A birthday in Byron Bay

From the Gold Coast we travelled down to Byron’s Bay. This is a small beachside town that is known for its laid-back approach to life and its alternative lifestyles and therapies.  This made it an excellent place for us to celebrate Joy’s birthday in a relaxed and laid-back atmosphere. 

It was named Byron Bay by Captain Cook who drew up the navigational maps for much of the Pacific in his three voyages around the world in the 18th Century.  Many of the names he used to define his early maps of the coast line are still in existence today.  Byron Bay for example,  was named after his Naval Office John Byron, who helped navigate and draw up the maps of Australia, New Zealand and many of the Pacific Islands.  He is the grandfather of the perhaps more famous, poet, Lord Byron.  

The weather was not exactly kind to us during our stay, so although we did visit the beach, the sky was ominous, and we had rain for most of our stay.

Beach

 

We stayed in a tree house, not exactly by design, but more to do with the quirky nature of the accommodation we chose. A tree house sounds romantic and of course if you look at the picture here, the room looks quite lovely.

Tree house

 The reality was an outside toilet and shower that were accessed via external stairs, that were not easy to negotiate during a heavy tropical storm which we had for the two nights we were there. It’s part of the ups and downs of travel, so you take the rough (and sometimes the very rough) with the smooth.

External stairs

We still managed to have a lovely day on Joy’s birthday.  She got a great card in the post, which certainly was apt, given where we were.

Joys Birthday

 In the evening we went to an all-vegan restaurant called The Beet, http://www.thebeet.com.au/ which served up delicious plant-based food. 

Vegan Feast

Although it’s the beach that everyone associates with Byron Bay, we decided to visit the Crystal Castle in the Hinterland.  It was up in the hills and offered spectacular views and probably the world’s most impressive crystal collection.    The sheer size and scale of many of the crystals was hard to fathom.  These Smoky Qartz Geodes are 5.5 metres tall. That is a lot of crystal!  

Crystal garden.jpg

 Below it is a beautiful Rose Quartz spiral in front of a Buddha Statue.  It was very serene to walk in that space.

Crystal spiral

One of the more far-out things we experienced  was a session on plant music.  A synthesizer was connected to different plants and then the most amazing gentle chimes were heard.  Apparently it varies according to the plant, which plants are nearby and whether they are in the mood to play.  I kid you not!  If you are interested, you can find out more here:   http://www.musicoftheplants.com/en/

Crystals are reputed to have many qualities, which vary depending on their mineral composition, bringing harmony and balance to our emotions and our physical body. We certainly felt very chilled by the time we left the place.  Definitely worth a visit if you are ever in the area.

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Brisbane to the Gold Coast

Brisbane sign

From the tropical paradise of Hamilton, we flew to Brisbane.  Although it is the third largest city by population, it has an easy going atmosphere and is very pleasant to walk around.  It was hot when we were here, at about 33c.  Brisbane is the gateway to the Sunshine Coast to the North and the Gold Coast to the south, but does not have any beach of its own.  However they do have a man-made beach on the South Bank of the river, which is a very good imitation when you can’t get out of the city.

Beach park

 The architecture here is a mixture of old and new.  This Brisbane Arcade is an Art Deco beauty and the imposing building below it was once the treasury, but is now ironically a treasury of a different sort, since it operates as a casino. 

Brisbane arcadeTreasury casino

One of the highlights was visiting the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary nearby.  It has been going for over 90 years and was one of the first set up in Australia to protect wildlife. We got to see more of the wonderful Koalas, who take cuteness to a whole new level.  How many can you spot in this group photo?

 

 

We were also able to get up close and personal with the Kangaroos.  Some had been born at the sanctuary, but many were rehabilitated after road accidents.  It’s distressing how many of these wonderful creatures you see as road kill as you drive around the country.

 

A nice touch was being able to feed the wild Rainbow Lorikeets in the afternoon.  Dishes of food were brought out and you just had to hold it up and they would flock over and land on the dish.  Here’s a  close up of this beautiful bird.

Lorakeet close up

 Some of the surprises were the Tasmanian Devil, who is a handsome chappie.

 

We also met the Wombat. He is a chunky fellow and hard to describe, but somewhere between a pig and a rat gets close to it. Unfortunately like so many of the native species he is very nearly extinct, the cause of which, as you can see from this very troubling sign is loss of their habitat over the years.

 

One of the other creatures we saw was a Cassowary.  This is a native bird, a bit like an Emu, but very different in habitat and behaviour.  It is also an endangered species with many threats, including feral pigs, dogs, cats and humans.  The bright blue head makes it very distinctive and it is a fearsome fighter if it finds itself or its young threatened.  The male bird incubates the eggs and then rears the chicks for another nine months. No glass ceiling in the Cassowary world!

Cassowary

 

 

We also found these little dragons walking around all over the sanctuary.  They are wild and can be found all around the area.  This little fella kindly posed by his sign, so we could find out all about him.

 Water Dragon

It was very sobering, meeting so many endangered species at the sanctuary and seeing the destructive effects of human settlement on the habitat and populations of some of these magnificent creatures that would have roamed this world for thousands of years before we came along.

 Next stop was the Gold Coast, which is a fabulous stretch of golden sandy beach.  It was torrential rain during our stay, so no swimming in the ocean for us on this occasion.  We got to walk around, got sand blasted by the powerful winds and found a fantastic vegan restaurant for lunch.  I was also pleased to see that they had named an Avenue in my honour.

Mary Ave

 

 

 Next stop Byron Bay.

 

 

The Great Ocean Road

They say that the Great Ocean Road is one of the sights not to be missed when you visit Australia, so we decided not to miss it.

Panaoramic

This was the last couple of days of our road trip from Adelaide, to reach Melbourne and they were right, this was an experience not to be missed.  There are many ocean roads around the world that are stunning, and we’ve been on quite a few, but this has to be right up there with the best.

Not because of the white knuckle ride around hair pin bends with steep cliff edges dangerously falling off into the wild ocean waves below.  There was a bit of that, but it was more for the breath-taking rock formations that are visible from designated stops. 

We were lucky that on our days the sky was cloudless, the sun was hot and the sea was a vibrant aquamarine colour.  This then is made even more dramatic as a backdrop when you set it against the sandstone formations jutting up from the sea bed, or stretching out from the shore.

There are so many little coves and hidden beaches that it’s hard to remember them all.  Each stop is even more stunning than the last.

BeachCove

 

The most iconic amongst them is the Twelve apostles and it is the one featured in many of the brochures for the Great Ocean Road. If you try to count them, you will find them coming up short.  Some have already crumbled and broken off and returned to the sea bed.  But for some reason the eight apostles does not have the same ring to it.

Twelve Apostles

 Twelve apostles other side

Talking of things falling down, one of the formations is called London Bridge.  True to the song, London Bridge has fallen down.  What used to be a double arch bridge, is now a little island with a single arch, separate from the mainland. The bridge fell down into the sea in the early 1990’s, but luckily no one was hurt. And although it is still called London Bridge, it is a bridge no longer.

London Bridge.jpg

Our final stop before reaching Melbourne was the lovely city of Geelong.  This is only an hour from Melbourne but still has a distinctive feel of its own.  It was here that we managed to have a fantastic lunch at an all vegan café called Dolly’s sister.  We also went to the waterfront to see the pier.

Geelong pier

 We could go on and on about this country and we have hardly seen any of it yet.  The wildlife and the birdlife is extraordinary and deserves its own blog post, but for now we wanted to share these cheeky chappies, that are wild, numerous and very bold.  Think of them like the seagulls that pinch your icecream at Brighton beach.  They are both a type of cockatoo.  The white one is known as a sulphur crested Cockatoo and the pink one’s are called Galahs.

 

We also saw these birds, always flying in pairs at a great height and we have not seen them in any towns or urban areas.  We think they are Carnabys Black Cockatoos, which are a large bird preferring agriculture or coastal regions.  

Pair of dark b irds

 

 Little man did not come out for the Great Ocean Road.  He said it was too hot. Next stop Melbourne.

 

 

Awesome Adelaide

We have now flown from New Zealand to Australia and our first stop is Adelaide. We have had three action packed days in this vibrant and exciting city.  This weekend there are three major events;  te Adelaide V8 Motor racing, the Adelaide Fringe Festival and the Adelaide Writers week, so there was certainly plenty for us to see and do. The city has a very welcoming feel to it.  We immediately felt at home and found it very easy to get around, both on foot and on the tram.

We are already finding our culinary choices have opened up enormously.  Happy days.  We had lunch at the two bit villians café in Adelaide Arcade and it was delicious.  It even included a Vegan Chocolate Sundae.  A very rare but enjoyable treat. The arcade itself is a very fine Victorian building which has been very well preserved.

 Adelaide Mall Group

 We headed to the Botanical gardens, which is a delight for the eyes with many trees that were completely new to us, as were the birds that we also encountered.  We have no idea what some of them are called, but perhaps some of you might.

Adelaide Bird GroupAdelaide Botanical Group 2Adeliade Botnaical Group 1

 This morning we headed to the beach, which is a flat, accessible, white sand haven.  Volley ball is obviously popular here as there were plenty of courts.  It was not too crowded, which might be usual, but we rather suspect had something to do with the cool breeze blowing.  It was not as warm as these pictures might suggest.

 

This evening we went to see the Parade of Light, a nightly show during the Fringe Festival, projected onto the city museum.  It was a cross between a light show and a film and was very mesmerizing to watch.  Here are a few of the pictures we captured.

 Adelaide lights 2Adelaide Lights 3Adeliade lights 1

We found another sign that made us chuckle.  I think the meaning may have got lost when they wrote this one out, but just to be clear, we didn’t try drinking the water!!

Sign Adelaide airport

 

 

We have really enjoyed a few days in one place, but tomorrow we go on the ocean road to Melbourne.  We look forward to sharing it with you.

 

 

Holy cow

From Rotorua, we traveled North towards Bay of Islands. On the way we stopped at Morrinstown. Up until a few years ago, there really wasn’t much reason to visit this farming town.

But then they hit on the idea of having artists paint some cows and installing them around the town. There are 42 in total dotted around. And then there’s one very cheeky cow who hangs around on the corner.

It’s a bit similar to the Cotswolds Hare Festival, which always has some fabulous designs. Here’s a couple from last year.

After Morrinstown, we headed up to Pakira, just north of Auckland. We stayed in a holiday chalet right on the beach. A storm came in that night, so we had high winds and lots of rain. And believe me, you hear every drop in a tin hut.

The next day we drove 3 hours to Paihia( prounounced pie here!). This is at the heart of Bay of Islands. Here is just a few of the 144 that exist. It’s also the place where the controversial treaty was signed between Maori and the British in 1840. Controversial because the Maori chiefs didn’t not fully appreciate they were signing over to British sovereignty. Another bleak moment in empire building.

We also visited a fantastic glow worm cave. You’ll have to take our word for it, as no photos were allowed, but you can imagine that photographing the little critters would be very difficult. They were like watching the night sky. But here’s some of the wonderful rock formations on the land.

On the way back to Auckland, we stopped at Whangarai (prounounced fang a rye), which is a lovely little harbor town. They have a great clock museum and we liked this quirky little art installation.

Next stop Adelaide.

Little man has popped up once for the eagle eyed among you.

Our final few adventures on the South Island

We continued to explore the West Coast of the South Island, by driving from Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier.

We have already used up all of the superlatives in the dictionary, describing this amazing land, but we  really wish we had some more to draw upon.

The drive itself (about 5 hours) has to be one of the most scenic routes in the World.  That’s quite a claim, but we went through so many different landscapes it was hard to believe. We started off through lakelands, mountains, then sea shore and tropical forest, before arriving at the Glacier. It was extraordinary.

As the weather was not with us, you’ll have to take my word for it, for the most part.  Here’s the Arrowtown, a historic town near Queenstown and one of the beaches on our way to Franz Josef.

 ArrowtownBeach on way to Franz Josef

 

We also spotted some of the rarer native birds in their habitats.  The first is the NZ wood pigeon, the Kereru which is about three times the size of our native birds. Honestly, it was a wonder the branch could hold these two up!

Wood pigeon

 

The other cheeky chappy, just walking around the car park is the Kaka, a member of the parrot family. He seemed completely unfazed by the traffic and the people.  Many of the cafe’s nearby have signs saying keep an eye on your food as there will be no replacements if a Kaka steals it.  Sounds very like the Seagulls on Brighton Beach.

 

 

kaka franz josef 

At the end of our 5 hour trip, we arrived at Franz Josef Glacier.  This was a most extraordinary sight, and one that the pictures cannot really convey. It is like a frozen waterfall coming over the top of the mountain.  It’s the cold mountain air and the warm air from the sea meeting on the mountain face that creates this effect.  The perpetual glacier has probably had a presence for thousands of years, but the glacial face has receded at least 30 metres over the last 150 years.  An impact of global warning?  We simply do not know.

 Glacier 1Glacier 2

 

 

We continued our journey through Arthur’s Pass the following day which took us back to Christchurch airport.  It is an epic journey and we are so pleased that we got to enjoy the mountain views.

 Arthurs pass

Next adventures will be on the North Island.    

Kauai’s delights

After the wonderful experiences we had on Maui, we did not know if it’s little sister Kauai would live up to expectations.  I had visited both islands over 25 years ago and I remember enjoying Kauai more, but would it live up to expectations second time around?

It’s hard to describe the feel of the islands, but they are all different.  Where as Maui is called the Valley Isle, Kauai is known as the garden isle.  Maui just felt a bit bigger, a bit more resorty in comparison to Kauai, which is just as beautiful, but a bit quieter.

We started by visiting the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’ which is just as impressive as it sounds.  Over 3,000 feet above sea level, which stunning ravines that lead all the way down to the Ocean.  We were lucky with the weather and managed to get a clear view.

 Next we visited the many beaches on the south side of the Island.  The one that gave us far more than we could have anticipated was Poipu beach, a favourite for snorkelers. I was able to see such an array of tropical fish that I lost count.  I did not have an underwater camera, but here are a few of the fish that I was able to swim amongst that day. Parrot fish, Trigger fish, Wrasses, Butterfly fish, and xxx that I have been able to identify. The pictures are from others, I just wanted to share how amazing they looked.

 

 

So we had already have a very special day, that didn’t feel like it could get much better when we saw a bit of excitement going on further down the beach.  It was being cordoned off to allow a huge sea turtle and a monk seal to rest.  They both just lay there quietly a few feet from each other, whilst we were all taking pictures from a safe distance. It was an amazing sight to see.

 

Both species are protected, after being hunted to near extinction and their numbers are steadily growing. The sea turtle has only a 1% chance of reaching maturity, so it seem like a miracle seeing one that is well into its middle years judging by its size.  Apparently they can live for up to 100 years.

The Hawaiian Monk Seal is native to the islands and endangered.  There are approximately 1500 surviving so it was a pretty special sight to see one just in front of us.  He  was a male of about 5 – 7 years old according to the conservationist volunteer, only lifted his head from time to time, but otherwise stayed quiet and still on the beach.  

Both bask on the beach to rest in between hunting.  It might be only an hour, or it might be a day, depending on how much they need to recuperate. Simply amazing.

The wild hens and cocks are everywhere and many were on the beach that day, which tickled me no end.  They seem to be in as good a shape, if not better than any that I have seen ‘tended’ in the farmyard back home.

The next day we explored the north island felt quieter and the beaches were no less stunning.  The landscape here felt lush and more like tropical rain forests.

 The Ha’ena beach is the end of the line, with the rest of the North East of the island being mountainous with no major roadways. The beach was no less stunning than Poipu, but not ideal for swimming as it has a steep dip from the beach and the waves were quite high.  We watched it for quite a time and took many pictures, as it was quite mesmerizing to watch.

Our food choices were not too bad here.  We had breakfast from EatHealthy Café, only down the road from our hotel and fully Vegan.  We also managed to get dishes from the local Grill on the hotel premises, so a thumbs up for having alternatives for us. There was also an excellent coffee place called Imua coffee.

After a quick overnight stop in in Honolulu before flying onward to New Zealand.  Although we will be sorry to leave these shores, we rather suspect we will be back at some point.  

Aloha from Hawaii.

We forgot to book little man a seat, so we hope he can hang on for the long flight ahead.