springs has a happy and laid-back vibe with plenty of cafes and bars to enjoy lunch and/or a glass of wine.

JAUNT No. 2 is to Akaroa, about 1.5 hours south of Christchurch, with picture perfect historic cottages and all French street names. Why?! Read about the French legacy.

Akaroa 3

It is quite busy when cruise ships are at anchor in the bay, as their normal spot at Lyttleton Harbour was badly damaged during the Christchurch earthquakes. However there is a great choice of places to enjoy lunch – in fact, I can taste that seafood chowder and the chilled Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc right now!

Akaroa 5

Wandering the streets to walk off lunch was simply a photographer’s dream.

Akaroa 2Akaroa 1

We were sad that we just missed the French Fest, held annually to celebrate the anniversary of the settlement of Akaroa. Definitely must try to get back one October…

Do let us know your favourite small towns in New Zealand!


America’s most beautiful place…?

We did a little research for our trip from Western Australia to the USA in 2008. We found that Sedona in Arizona had been voted the most beautiful place in the USA. So we decided to visit while we were there.
A Sedona 5
Flying into Phoenix, we were transported by airport bus to the multi-story hire car terminal. Each floor housed a different Hire Car firm. Hertz was very helpful indeed, making suggestions about a change of vehicle choice when we advised where we were going. It cost no more than the car we originally intended to hire, but was certainly more suited to operate at the high altitudes where we wanted to go. A Pontiac GC GT! The car was fitted with a very handy GPS – we needed it! The car was very comfortable and possibly built in Australia!

A Sedona 7

We found the 8 lane highway out of Phoenix interesting to say the least… The speed limit was 75mph (120km/hour) and we several times were sandwiched between semi-trailers doing considerably more than the speed limit! As I say – interesting…

A Sedona 1

The local Visitor centre in the airport terminal in Phoenix was also helpful and suggested we take a little detour through the scenic towns of Prescott and Jerome on the way. Very good advice and really interesting places.
Jerome is around 6000feet above mean sea level and has a ‘Mile High Restaurant’. The town is built on the side of a mountain and seems to hang precariously above the valley 3000feet below… A former gold mining town it is now a real tourist oriented town. Some great souvenirs to be had here. Lots of Native American ornaments, T-shirts and gear.

Jerome 1

Mile high rest 1

We stayed at the very scenic Sky Ranch Lodge situated on a ridge above the town of Sedona with magnificent views across to the spectacular rock formations. The town airport is also situated on the ridge and was fairly busy while we were there. We were not disappointed. Sedona is indeed a very spectacular place. Sedona is a tourist mecca of sorts so there were on offer everything you needed, as well as scenery.

A Sedona 12

A Sedona 18

A Sedona 15

It is hard to imagine a town more scenically located.
What do you think?

Christchurch – still a lovely city…

You may have heard of Christchurch, a small city in the South Island of New Zealand which has been badly affected by earthquakes starting back in September 2010. We have visited this lovely place many times as my two brothers and their families live there, so we were well aware of the impact on local people.

However our visit in late November 2013 was our first chance to personally witness the devastation that had happened back in the major quake on 22 February 2011, and the impact that the eleven thousand smaller earthquakes since then have on every day life.

185 Empty White Chairs is an installation created by artist Peter Majendieto as a memorial to the 185 people who died that day. What a clever concept to convey such a sad message. I wept as we walked among the chairs, all painted white by volunteers. Everyday chairs, posh chairs, outdoor chairs, office chairs and stools were all there, but it was the wheelchair and the baby capsule that brought me undone. Sadly, many more people were badly injured that day as well, and are still struggling to regain their mental and physical health.

Chch 21

Even now, the city centre resembles those tragic photos that you see of European cities at the end of World War 2 hostilities in 1945. Although the rubble has been cleared away, there are many buildings that are uninhabitable and await demolition… Check out this restaurant, frozen in time from 3 years ago with broken crockery, glasses and shelving still in situ.

Chch 23

Out in suburbia, about 10 000 homes were destroyed or irreparably damaged. My family was “lucky” in that their homes were still habitable although all have needed extensive repairs. There are still many people waiting for repair work. Homes awaiting demolition perch precariously on hilltops, and the roads are protected from falling rocks with shipping containers filled with dirt and rubble.

CC photos 1

Our family described the complete lack of control as confronting. I get that. The quakes are not going to end any time soon, so each time there is a tremor they stop and wonder – Will it happen again? Is this the next big one?

In spite of all this, the city and its people are getting on with their lives and that Kiwi ingenuity is certainly creating some vibrancy and fun. We loved the creative outdoor bar and cafes created out of pallets, and the ‘shops in containers’. Kind of pop-up shops with a difference, and many locals hope that they will remain on site even when the city centre is rebuilt.

Chch 2CC photos 2

If you’re going to New Zealand, do yourself and the locals a favour and spend some time exploring Christchurch. It is still a great place to visit!

Have you been to Christchurch recently? What were your impressions?

Look out for our next blog – Two memorable day trips from Christchurch…


The fabulous emu!

A highlight of our travels is learning more about Australian flora and fauna, and the emu is just one fascinating example. It features prominently on the Australian ‘Coat of Arms’, and was apparently chosen along with the kangaroo as a symbol of Australia moving forward – especially given that neither animal can move backwards easily!
Their chick-rearing practices are different from many other bird species, and have earned the females a reputation for ‘shabby female behaviour‘!  The larger female bird takes the dominant role in selecting a partner and once the days start getting shorter in April, the pair mates each day or two. Mum lays an egg every 2nd or 3rd day in a large, low flat nest.
Then Dad becomes broody and loses interest in mating, even becoming aggressive towards Mum. So  she and her fellow females wisely wander off into the bush and leave all the dads to do what they do best!  The males are certainly dedicated to the task as they don’t move from the nest for the next 7-8 weeks until the chicks hatch. During this time Dad doesn’t eat or drink, just lives off his fat and any nearby dew on the grass. The only time he stands up is to turn the 10-20 eggs in the nest several times a day.
The chicks emerge mostly emerge in July and August, and Dad continues to raise the hatchlings to their maturity at 12-18 months.
Emus 2
Watching these tall flightless birds move in the wild with their feathers flouncing is a beautiful experience, and they regularly reach speeds up to 50 or more kms per hour.
In contrast, it is tragic to see so many end up as road kill, which we noted mostly in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia where they are so prolific.
Emu dad & chicks
Emus are also fond of swimming in fresh water or the sea – check them out cooling off at Monkey Mia recently.
We have heard some funny stories about their inquisitive nature – for example, poking their heads through your car window to say hello to your startled children!
Do you have a story to share?!

Living in a caravan – the power of reductionist theory

It is amazing how happy life can be in a small space once you simplify your ‘stuff’ and reduce it to what is really important. Our caravan is a baby 15 footer so every bit of space is used and I often return to a favourite book “The Not So Big House” for inspiration. Sarah Susanka’s concepts of design emphasise comfort, beauty and detail.  The basic rules we use are: 

  • group the items that you need to use together: boxes keep equipment together well rather than loose in drawers and means you have everything you need
    Hair gear group
  • keep the items you need every day nearby, and things needed occasionally further away (we love our under the bed storage!)
  • maximise wardrobe space with hanging storage compartments – they hold so many clothes especially if you roll them Storage 2
  • these $2.49 stacking boxes from Red Dot as they store a multitude of shapes and sizes Storage solution 1
  • a tiny ex perfume bottle holds one flower or interesting leaf from our walks and adds beauty to your home
    Mini vase
  • remember that a significant period of your time is spent outside so a tray is handy to move things between the two areas.

We liked the ideas from Gayle and Col in their Caravan Living blog about what they bought initially, plus what didn’t work and was given away. Hope you enjoyed our ideas – more to follow, and please let us know in the comments below how you maximise the space in your caravan…