Tag name:australia

Holiday ('97)

4th January 1999 / No Comments on Holiday ('97)

The trip started in Perth (Australia) after a long flight from Heathrow.
This actually helped me to avoid too much Jet Lag as I was able to stay
awake until dinner time before going to bed on the first day. To past the
time before then I did some exploring of the city and, much to my disgust,
located the IBM building (it's way too close to the Western Australian
parliment buildings). The next two days were spent in more properly
exploring Perth. This city I rate as the best city I've visited, with a
very pleasant environment, friendly people and while having skyscrapers
manages to make them scenic. During the evenings I headed out to King's
Park (which overlooks the city) to watch the moonrise and the appearance of
the Southern Cross and Alpha and Beta Centauri.

I then took the Indian Pacific train from Perth (leaving lunchtime on the
Friday) to Syndey (arriving lunchtime on the Monday). This was an
impressive way to get a feeling (and I have to say only a feeling) for the
true size of Australia. It's still a little hard to realise that when the
train stops at a place called Cook to refuel (Cook *only* reason for
existence is as a refuelling and passing place for the trains!) there's no
other habitation for tens of miles and no other town for hundreds. I saw a
glimpse of Adelaide and did manage to see some Kangaroos from the train
later in the journey (and I had to have the Kangaroo meat in one of the
meals on the train, I travelled first class for this trip of course!)

Syndey proved to be a bigger and busier city than Perth, and much windier
too! The Opera House is amazingly photogenic and Syndey's harbour is
superb. I wish I'd had more time to explore Syndey and time to explore the
surrounding country (a common complaint for almost all of my holiday :-).

Then onto Auckland to join the coach tour of New Zealand. In retrospect,
this was the right choice since there's alot to see in NZ and I wouldn't
have seen as much on my own. However next time I now know where to
concentrate on, so that I don't feel like I haven't had enough time to
explore a given area.

The first day the coach headed north and I heard probably more than I want
to know about NZ's Kauri Tree (an oak-like conifer tree which grows
(slowly) to very large sizes and makes excellent wood (which is why there
ain't much of it left). The second day we headed to the top of New Zealand
and saw the meeting of the Tasman Sea and the pacific (seeing waves
arriving at right angles to each other as they pass over some shallows is a
bit weird. In the afternoon we visited the Wagener's Museum, a place which
if you are ever in the area I strongly recommended visiting. The Wageners
were a wealthy family that in the lath nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries collected 'junk', e.g. old telephone exchanges, typewriters,
penny arcade machines, chamberpots......

The next day back to Auckland, where I can easily believe the estimate that
one in four of the million+ inhabitants own a boat(yacht) of some sort.
Its oneupmanship is shown by having a sky tower six metres taller than
syndey's.... It is also built on over sixty extinct volcano cones..... On
the next day we headed south to Rotorua, which is the centre of Maori
people and the main geothermal area. Walking through a town where the
drains are steaming from geothermal heat and in places the steam comes up
through the paving stones is interesting, as is walking on a nature trail
where warning signs advise you to stay on the trail as the solid ground you
can see near a boiling pool is only a few centimetres thick and liable to
break and drop into literally boiling water.

Then onto Lake Taupo (formed when a large (i.e. several miles wide) dome of
rock exploded). From here I took a scenic flight to see two of NZ's three
active volcanoes, and I did catch steam from Mt. Ruapehu on film. We
travelled onto Wellington for a night (unfortunately Wednesday and the
observatory on the hills above the hotel only opens on Tuesdays and
Saturdays).

The South Island starts with the inter-lander ferry between the north and the
south islands. The seagulls optiministically assumed the ferry was a large
fishing boat and/or had sussed that the tourists are easy marks, and flew
very close to the ferry (I managed to get a good picture of one). Once on the
south island, we continued onto Nelson, a small town on the coast. Here we
stayed at one hotel on the tour that had real character. I had an excellent walk
from the hotel to the 'centre of New Zealand', an unimpressive monument on
top of a hill.

The next day was onto greymouth, which has to be said to said is a pretty
boring, although my view may have been coloured by the cold I had gained and
the steady change in the weather from sunny to rain. (It should be noted that
this change is normal due to the way the air flows up from antartica across the
southern ocean, warming up and gathering moisture and then hitting the south
island).

The following day, however, was, for me the highlight of the holiday. The
destination for the evening stop was the Franz Josef Glacier and for the
braver and more 'robust' members of the tour, we could arrange to get a
guide and actually an hour or two on the glacier itself. The Franz Josef
Glacier is very impressive (despite some drizzle), as it flows at up to four
meters per day (and in recent years has been growing). It's even more impressive
as our guide took the seven of us right up to the front of the glacier and
then led us up the front of the glacier and onto the body of the glacier.
The feeling of achievement was amazing and as I say, this was the unexpected
highlight of the holiday.

The next day onwards to Queenstown. The climate difference between the west
coast and the inland side on the other side of the southern alps is dramatic.
If you ever need a demonstration of 'rain shadows', this was the place for
it.

We had two nights at Queenstown. Normally this is the place for those action
activities (e.g. bungee jumping, jetboat rides in the lake and rivers etc).
I, however, didn't want to do much as it was the first anniversary of the
death of my sister.

The next day on the coach we travelled to Milford Sound. This is an area of
outstanding scenery, best seen just after a lot of rain. The 'a lot of rain'
was no problem. However the 'just after' was a problem. Some of the coach
party was disappointed, but given it rains here 350 days of the day I saw
no reason to be upset and we did see the spectacular waterfalls (just no
way to photograph them...)

Thence onwards to Dunedin. There was the chance to visit the Otago Peninsula
which has albatross and a sanctuary for yellow-eyed penguins. My mother tells
me that from an early age I was fascinated by penguins at zoos, so she was
unsurprised to learn that this was an opportunity I wasn't going to miss.
Despite the gloom I got a couple of excellent pictures and throughly
enjoyed the visit.

From Dunedin, the next stage was Mt. Cook. Here I took another scenic flight
and watched Mt. Cook change colour as the sun sets out of view. In the late
evening I did some more Star-gazing. Here, despite the fact that Mt. Cook
village is smaller (I estimate smaller than S-i-t-V) and the nearest
other settlement is 50 or so miles away, your night vision is
still easily ruined by headlights from cars on the roads!

Christchurch was the next stop. Christchurch is a very pretty city, which was
only marred by the sighting of an IBM Building. (The damn things kept
leaping out at me when I least expected them!). I was also surprised by the
eruption of a nasty looking red rash on my chest, arms and legs. Fortunately
it turned out that this was (most likely) an allegeric reaction to
some cold sweets I had. Oh well, it added to the excitement of the trip!

Back to Wellington, this time on a Saturday, so in the evening I spent a
pleasant time up at the observatory above the city.

The tail end of the tour was the route back to Auckland. This travelled through
Napier (a good town if you enjoy 'Art Deco' Architecture, but unfortunately
it makes little impression on me (either good or bad)). We also visited
a different part of the Lake Taupo Thermal area and a Kiwifruit Orchard.

The final part of my holiday was San Francisco. The overnight flight across
the date-line was relaxing, mainly because of the anti-histamines I been
prescribed in NZ (and, as in the UK, the pharmicist recommended just buying
the drugs as it was cheaper that way than paying the prescription charge....)
making me drowsy and having a three seat row to myself

I was feeling nervous about the states, as it is not known for being a friendly
place, but in fact San Francisco is quite a safe city (at least in daylight :-).
I explored most of the local musuems in SF and travelled several times on
the cable cars, whilst attempting not to spend too much in the bookstores etc.
I'm not too sure what to say about SF, other than to say I enjoyed my visit
there.

In retrospect, it turns out this was a 'look and see' type of holiday, which
is unsurprising given my nature. I highly enjoyed the whole trip and intend to
visit NZ again in five or so years time.