Friday 21st March - Bondi Beach
A fabulous hot sunny day with hardly a cloud in the sky.
Caught the train to Bondi Junction then the bus from there
to Bondi Beach. Spent some time sunbathing and swimming, though
the waves were even larger than at Manly on Wednesday hence
it was more of a wave-dodging exercise than swimming! Walked
around Mackenzies Point to Tamarama Beach then Bronte Beach.
All along this beautiful cliff-top path there were stunning
views of the huge waves crashing against the rocks, with the
sea appearing to be a mixture of pure greens and deep blues.
Caught the bus back to Bondi Junction then the train to Milsons
In the evening we went out for a meal, but it was so bad
we left and went to a different restaurant. So, it is possible
to have a bad meal in Sydney (though extremely rare). Next
we tried a wine-bar serving food which was much better and
also had a huge selection (around 40) of imported beers!
Had a relaxing day, planning New Zealand travels, then I took
the train to Chatswood (6 stops north from Milsons Point)
where there’s an enormous shopping centre with around
400 shops on 6 floors. Massive!
Saturday 22nd March – Sydney
Sunday 23rd March – Day trip to the Hunter Valley
Booked a day tour of the Hunter Valley with the excellent
Bus Co. This was a nice small bus of just 16 plus the
driver, a really good bloke. Weather was patchy rain to start
with, but once we reached the Hunter Valley it was a reasonable
day and we had no more rain. We travelled for about two hours
up to Cessnock, then on to our first vineyard of the day,
Ivanhoe Wines. We tasted six wines here, including a Chambourcin,
which I’ve never had before. We were given plenty of
information about wines and tasting.
Next we stopped off at the Golden Grape Estate, a much more
commercial place, where we tasted 6 wines and 6 liqueurs. Here
the emphasis was much more on how many things we could taste,
but without much attention to wine appreciation! The wines were
actually very good in the main, however the liqueurs were quite
sickly sweet. In particular their port is much more like a very
sweet sherry – their sherry was pretty similar. They also
have a chilli liqueur. We had a perfectly adequate lunch in
Our third vineyard stop was at Drayton’s Wines, one
of oldest wineries in the valley, and celebrating their 150th
anniversary this year. Here, we had a short but interesting
tour of the winery followed by a tasting of 6 wines. We were
also able to try any others on their list if we wished, so
I tried another 3. Wasn't as keen on their wines overall but
the vineyard was extremely friendly.
We then visited the Hunter Village – a small shopping
area with another cellar door shop, plus fudge and cheese
shops. Many of us went to the wine shop, as it was McGuigans
and I’d already had some good wines of theirs. Fortunately
we were able to taste as much as we liked in their shop –
I tried at least another 8, taking the total for the day to
about 35 ! I’d certainly say that I liked their wines
the most – and I bought a bottle of their delicious
Bin 2000 Black Shiraz.
Our driver then took us a big field near Cessnock where he
showed us how to throw boomerangs. There was mixed success
amongst the group, but most failed to return to the thrower!
Set off for Sydney about 1730 - all in all an excellent day
out and I’d highly recommend this tour.
Monday 24th March - Sydney
It had rained all night and the rain was slow to clear this
morning, leaving quite a cool and grey day today. Met up with
my cousin Gemma (who I haven't seen for years!) and husband
Paul. After brunch we walked down to Finger Wharf, an incredible
old building which has been renovated and transformed into
apartments and a very smart hotel. We also managed to fit
in a couple of beers at a nearby bar.
Later on I met up with friend Neil, who arrived in Sydney
from the UK last night with his sister and her three children.
We went to the Fish Markets for a late lunch, then walked
to the Sydney
Aquarium at Darling Harbour. It’s an excellent aquarium
with a huge variety of aquatic life, the highlights being
the Perspex tube through the shark and stingray tank (as in
Singapore Aquarium) and the Barrier Reef – very much
like what I saw when snorkelling near Cairns.
Tuesday 25th March – Sydney & Manly
Took the ferry to Manly and met up with Neil and family on
the beach. It was a lovely hot sunny day, the waves were a
fair bit smaller than last week and the water was really warm
today. Had a good swim and did a bit of sunbathing.
Then caught the ferry back to Circular Quay – due to
one of the normal large ferries being out of service this
sailing was replaced by a Jetcat, which was interesting to
travel on for a change. The journey takes only 15 minutes
by Jetcat rather than the usual 30. Having reached the city,
I walked down Pitt Street, one of the main shopping streets
in Sydney to meet up with some lovely girls from England,
who I’d met first in Cairns. We walked down to Darling
Harbour for a drink at one of the many smart bars that overlook
Cockle Bay (the inner part of Darling Harbour).
In the evening went out with my Sydney friends to the Belgian
Beer Café – a new and very popular restaurant
in the Crow’s Nest area. Had moules frites (what else!)
and plenty of Hoegaarden – good food, beer and a great
So, finished off my stay in Sydney with a really good day
– fantastic weather, met up with great friends and had
an excellent meal & beers in the evening. I shall be really
sorry to leave Sydney, it’s a wonderful city.
Wednesday 26th March – Flight Sydney to Christchurch
Took the train to the airport to catch the 0930 Air New Zealand
flight to Christchurch,which left on time and arrived in Christchurch
at 1320 (1 hour ahead of Sydney). Views over the Southern
Alps were impressive though partly obscured by cloud.
After an hour and a half at the airport I left on another
Air NZ flight to Queenstown at 1450 – a Boeing 737.
It’s only a short hop of 35 minutes but one of the most
spectacular flights I’ve ever been on. From flying over
Lake Benmore, a totally unreal shade of blue, to the approach
to Queenstown, this is an amazing route. For the last five
minutes, the 737 banks sharply several times as it flies down
the valley into Queenstown airport – very high mountains
are just outside the window. This is the sort of flight you
would normally only do in a light aircraft! Checked in at
the YHA hostel - very comfortable with wonderful views out
over Lake Wakatipu (NZ’s third largest lake, after Lake
Taupo and Lake Te Anau). The Remarkables are beyond to the
left and Walter Peak (see photo above) is to the right. Queenstown
is certainly in the midst of some of the most beautiful scenery
in the world.
The weather has been unusually dry in Queenstown recently
– it’s been nearly 3 weeks since they had any
rain. The forecast is for rain over any of the next few days,
however I’m told it’s very often wrong.
Thursday 27th March – Queenstown & Jetboating
on the Dart River
Walked around the town in the morning. The weather was absolutely
superb and the leaves are just beginning to turn to autumn
colours now so the trees look wonderful.
Set off at midday for the trip booked with Dart River Jet
Safaris – a six-hour trip including bus travel to Glenorchy
and Jetboating on the Dart River, going up into Mount Aspiring
National Park. The bus takes the road alongside Lake Wakatipu
to its northernmost point, a 45-minute journey with stunning
scenery the entire way. With the lake very still today and
clear blue sky, there were incredible reflections of the mountains
in the lake. On arrival in Glenorchy we were taken to the
lakeshore to board our jetboat – seating nine people
plus driver, and capable of around 75-80 km/h (50 mph) on
the river in as little as 2-3 inches of water. We had an hour
and a quarter of jetboating, up the river as far as Bennetts
Bluff (about 35 kms, or 22 miles, from Glenorchy), then half
way back again. On the downstream part, the speed was of course
considerably faster! Our driver skilfully manoeuvred the boat
through the narrowest of channels and very shallow water in
places – we touched the bottom of the river a couple
of times – and for thrills he put the boat into a 360°
spin on several occasions and enjoyed whizzing past protruding
rocks as close to them as possible. We saw brown trout in
the river at times, when we stopped for a brief description
of our location.
Half-way back down the river we stopped to swap with half
the group who were waiting on the river bank. We then had
a short walk through an attractive beech forest, and were
then driven by 4WD bus back to Glenorchy. We drove mainly
along a dirt track, through beautiful forests - this is the
area where much of “Lord of the Rings” was filmed,
and many other movies and commercials have been made here,
including “Vertical Limit”. This was a really
wonderful trip and definitely worth doing for both the exhilaration
of jetboating and the stunningly beautiful scenery all day
Once back in Queenstown I took the Skyline gondola to the
top of the mountain overlooking Queenstown. Although it was
a little cloudy, I was just in time for an incredible sunset,
turning the tops of the mountains reddish-brown and reflecting
on the lake.
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