So, Australia! Well, we had it on our list for family visits,  but otherwise I couldn’t muster much enthusiasm. Baking heat, bevies of snakes and spiders waiting to crawl into your tent. Met with a warm welcome in Sydney, we began the last leg of our journey. Geoff had booked the smallest hire car possible. The kindly lady at the hire desk peered over at our huge bags and sucking her teeth, suggested we might like to hire a car which would allow the children to travel without carrying half the luggage on their laps. We ended up with a smooth 4×4. Cranking on the air con, we set off. After a little difficulty with the blinding lack of signage, and a couple of trundles around the airport, we finally made it to Lolo’s.  The beaches here, and the plants,  have a much more tropical feel, and we recognised a lot which grow in Seychelles. We swam, ate and visited, all enhanced by being with family. Orlando even got a massive thunder lightning storm for his birthday! Beginning to get a taster of the huge variety of bird life with some rainbow chappies, a couple of ‘nigels’ and the beautiful kookaburra. We then head off down princes highway. We loved the drive through the bush. Such a difference from anything else. Brilliant blue skie’s,  brilliant blue sea and the smell of warm eucalyptus. We stop off at some pretty sea pools. At Mikes suggestion, we turn off towards Jindabyne. First very cold night for a while. Jumpers on! I suppose this is one of Australia’s skiing areas!  We stay one night in a doc style campsite. Not as private as the nz ones, we share with a goodish crowd including a big school group! Any wildlife we were hoping to see would have been sensibly in their dens. We do go on a wombat hunt, every bit of warm clothing coming out! We spot lots of wombat holes, but no sign of life. They have a happy hunt with their torches though! Orlando and I try for a sight of the elusive platypus,  but no luck. Geoff and I really enjoyed all the driving here. Beautiful bush. The three agreed it was OK,  but once you’ve seen a bush, you’ve pretty much seen them all. We agreed they wouldn’t have to gaze out, enthralled, and could pass the time with ds or famous 5 if they concentrated enthusiastically on the especially good bits. This worked well for all, and we passed many a happy hour in ‘bob’ the 4×4. ‘Many an hour’ is right, as we soon discovered that the chappy who superimposed the map of Europe onto the map of Australia wasn’t making a humerous joke. This place actually is huge. After a long days drive on our way to Wilson prom,  we come across my least fav campsite of all time. Alongside 90 mile beach  (yes, there is one here too) there is a thin strip of bush between the dusty road and the beach. It was getting dark, and Geoff had located some free camping spots along this bush bit. A squalid, dusty, charcoal, glass and bottle tops infested area with the most fetid long drop I have come across so far (we have come across a lot). I couldn’t use it it was so foul. Luckily it was just for the night. Unluckily, everyone, tent and car got covered in black. I blamed Geoff, but for some reason the three disagreed, arguing that he could not possibly have fortold such filth. We moved on swiftly in the morning. The day went quickly from 11 degrees to hot. Friendly faces awaited us, and much fun was had by all! Surfing, swimming, beach rugby and wombat hunts were highlights. Toton Willie has a gift for spotting wildlife, and he led the trio on many a forage through the bush. My bleats about the lurking deadly snakes were brushed aside airily, and many a snuffling wombat was happily tracked down and goggled at. Despite the sweeping statement that the snakes are afraid of us, there were plenty too many sightings for my liking. A lady in the campsite spotted a snake slither into the bit of bush Will and the trio were in the middle of examining. We missed seeing a Tiger Snake by a whisker, and Rio nearly stepped on what he and Tatie Jess say was an Eastern Brown Snake, and Toton Ricky says was something else. As Tatie Jess is a local, and the EBS is pretty deadly, therefore making it a much more desirable sighting, we are disregarding Rickys say, and going with the popular choice! We have been lucky enough to see so many animals in their wilderness. Kangaroos with joey’s. Kualas, Emus, Wallabies, Wombats, a snake and a huge variety of birds.  Our last trip was to the platypus sanctuary where we were charmed by the playful platypus, and also saw Dingo, Tasmanian Devil, Echidna and also tiger snake. However, I digress,  and have left out our tent story. We purposely bought an insect/snake/other nasties secure tent. The first few night we spent in it were great! Until we got to the prom. After a beautiful day to start with, Will organised a little wind to spice things up. This was doing a nice job of whipping up the dust. The dust was nice and fine, so it got into everything, including through the handy insect net that the inside of the tent is made of. Our first night had been fine until we woke up in the morning and Geoff discovered a biggish tear in the netting. He had the crust to suggest that I had done it while moving the tent to a flatter spor.  After a luttle investigation, it became clear that a wombat had torn it in his excitement at the possibility of a food stash. It had obviously been a particularly dim fellow, as the tent was new, and no food had passed it’s zip. The only conclusion was that there had once been food on the camp spot. We didn’t fancy moving the tent in the gale force winds, so we left it. And so followed a restless night. The tent was blown this way and that by the gusts. Every time the outer flap lifted,  a sandstorm blew in and settled on sleeping faces. Well, three sleeping faces. I was twitching and poking Geoff. Weird noises coming from all around, I almost missued the tearing sound. Old womby was back. Another big tear.  No chance of sleep. I toss and turn, dusting the trios faces and eventually we give up, post the happily oblivious 3 into ‘bob’, bundle up the tent, dust and all, and squash in for a last car night. Geoffs back hasn’t been the same since. A huge warm welcome from jess family in Nilma, we had a lovely couple of days. The rest of the trip passes in a whirl of adventures with spectacular walks in the grampions,  some first class accommodation, plenty of werewolf, animals and family fun. We loved Melbourne, and Australia, and are looking forward to exploring a bit of the outback next time! Our adventure couldn’t end without a bit of stress. I packed the bags. I packed and repacked. When they pulled out Elodies bag I assumed it was a lip balm. Imagine the dismay when the lady pulls out e”s diary, and out of the ring binding slides her gold, bullet shaped pen knife…….. the lower lip wobbles. Little tears start  to form. I steel myself and ask the lady if I can take the knife back out and post it. Amazingly she agrees!  Leaving the 3 and paps waiting under the sign saying any weapons in hand baggage will encute a $10 000 fine, i leg it out, buy a card, find a post box and post it to tonton Willie!  I leg it back to find three tearful faces and one sweaty one looking out for me. It turns out the same lady found Rios extra large penknife secreted somewhere in the depths of his bag. What’s a mama to do? I located another security guard. Not the same one. Too cringing. Again, amazingly they handed back the knife and I legged it out again and repeated the whole sweaty, twitchy process. Geoff by this time is looking green around the edges. Worth all the stress as three huge smiles and thumbs up greet my as I come through my third bomb scan (the random picking system picked me out each time!) We made it on the plane. Not ‘just’ but close enough for Geoff to still be twitching slightly on our second flight. Poor paps. And so end our adventure in Oz.

The end of nz

We post up some ads for Pearl and wait for the calls to flod in. And wait. I know every man and his dog us trying to sell their car here, but Pearl is great! Surely everyone can see that! Apparently not. Geoff (and I actually ) are getting a trifle twitchy after two days of nothing. We visit the botanical gardens and the huge plaground as well as the remains of the old cathedral and the new ‘cardboard cathedral’. Personally, though I didn’t mention it to anyone, I thought the cardboard one was much better! Light and airy, with bright, beautiful windows and light, welcoming colours inside. This God chappy,  if he (or she for that matter) happens to be around, would be well pleased with this new, lightfilled offering. So, after listening to a spot of yodelling inside, we head back to the playground to twitch a bit more. Geoff phones a couple of ‘butyourcarforcash’ places. They inform him, in sorrowful, apologetic voices that that car like that would be hard to give away, but they could take it as a personal favour. Geoff is pacing up and down now. He’s become quite fond of Pearl. We decide to slash the price. This results in one call. We hotfoot it back to one of the hostels to show this chap the car. He seemed a little surprised that my name wasn’t gingercarotte on the phone, and came towards me clutching our ad. I reintroduced myself, and he took a cautionary step back, pointing at the ad.  ‘But it says gingercarotte here’ he says. I agree that it does indeed, but that that is my e-mail, and looking at the ad I laugh heartily and explain that I have forgotten to put my name on it. This does not appear to reassure him. ‘ oh yea? ‘ he says. This does not sound as hardbitten as it does with the English accent. It is softer with the new Zealand slant, but he edges away non the less. I slide into the sideline and Geoff takes over. The chap seems much more at ease with now, and shuffles around the car saying ‘oh yea?’ At intervals. We hang around the hostel, crisping up nicely in the midday heat while pearl is taken on a test drive. An age passes and pearl reappears looking a bit green round the gills. Geoff totters out. An indifferent driver it would seem! A longish saga follows involving the following: interest show (though we all agreed he played his cards close to his chest. Main vocabulary being ‘oh yea?’) He gave us his driving license as security and agreed to come to the campsite for a second look. However, upon our return to the campsite we found he had left our contact details in the car. Geoff leaves them at reception at the hostel and we wait. No sign next morning at 9. We hang around until 11.30, by which time we are all twitchy as no one else seems to be jumping about in excitement to buy pearl….we head off to look for the chappy.  He’s gone out. Get back to campsite to find a note saying he overslept and will come this evening. The long story wears on, but it concludes in a trip to the bank (which involved the chap having temporarily lost his card and the cash machine breaking down, all of this doing a power of good to Geoffs nerves). We celebrate, after a sad goodbye with huge ice creams and a yummy feast each. R had roast,  G had teriyaki, I had rahman and E had mac!  And so ends our New Zealand adventure.

Last leg

I forgot to mention the Maoraki Boulders in the last post. Amazing nature! Perfect spheres on a small section of beach. An enterprising chappy has set up a cafe and asks people to pay to go down onto the beach to see the Boulders. Needless to say we park in the car park down the road and walk along the beach. Apparently he has no right to charge, but who can blame him? Hoards of tourists tramping through all day. Easy money! The 3 really liked the boulders, and we spent a while wondering around.

 So, after Wanaka, which we are sad to leave, we stop and gave a quick swim in Lake Hawea. Hot hot hot, and the water is translucent with beautiful pebbles at the bottom. Blissful. We wallow around for a bit, disturbing the peace of the two vans resting by the waters edge. Pleasant flats DOC campsite was avarice.  Rio and Elodie saw a Tui very close up, which they were very pleased with. The next day we stop for lunch at Lake Paringa. Boiling up bean squelch for lunch on the good old gas stove while the 3 jump around in the water. I am so glad that the story of the biting eels was told to me after all my delightful lake swims. It would have really put a crimp in my enjoyment. Otto /McDonald DOC is our resting place for the night. Not many sandflies and another luscious lake, Lake Mapourika. It’s so warm we stay in for ages, enjoying the setting sun and glistening water. The end of the trip is making itself felt now. We push on to Hokitika. Probably our favourite town. We find a lovely little campsite with the friendliest owners. After the tent goes up, we head to the beach. As this is Jade country, we all try and find a piece. Not as easy as you would think. Plenty of beautiful stones, but no jade! We get some chips from Porkys and head down to the beach for lunch. They all strip off and charge in, jumping around. Until a local comes over and says jumping is fine, but swimming not advisable. Too much undercurrent. Shame. The sea looks inviting. We finish the chips, fending off the gulls, who can spot a chip a mile away, and head back in time for eels feeding. The owners have a pond with eels in. Not the small, decent sized eels that Grandpa used to catch,  but big bottom dwelling beasts. They rise up out of the mud and snatch the piece of frankfurter on a stick which the children wave around the surface of the pond.  Much squeaking and excitement when one energetic eel launches itself 3 or 4 inches out of the water to grab the meat before one of his brethren. They also have a goat, (billy) a sheep (xenia), rabbits, Guinea pigs, cats, dogs, a bird of some kind. Xenia escapes, and we spend a good while charging about trying to catch her! Can’t run for laughing. I’ve never seen a sheep gallop before! I catch her eventually with the tried and tested method of the held out hand. She gives me a pained look as I manhandle her back to her pen. Billy, who had been pitiously bleating, ceases to complain,  and cavorts about a bit. Xenia ignores him, still feeling disgruntled. Geoff gave me Jade carving for christmas.  We looked into it for the 3, but they decided they wanted to collect a stone from the beach and Polish that instead. Great fun collecting them, and they are beautiful. I select a piece of jade and get stuck in. Great experience! Really interesting and though it took me all day, I could have done two or three more days work on it just smoothing it. Very please with my pendent. Geoff is on top of the weather, and books a caravan for the last night. Wet and windy sounds good from the cosy comfort of the van! The tail edge of a cyclone is on its easy to the west coast. We pack ourselves in as the rain us whipped about by the howling wind. For reasons best known to myself, I persuade Geoff to drive back to the beach to find a particular stone I saw yesterday but didn’t pick up….. it’s absolutely howling, and O and I brave the elements and run down to the seafront. The sea is an absolutely roaring mass! The wind is so strong I can barely push against it. With the wind blasting sand and rain in my face, i see its a futile mission. We dive back into the car, soaked. Geoff has the grace not to say anything! Onwards towards Arthur Pass. There are trees down, and a few across the road. Most we wiggle around,  and one is just being moved by drivers. The trees all around are being tested to their limits, and leaves are flying everywhere. We push on up the pass. We hear later that it was closed, so we must have got there just in time. The whole east coast is being battered. We come in and out of the storm as we drive inland. We stop for a quick bite to eat, but no one is very keen to hang around as the lake is having trouble staying grounded, and the trees are swaying around like overcooked broccoli. Our main aims on the pass were to enjoy the beautiful scenery and see a kea. Failure all round. The scenery was windswept and bleak. What we could see of it anyway, and any self respecting Kea would have been tucked up in bed. We made it through to Christchurch. The weather got better and better, and we settled into our cabin in the sushine. Appart from squashing our  stuff in the required bag limit for Jetstar, our main job is to sell Pearl.


The last of New Zealand has been a bit if a wild swimming holiday. A longish drive to Lake Tekapo. We remembered wild camping by the lake last time we were here. We didn’t swim though, not sure why. Absolutely stunning blue! Extraordinarily windy though. We park up, take a photo of the stone church and onwards to a fairly rubbish campsite on the edge of the lakey.  It’s windy and chilly, but we still go for a dip!  The coldest of all the lakes! Onwards the next day, having little desire to stay somewhere where we had to tie the tent to the car to stop it blowing away! Lake Ohau DOC site is basic, consisting of one toilet. On the plus side, it’s free! It’s raining and stuffy in the car. We pull up under a tree and I wind the window down for fresh air. I wind it back up smartish when a swarm of sand flies charge in at the smell of fresh meat. Everyone snipes at everyone, wondering who’s clever idea it was to come here. However? The fact that’s it’s free wins the day, and we brave the nasty nibbles and put up the tent in record time, the 3 diving into the insect proof inner compartment like homing rabbits. We do give the sand flies a chance at a meal while we skim a few stones on the clear lake, and have a quick dip. Beautiful as it is, we push on early next morning. It’s rained a lot, the tent is soggy, our towels are soggy, we are soggy and itchy. Not a cabin to be found. Resigning ourselves to another sogg fest tonight. Herbert Forest doesn’t disappoint, with constant heavy drizzle and dripping trees all around. Sigh. Small bonus is there are alpacas in the field. We go and look at them for a bit, get wet, then bed. The tent is so wet we have to wring it out before putting it in the bag. We are both scratchy. The 3 seem not to notice, and continue their loud games. Dense fog and rain nearly all the way to Dunedin. Then suddenly, as we come over the hill, we cone out of the mist and into Dunedin, bathed in wonderful sunshine!  Sprites lift at once, and contin ye on up as we visit a special cheese store and I leave clutching a prime piece of toothsomness. We have two nights in the tent (which dries out nicely) and two in a cabin. The scooby doo cabin! We watched a friend the children made surf. Walked up (and down) the steepest street. Saw some sealions and visited the albatross centre where we had the biggest, tastiest coffee and hot chocolates. We enjoyed Dunedin. Onwards through the fruit valley, or central otago. Plenty fruit to be had, and we gorged on cherries,  apricots,  nectarines and blueberries. Delicious. I presume most of it gets shipped abroad as the stuff in the supermarkets is a smaller, less tasty version. Nearing Queenstown, and getting weary,  we stumble upon lake  Dunston. Another free doc!  Too windy for the tent so we take a vote. Before we’ve finished voting,  Rio has put a blanket up as a dividing curtain and the 3 start to build a nest in the back. Another night in Pearl! The site is heaving with young backpackers. I am concious of how loud we are! A pleasent swim with no sandflies! The swims are getting better and better! Haven’t had a shower for a while! On our way to queenstown we stop off for r o and paps to do a zip wire! Much fun was had, and e enjoyed taking photos. We look at the loons doing the bungy! O is tempted. Onwards and a night in Queenstown by the lake. The water is warm, clear and enticing. We all swim and paddle around. Lake Wanaka is even better. Pebble beach with beautiful clear, deep water. Glorious temperature. The 3 dive around like duck and we stay 2 night purely for the lake. Geoff remembers the puzzling world and we take the 3 there one morning. We enter the cafe which had loads of puzzles for the dense public to solve. It was almost as much fun watching overtone else failing to solve them as failing yourself!! They love it and we fiddle away for hours. The illusion exhibition is great, and then the maze. By this tme its blisteringly hot. The maze is made of wood, and is in a ‘c’ shape around the cafe and shop. We enter the entry gate and find outselves on and nd hot dusty path serounded by high epidemic fences. R and O insist on doing it on their own and instantly disappear. Geoff wonders off which leaves E and me. She makes the best of it and we strundle off. It’s a two story maze with bridges as well. The idea is to find the four corners and then find the exit. Ther are emergency exits for cravan worms to use (we would not dream of using such chiseling means) which we ignore. We find the yellow corner easily and congratulate ourselves. E going so far as to say this is easy.  It goes down hill from then on. You would think one could see the route from the bridges, but no. The designers have for seen this and made the maze so convelutedly twisty, with a gazillion dead ends. We are wilting, trudging along. From one bridge we see O in the centre. He’s finished and wondering what on earth we are doing. We occasionally meet R or paps along our dusty trudge. Rio is running, and e is wondering why we aren’t running, to make it go faster. I explain that we are red faced and sweltering hot already, but she stomps off, muttering under her breath. As the long day wears on, and we have only managed to find two of the four corners, both e and I start to feel a little fractious, sniping about which way we’ve already been. Amazing how what was a dead end turns into an interesting path on the tenth visit. We are vermilion now, but will be use the emergency exits? No no, not us! O has counted to 4000 in the middle, and is now telling someone his life story. The details are too sweaty and grouchy, but eventually  (60 mins- ha!) We stagger out just behind r and paps,  who team up towards the end. I see a lady saying to her son ‘this could take us up to an hour’ I laugh hollowly. We are all relieved to have a rafreshing dip in the lake.
  1. Haha I like he maze story!

In the midlands

Geoff has booked ahead for Hamner Springs as the forecast is wet! Blissful to slide into a dry cabin and listen to the rain on the roof!  There is nothing I hate more than sitting in a soggy tent. Hamner Springs centres around thermal pools, and we head over in the morning, squelch over from the car park and hand over a largish sum of money plus extra for the slides (boys only. E and I opt out). It rains all day. Non stop.  I feel sorry for the lifeguards under their umbrellas. We don’t mind a bit! Great way to spend a wet, grey day. The pools are hot (I can’t imagine enjoying the 40° pool in the sunshine!) everyone us wet anyway, and no one gets burnt! The weather looks a bit bleak for the next few days, and after a bit of debating, we hunt for a cabin on the route. Fairly few and far between. In fact, the only one available is in lesser known Methven. Turns out to be a piece of good luck!  Lovely campsite,  chatty owner, pool,darts and a tv in the cabin! When I tell you we had time to watch one lord of the rings film, jerassic world, garfield and a documentary on cats, interspersed with Paddington 2, Ferdinand (E, O and me) and Jamanji (R and Paps) at the tiny weeny cinema in town, games of dart’s and pool, you will have an idea of how much it rained! We managed to squeeze in a lotrs film location as well. Can you guess? We sadly say goodbye to our cabin and head onwards.


Driving down the coast, we saw plenty of land slide damage from the earthquake. The road has only just been reopened. Lucky as the alternative route takes 6hrs instead of 2.  We find a sheltered spot in the campsite and head off to look at the wildlife tours on offer. Christmas presents! We book a Whale watching tour and a Dolphin watching tour. Swimming with the dolphins is fully booked. We get on the waiting list. Much excitement from the three! Animals they have only seen before! Sunday is free so we head off to see the seal colony. We see one seal very close up, but compared to Cape Palliser,  it’s a bit of a damp squib. We walk in the hopes of finding more seals, but it’s pretty hot and the three are beginning to bleat a bit when the phone rings. We can swim with the Dolphins today!! Only one hour to go! Much rejoicing, and we charge back to the car, dive in and Geoff suggests we head back to the campsite and make sandwiches. We all look at him witheringly and point out the lack of time. He grudgingly agrees it might be a bit tight. Luckily the local chip shop is open!  Amidst much cheering, we get two massive bags of chips. 15 mins to eat them!  Not problem. They are polished off in no time. The seagulls are pretty interested, and one sits on the bonnet and looks longingly through the windscreen. He guards hus prime spot tirelessly, and we reward him with a chip! It’s all we can spare. The 3 gannets have polished the paper clean! With 3 minutes to spare we bundle into the ‘encounters ‘ site. After a bit of faffing and squeazing ourselves into wetsuits, watching the safety video ect, we are off! A short bus ride to the boat and out to sea! We manage to nab the upper deck, and it’s spectacular. Riding over the waves and looking for the dolphins. We spot some Hector Dolphins. Two of them. Small and rare! They are exiting enough, but nothing compared to the pod of Dusky Dolphins! Loads of them jumping and gliding past the boat! What a sight! All the swimmers sit on the end of the boat and await the horn blast and jump in! O and R were pretty brave as it was a bit scary. The water was cloudy so visibility not great, but they swam so close, and r and I saw them underwater on the first two swims, and I got a good look on the last swim. Epic adventure! All buzzing with joy. What happy, playful creatures.  R feels a bit queasy on the way back but us revived by the hot chocolate and biscuits! Elodue does justice to the biscuits and we head back. We are lucky enough to see an Albatross sitting on the water on the way back. Magnificent bird. Our next trip is the Whale watch. Much bigger boat this time, and bigger waves. The Maori captain speeds out, jumping and diving over the waves! We have to head out a long way, but the boat trip is such an exiting ride we hardly notice the time. R is obviously prone to seasickness and starts to look a bit green. Lots of people looking green. One chap avails himself of the good old paper bag. We are all scanning the horizon and the crew are using some sort of gentle sound device to listen to the Whales. They can’t use anything which interfere’s with the whales. When a whale comes to the surface there us a 10 minute window before he dives. Our captain gets a plane message saying there is a sperm whale on the surface. We speed over, and after a highly undignified scramble fir the outer deck (I manage to push rio up the stairs too hard and give him and nive bruise! ) luckily I was pushy and we got and good look at the majestic animal as he takes his last couple of breaths and dives back under, flipping his tail up in farewell. So amazing. No one can quite believe we saw a real wild whale! Kaikoura high up on the favourites list!