Madeiran Magic

We’ve spent a week on the beautiful Island of Madeira.  It’s somewhere we’ve been to many times, but still each visit brings something new.  The island is a province of Portugal, but it is actually much closer to North Africa.   It has a rich heritage and a very interesting geology as a volcanic island.  It is very mountainous with several peaks over 1800m above sea level, making for striking peaks, ravines and valleys. 

One of the things that does immediately hit the senses is the vibrant range of colours of the many plants and flowers.  The mineral rich soil of the island produces an abundance of fruit, vegetables and flowers.  However it has come at the back breaking expense of the many generations that toiled to dig the terraces and the Levadas (the irrigation system drawn from the North side of the island to the South) to create enough flat land to cultivate.  Even today the work is manual, with no farm machinery able to access the high and narrow terraces.

Another highlight of the week was going Dolphin spotting.  We used a small but highly recommended company called H20 and we were not disappointed. During our 2 hour journey we saw Bottlenose, Striped and Spotted Dolphins.  All very different in size and character.  We got some lovely close encounters and it was especially adorable seeing the babies.   My pictures are a bit fuzzy, so this is from H20 themselves, who take a collection of photos from each trip.

Courtesy of H2O Madeira

Funchal is the capital of Madeira, famed for its wine, it’s tiled streets and for being the birthplace of Cristiano Ronaldo.  It’s a small town to navigate and has some lovely little squares and cobble streets to explore.


We found a Vegan restaurant near the centre called Coarcao Vegan (or Vegan Heart on Google Maps) The Teriyaki ‘Chicken’ is highly recommended and the Falafal salad or the soup.  Other meals, whilst delicious were mostly deep fried, so whilst tasty, were not exactly healthy.

No trip to Funchal is complete without the coffee stop at the Grand Café – Golden Gate.  It was closed when we last visited Madeira for refurbishment, but its certainly looking great with the new facelift.  It’s the best terrace for people watching in the centre and the coffee is excellent.

We always enjoy our time here and look forward to coming back again some time.








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.


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.



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.



Waimate Workaway

We’ve been a bit quiet over the last few days as we have been busy working away at Jimmy and Mary’s place in Waimate (pronounced Why Mat-ee). The area between Christchurch and Waimate is quite flat and full of pasture and agriculture, so it reminded us a lot of Ireland.

The work so far has been general gardening (lots more weeding😊) and house painting.  The weather has been a bit cooler than we might expected, at around 16 – 18c with some cold and breezy days.  Not much need for shorts yet.

The town of Waimate is small and quiet with most shops closing at around 4pm.  It’s most famous claim to fame perhaps is that it had the first shopping arcade in New Zealand. Now a derelict building, you can see that it once would have been a grand affair.

We have been enjoying getting to know our fellow ‘Workaways’, enjoying time with our hosts and playing lots of card and board games.  There are quite a few musicians in the house, so we’ve been treated to a few impromptu Ceili’s. The house is situated at the foot of mountains with some sheep grazing opposite.  Very peaceful and pleasant.


Today we have a day off so we have taken in an inland tour of the lakes.  Here is Lake Tekapo.  The Collie is a monument to the dogs that helped the early settlers to graze sheep on this open and mountainous landscape.



This ended up being a great stopping stop for launch at The Tin Plate  which served Gluten free Vegan pizza.  Happy days!



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.








Maui Delights

We have enjoyed the last four days on the beautiful Hawaiian island of Maui.  This is often called the Valley Isle and its very easy to see why, as you drive around. Maui is a relatively small island, only 48 miles by 26 miles, yet still offers many contrasts in landscapes and eco-systems.  It also grows an abundance of crops including Pineapple, Bananas, Papaya, Guava, Coffee, Macadamia (& other) nuts, Cacao and about as many kinds of trees, herbs, perennials that you can imagine.

Inland, the landscape is mainly mountains, forests and deep riven valleys, as well as the Crater from its Volcanic past.  There are plenty of rich agricultural fields and some grazing for cattle and horses. As you come to the coast, you get to see what Maui is famed for, some of the Worlds best beaches.  Powder white sand, clear blue skies and stunning views in every direction.

Although it is technically possible to drive around the entire island, there are parts that are so hazardous that car hire insurance is invalidated if you do go on the more precarious routes. We decided to stay safe and stick to the main highways.

As well as the beaches, visitors come for the Golf and it seems you can hardly go a mile or two without seeing a course. The second reason, certainly during the winter is to see the majestic Humpback Whale that migrates from Alaska during the Winter Months to the sheltered shallow seas whilst they mate and bring up their young.  More on our Whale watching tomorrow.

We also visited a plantation, took in the beautiful scenery, but mostly we just chilled on the beach.  Even little man enjoyed himself.


Following a vegan diet whilst travelling has its challenges, but the Hawaiian islands have been fairly kind.  The Japanese influence means that Vegetarian Sushi, Tofu and Rice dishes are in plentiful supply. We also found a fantastic wholefood store called Mana Foods in a little town called Paia which supplied us with the best Vegan and gluten free alternatives ever.  They beat the national US chain Wholefoods, hands down.  We particularly enjoyed the Gingerbread Cupcake.  If only I could get the recipe!

Next stop Kauai.