Arrival in Wellington

A Mixed Reception and First Impressions

Helen came to the hotel at 6.30am to collect us and take us to the airport for our flight to Wellington.  Check-in was very friendly despite having to pay 40$ for the privilege of having a third piece of hold luggage.

The flight was really good and the fact that we were unexpectedly fed made up for the excess payment.  The airhostesses were some of the friendliest I have come across, finding time to chat to us and show interest in us.  The airport took a while to maneuver through with passport queues, baggage collection and finally to have our bags checked for anything, which might be illegal or harm the environment.  The chap placing the bags on to the x-ray machine conveyor yawned hugely as he lifted one of mine.  His excuse, ‘…tired from celebrating winning all the time…’ New Zealand had won the IRB 7’s again this weekend.  All you can do in such circumstances is congratulate and shake hands.  The woman at the other end of the x-ray machine was rather less friendly and hit us with, ‘You can be fined 400$ for not declaring everything!’  She asked about walking boots.  I don’t have any.  ‘What about the walking poles?’  In the end you just hold your hands up and say ‘Sorry’.

The real welcome came a few moments later with Ben and Kelly’s beaming smiles greeting us as we came through the doors.  Lots of hugs and kisses!  It was so good to see them.

Despite Wellington being the capital, the airport is very much a provincial one with limited flights because of the length of the runway.  Most international flights will arrive in New Zealand at Auckland and then connect with other places through a domestic service.

The drive from the airport into town was fascinating and nothing like I expected.  With the exception of the city centre, which is like nearly all other city centres, concrete, tarmac, shops and offices, the suburbs seem to lack permanence.  All the houses are wooden, perched on hillsides or hugging the shoreline.  There are very few manicured gardens so that the houses jut out of the natural vegetation, which, if allowed, would consume the buildings.  The gardens are out there, on the hillsides, on the shore, a blaze of flower and just about every variant of green imaginable. Beautiful!

Our first stop was to the house Angela and I are borrowing from some friends Ben and Kelly’s.  It is a wooden house as they all seem to be, in a narrow, lush, green valley with a road running through the bottom of it a few houses dotted through it.  Inside it is a treasure trove of Maori culture.  Shane works for the Maori Museum and is a collector of all sorts of Maori, art, musical instruments and paraphernalia.  You could spend hours looking and touching.  We are very lucky they are away and that we can use their house.  We will eventually meet them at the wedding next month.

Ben and Kelly’s flat is superbly positioned with a huge picture window giving them an elevated view of the whole of the harbour.  (In the space of three days we had been to Helen’s, Rijan’s and now Ben and Kelly’s flats and the one thing they all had in common was a superb view.)

After a catch-up over a couple of beers and some bucks fizz, we ventured out to find a restaurant for a meal.  Ben took us through the Botanical Gardens so we could take the funicular down into town.  The driver was not very friendly and slammed his newspaper down when I suggested he read out the clues to the crossword!  Oops!

The restaurant chosen was a pizza one on the harbour.  It was not busy but had a reasonable number of customers. It was Sunday evening after all.  Having ordered we waited, and we waited, and we waited.  In the end Ben asked where was our starter, a plate of antipasta to share.  It eventually came after we had waited nearly an hour.  That polished off we thought it would be quickly followed by our three pizzas to share.  Again we waited, and we waited, and we waited.  Again Ben went to check and nobody seemed to be working hard and our three pizzas hadn’t even gone into the oven.  We left.

At least the taxi driver was friendly and chatted away all the way back to our house.

The Girlie Perspective

Wow!  Here in NZ at last!  Here for hugs and kisses and I have to confess to a few tears too!  Unbelievable views, there are clouds in the sky, but not the predicted wind.  It is warm and welcoming.  Our flights have been comfortable & we have been able to catch up on sleep so not feeling too jet-lagged.  The Botanic Gardens are opposite B & K’s flat so we walked there on our way out in the evening and enjoyed the aroma from the roses.  We have a lovely big bed to flop into at Shane & Kay’s.  Phew!

Sydney

The Day of the Lobster

Slept well and woke up refreshed with no ill effects from the long journey.  The day started out a little dull but it looked as if it might clear up as the day progressed.  After breakfast made contact with Rijan (ex King’s and Best Man to be at Ben and Kelly’s wedding).  He and his wife, Helen, have just had a baby boy, Harley, ten days ago.  Rijan came to meet us and took us back to their flat in the fashionable Mosman district on the north shore.  The flat had a stunning, to die for, view over the estuary.  Harley was a little sweetie and took to snuggling up to Angela like a duck to water.  When we had finished Rijan took us to the ferry wharf via Balmoral Beach, a very quiet, perfect family beach.

The ferry took us to Circular Quay where we waited, with a beer, at the opera Bar for Helen to join us.  I don’t think either of us realized just how effective the sun had become and the time we spent waiting, along with the time spent eating lunch was sufficient to give us a good dose of Vitamin D.  I had forgotten to pack a hat and neither of us was carrying sun cream., so before we boarded the ferry to Watson’s Bay we bought and lathered ourselves in sun cream.

 

Sydney Opera House

On arrival at Watson’s Bay we paddled in the warm waters and booked a table at the famous Doyle’s Fish Restaurant for the evening. Then we strolled along the cliffs where Angela and I had watched the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race in 2007.  The sun was feeling very strong in the clear sea air and I knew I was going to suffer as the evening progressed. Cancelling our reservation we took the last ferry back to Circular Quay and ate a superb meal on the quay.  I had kangaroo steak on a bed of beetroot risotto.

Predictably, I did not sleep very well, and hardly at all after 1.30am, as a result of a rather sore head, sunburned like a lobster!

The Girlie Perspective

Sydney was seen in all its summer glory today.  I had a memorable precious cuddle with 10 day old Harley.  He was very relaxed and soon snoozed. His Mummy & Daddy, Rijan & Helen were very welcoming, treating us to coffee and Rijan’s homemade brownies (domesticated Daddy or what!) We sat on the wall near the Opera House, people watching and lapping up the atmosphere in such an iconic spot.  The coastal walk was lovely but my recently damaged foot did start to complain so I was ready to rest at Glenferrie Lodge after a fish & chip supper.

New Zealand Adventure

Getting there and stopping off in Sydney

The flight from the UK, although long, was fairly uneventful, and bizarrely consisted of two nights in close proximity to each other.  No sooner had we had breakfast we were landing in Bangkok in the mid afternoon.  We only spent a little over an hour in the airport and we were back in our seats preparing to eat our evening meal and it was dark already!  Having watched a film I decided, if I was going to have the energy to enjoy our brief two-day stay in Sydney, I needed to get as much rest, if not sleep, as possible.  As dawn approached we began our descent to Sydney, shrouded in low cloud.  We were almost landed when we emerged from the cloud to wet, shiny tarmac – not what I was expecting from an Australian summer.

Helen, my niece, met us at the airport and took us back to her flat in the fashionable Napier Bay area of north Sydney.  Here, we had time to chill out, freshen up and share our space with her rabbit, Raspberry, who had the run of the flat.

Taking the bus into Sydney we walked the narrow streets of The Rocks, an area of boutique shops and smart restaurants, but which once had a terrifying reputation for crimes of violence, theft and Victorian gang culture.  This brought us to Circular Quay, a hub of transport communication and one of my favourite places in Sydney for soaking up the atmosphere and people watching.  It is like an amphitheatre with a backdrop of tower blocks adding to the urban beauty of the place.  Unfortunately the quay was dominated by the presence of a huge cruise ship, Rhapsody of the Seas, filling the view on one side of the quay, completely.  It was lunch time, so we found ourselves in a quayside restaurant enjoying a beer and eating a bowl of piping hot mussels cooked in a tomato sauce.  They were the largest mussels imaginable and tasted just divine.

Following lunch we took the ferry back to Napier Bay, picked up our bags from the flat and Helen took us to our hotel, Glenferrie Lodge in the even more desirable suburb of Kirribilli.  Our journey was beginning to take its toll and a rest was required in our small, but comfortable, room.  If we were going to survive the evening we needed a restful afternoon.

Refreshed, Helen joined us at 7.30pm and we ventured out in the light rain to Ripples, a lively restaurant on the water’s edge, adjacent to the Olympic swimming pool, Luna Park and almost under the mighty Sydney Harbour Bridge.  Another superb meal.

Now the girlie perspective!   Warm &  damp in Sydney  so the recently straightened hair is now its natural frizz.  Oh joy!  That fades into insignificance in the realization that we are on the other side of the world enjoying one of the most vibrant and cosmopolitan cities on earth.  Looking forward to traveling to NZ tomorrow & exchanging more family hugs & kisses.

Lake District Training Weekend

Simon Davis and I travelled up to the Lakes early on Friday morning, ahead of the rest of the group, so that we could have a walk in the snow.  Leaving the car at the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, we headed up the Langdale Valley, climbing up the steep Rossett Gill in ever deepening snow up to Angle Tarn.  As we came over the lip between Hanging Knots and Rossett Pike the wind hit us hard.  From the tarn, we struggled in 70mph gusts to Langdale Combe.  The snow was soft and the ground underneath also soft and waterlogged.  The streams were running pretty full and twice I took the plunge, the first time doing a face plant in the cool water.  The pint(s) that evening were well deserved.

On Saturday the wind seemed to be blowing even harder as, now twenty of us, walked up Easedale in squally showers.  As we climbed we met people coming down having abandoned their walk in preference for tea and cakes in the relative warmth of Grasmere. As height was gained, so the wind strengthened and we found ourselves preferring to crawl around on the rocks of Sergeant Man.  As we crossed the relatively flat top of High Raise  and Low White Stones, the wind now broadsided us, regularly knocking us off balance before we began our descent down Far Easdale.  By the time we returned to Burtharlyp Howe Youth Hostel our faces glowed from the wind and pinprick needles of rain and snow.  More well earned pints in the evening.

Sunday was a more sedate day with a walk up and around Loughrigg Fell.  The weather, while still windy, was much pleasanter and we found a good sunny spot, out of the wind, for our lunch.  By mid-afternoon it was time to head south and back home, after a thoroughly exhilarating weekend.  K2 should be a breeze after this!