Australia, blogging, Travel

Travelling to the Pilbara in Western Australia

I was 22 years old and I was lucky to make it to 23. But I didn’t know that yet.

While other girls my age flocked to tropical getaways or the beach for holidays, I was going to the remote North-west of Australia. The fact that I’d promised to visit a good friend in a mining town in the Pilbara, some 5000 km from a major centre, was seen by my beach-loving colleagues as evidence I’d lost the plot, or had fallen in love? Or possibly, both?

Western Australia’s Pilbara Region

Western Australia’s Pilbara Region

The Pilbara is a large, dry, thinly populated region in the north of Western Australia. It is known for its Aboriginal peoples; its ancient landscapes; the red earth; and its vast mineral deposits, in particular iron ore.

Wikipedia

This arid Western Australian region is known to be hot and very dry. Even the Aboriginal word for the area bilybara, means,”dry” in the Indigenous Nyamal and Banyjima languages. Given that it would take a staggering and torturous 51 hour drive across several deserts from the Eastern side of Australia, tourists are warned not to travel unprepared, as this region can be terribly unforgiving. Little did I know how telling those words would become, later in the trip.

The Pilbara was an unusual and very different place to my home in the East. That interested the 22 year old me. Books on the area were non-existent so my only knowledge came from the one person I knew, who lived there. Despite the reservations of the “Negative Nancys,” at work, I boarded four consecutive flights spending a total of 19 hours circumnavigating my way round to the other side of Australia by air, in order to arrive at a place, called Port Hedland.

Driving in to Port Hedland

I wrote in my travel journal:

Driving into Port Hedland from the airport, the first thing I notice is the redness; the country is so very red and flat. So flat you can literally see for miles not that there is much to see other than red dusty sand. Ancient soils like these look quite alien and hostile to a city girl, but, occasionally, I spot a vestige of low saltbush or a stunted tree struggling valiently to survive against the harshest of climates.

Tell me again why did I choose to come here?

My Travel Journal ~1984

After meeting a few of my friend’s housemates and family, it didn’t take me long to notice the town of Hedland, as the locals called it, was naive and raw – undeveloped, with an pervasive atmosphere of transience. The residents appeared similar to a young child unable to hold its attention, they were restless, found it hard to settle down, were constantly agitating and always seeking something more than Hedland could offer them.

The rudimentary Hedland Drive in. It closed when video availability came to town.

No one is putting down roots in ‘Port Hedland,’ I was quickly informed. Everyone here speaks in terms of before PH, [Port Hedland], and after PH; the present moment being likened to a kind of stagnant quagmire they wade through, before true reality begins again. This was a place in which the people exist because they have to; a place they stayed in, only for as long as they had to stay.

The majority of indigenous families live on the town’s outer fringes, usually in Government sponsored housing. There’s a multitude of social problems and I note the streets are littered with rusty car wrecks and the detritus of disadvantage. Prejudice and racism appears rampant. I feel ashamed of my comparatively affluenct city life and my general ignorance of the Aboriginal’s plight.

Even the weather seemed discontent in Hedland. Cyclones regularly ravaged swathes of this country in summer, perhaps made worse by the lack of hills or trees which might ameliorate the wind’s fury. You have to be resilient to live here or perhaps it is the living here that makes a person tough. I am unsure which.

My Travel Journal ~1984
The roads in and around Port Hedland c1984

Port Hedland Mining and Maritime Activities

Almost without exception, the town’s people were either directly employed by the mining industries of salt and iron ore, or performing ancillary jobs supporting mine workers. Mining was, after all the very reason this town was established.

One thing that is impressive about Hedland besides the mine, is the port, impressive by its sheer scale. It handles the largest tonnage of any port in Australia and it is here that that salt and iron-ore is unloaded, screened, crushed, stockpiled and transferred from wharf to ship to export.

Mammoth iron-ore carriers frequent the port and dot the horizon, transporting the iron-ore to Japanese, European, Chinese and Korean markets. A 426km-long railway was built to carry ore from one of the world’s biggest mining facilities in Newman, southeast of Port Hedland. This busy line is visible along the road to Port Hedland and trains and their cars are up to 3km long.

https://growporthedland.com.au/about-port-hedland/

Near the port itself, I recall seeing towering piles of salt and massive, massive ships – both of which seemed higher than a six story building. The tides here are huge and the land so flat, a shipping Pilot is necessary to guide the huge vessels in and out of the port.

My only Helicopter ride

I was invited aboard a Helicopter Taxi bringing the Port’s Shipping Pilot, back to the land after he completed his task guiding the ships. Nowadays WH&S would most likely prohibit such familiarity by a tourist. It was my first and probably my last helicopter ride. It was jerky and noisy, something I had not anticipated.

Mining Boom and Rental Accomodation in Port Hedland

During the 90’s mining boom, rental prices for accomodation in Hedland became ludicrously expensive and resources were stretched to breaking point. Any kind of accomodation was so sought after, the one pub in Hedland closed down and both it and shipping containers were converted to flats for workers. The workforce became ‘fifo,’ – (fly in, fly out workers), in which they were separated from their family for weeks on end, then able to fly home for some leave before flying back to resume work again. The population is now over 14,000.

My final night in Hedland was spent at the open air theatre. Even in winter, it is so cooler to sit outside under the stars on a camp chair and watch a movie and of course, there are no city lights to dull the screen. Sadly, I can’t even remember what movie we watched.

The events over the ensuing week overshadowed this and the first few nights of my visit. A story I will relate another day.

Me in the Pilbara
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grotto at the sea
Australia, blogging, Travel

Friendly Friday Challenge – Road Trip

Over at The Sandy Chronicles, my Friendly Friday co-host Sandy has thrown out the challenge for me to participate in the theme Road Trip. Not just with the usual written post, but with a custom video presentation via Canva.

So, I know a little about Canva, but I’ve only used the trial version. Ah! This was a challenge. However, with a little bit of time invested, I have pulled it off, I hope.

Thanks Sandy for stretching my IT skills a little wider!

Road Trip along the Great Ocean Road

What do you think? Would you want to visit there?

Update: I have slowed the video shots a little and uploaded a new version.

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blogging, Community, Photography, Travel

Friendly Friday Blog Challenge – Mountain Top

Kakani 1988

It was a perfect afternoon on a perfect mountain top, 30 km west of Kathmandu in Nepal.

We’d travelled in the back seat of an ageing and dusty Black Toyota sedan to Kakani. The lack of seat belts in the car might have given an inkling of the car’s advanced age, but it was mainly the dark exterior that prompted our Nepalese guide to label it, “the Mafia car” suggesting with a hearty laugh, that our driver looked “criminal!”

nepal guide
A young Amanda at 6500 Feet at Nagarkot with Nepalese Guide Madhav

Thirty odd years ago, the road to Nagarkot Mountain Top and Lookout was narrow, winding and precipitous. Dirt tracks, barely one car width wide, that would be better suited to goats, twisted their way sharply around steep hillsides with never a guardrail to be seen.

Despite this, I was focused less on my safety than on the countryside itself. It looked alive and thriving. Almost every hill no matter how steep, had been heavily terraced and cultivated with crops. Quaint mud-brick farm cottages clung to 80 degree slopes and the mountainous backdrop grew ever more spectacular with each and every bend. I pinched myself.

Was I really here at the top of the world? I marveled at how the puffy white clouds perched high up in the sky were not actually clouds at all, but the Himalayan mountain tops tinged with snow!

Every few kilometres, or so, smiling school children appeared on the roadside, waving enthusiastically at our car, as we passed by. Our Guide informed us that many of the chuldren walk several hours just to reach the nearest school. No School of the Air exists in Nepal. A very different life to Australia, where schools are located in every suburb and in remote areas, lessons with a teacher are given over radio communication, (now, presumably skype), each day.

nepal mountain road

Nagarkot Lookout

On reaching Nagarkot Lookout, we were invited to sit on a deck chair at the cliff’s edge. I actually couldn’t stop smiling. I have never seen anything so extraordinary. It is a cliché, but the air was palpably clean and pure. Hauntingly beautiful flute music played in the air adding to the mystical atmosphere.

Sitting and looking out upon the highest mountain tops of the world brought me feelings of tranquility and material needlessness to my head. In those moments, any yearning for material objects and acquisitions completely vanished. Even my materialistic other half, the Moth, agreed that afternoon. We struck up a conversation with another traveler. He was from – wait for it: the Australian Gold Coast. Thousands of miles from home and I meet a stranger who lives less than 60 minutes from my home!

Meanwhile Mudhav, our smartly dressed guide, complete with pristine, ‘Mrs-March” bleached shirt, stated he never gets bored with the mountains. He reads Wordsworth, Keats and other romantic English poetry. He says his presentation as a guide, is different with ‘good people,’ like us.

Again, I smile!

We didn’t anticipate the final surprise that was yet to come.

Nepalese Women Carry the Load

As we sat on that small area of level ground surrounded by precipitous cliffs, enjoying the view at 2200 metres above sea level, two women appeared from below the cliff face, casually climbing up and over the rock incline directly in front of us.

Such was their physical strength they were able to scale an almost, I guess, 80 degree vertical slope, as if they were taking a light stroll.

There is no photo of them, but to our shock we noted they carried large straw baskets down their back, laden to the brim, with potatoes. The basket was held by a narrow rope tied around their forehead. You can imagine our astonishment and our incredulity at the strength of their necks under such a load!

Amazing Women!

Nagarkot and Kakani can get very cold as night draws near, but the view of  Mt. Annapurna, as well as the other mountains that make up this part of the Himalayas: Machhapuchhare, Ganesh Himal and Langtang, are in a word stupendous Mountain Tops. It is very easy to sit and watch those mountains for hours, so mesmerizing is this special part of the world.

My photographs are showing their age and the quality is not so good so I have included two videos to enhance your impression of the area.

Join in the Friendly Friday Blog Challenge

Every other week we post a topic to inspire a post on a particular theme. This week the theme is Mountain Top. Your challenge is to feature a story, photo/s, a recipe or anything else that captures your imagination.  

You can post once, twice or as many times as you’re inspired by the topic.

Sandy and I take turns in posting challenges.  Keep notified of new themes by following both our blog’s at  Something to Ponder About  and  The Sandy Chronicles

How to join the Friendly Friday Challenge

  • Write a post titled ‘Friendly Friday – ‘Mountain Top’ and add a tag: ‘Friendly Friday’
  • Include a link to this Friendly Friendly Challenge within your own post.
  • Optionally, you can include the latest Friendly Friday Challenge logo. Download it here.
  • Comment below, on this post so that others can read your post.
  • Remember to include a url link to your own post in your comment below. This will guarantee a visit, in the event the automatic ping-back does not work.
  • Visit other Friendly Friday entries by following their links. It’s fun!
  • Follow the host blogs to see future Friendly Friday Challenges

The Benefits of Joining Blog Challenges

  • Increase your exposure in the blogging communities
  • Inspire and be inspired by diverse blog articles
  • Challenge your creativity
  • Make new friends and keep in touch with old ones

Are you joining in with this theme?

Where is your favourite Mountain Top?

How do you feel when you reach the summit? This motorcyclist loves the countryside too.

Blog challenge Friday
snowy mountains
History & Traditions, Travel

Mirror Mirror on the Mountain

Norwegians are obsessed with sunlight. They talk about it endlessly and watch and wait in the New Year, for the light to come a little earlier each day heralding the onset of an early spring.

Obsessed?

Quite possibly. Most of us are familiar with the winter blues, associated lack of sunlight and how it can alter our bodily processes, mood, energy and appetite. Some of us might even know how our thyroid gland, melatonin and serotonin levels change in winter, explaining the physiological reason for tiredness and low mood.

According to Daniel Kripke, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, when melatonin strikes a region of the brain called the hypothalamus, this alters the synthesis of another hormone – active thyroid hormone – that regulates all sorts of behaviours and bodily processes.

Bright light – particularly in the early morning appears to reverse these symptoms.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The winter darkness is harsh in the town of Rjukan, situated in one of Norway’s steepest valleys. More famous for heavy water production in World War II, for half a year, Ryukan is the town where the sun didn’t shine. That is, until something changed.

When the factory workers began to suffer from a lack of sun, Norsk Hydropower constructed a cable car to take them to the top of neighbouring Gaustatoppen, a mountain with a sheer 1,800-metre peak, so that workers could bathe in the sunlight!

Royalty free image

Imagine an employer taking such an action anywhere else in the world?

This was big.

Yet, this wasn’t enough for the town’s people.

I felt it very physically; I didn’t want to be in the shade.

Martin Andersen, Ryukan resident https://www.highbrowmagazine.com/10920-how-town-norway-copes-winter-depression

An idea was floated to use large rotatable mirrors on the northern side of the valley above Rjukan, to collect the sunlight and direct it down over the town.

It seemed crazy.

Martin Andersen thought differently.

He applied for and obtained a grant to develop a mirror that turns with the Sun while continually reflecting light into Rjukan town square.

Sunlight reflects off the three giant mirrors.
Photograph: The Guardian

Whilst only directing light into the town, for a maximum of two hours, in the darkest month of January, it has been well received by residents and Ryukan has a new tourist attraction.

Rjukan's market square basks in the light beamed down by the three mirrors.

“It’s the sun!” grins Ingrid Sparbo, disbelievingly, lifting her face to the light and closing her eyes against the glare. A retired secretary, Sparbo has lived all her life in Rjukan and says people “do sort of get used to the shade. You end up not thinking about it, really. But this … This is so warming. Not just physically, but mentally. It’s mentally warming.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/06/rjukan-sun-norway-town-mirrors

Overcoming Depression without the Sun

Tromso lies 400km north of the Arctic Circle. Many Norwegians take extra Vitamin D tablets but some Northern dwellers seem to have an edge without the need for tablets.

Winter in Tromso is dark – the Sun doesn’t even rise above the horizon between 21 November and 21 January. Yet strangely, despite its high latitude, studies have found no difference between rates of mental distress in winter and summer. One suggestion is that this apparent resistance to winter depression is genetic. Iceland similarly seems to buck the trend for SAD: it has a reported prevalence of 3.8%, which is lower than that of many countries farther south. And among Canadians of Icelandic descent living in the Canadian province Manitoba, the prevalence of SAD is approximately half that of non-Icelandic Canadians living in the same place.

“It sounds dismissively simple, but a more positive attitude really might help to ward off the winter blues.”

A Stanford University Researcher found that the farther north they went, the more positive people’s mindsets towards winter were. People there might rephrasing attitudes like, ‘I hate winter’ to ‘I prefer summer to winter’, or ‘I can’t do anything in winter’ to ‘It’s harder for me to do things in winter, but if I plan and put in the effort I can’.

In this regard, a person feels they exert some control over how they respond to the colder weather.

Have you ever suffered with the winter blues? What helped you overcome it?

Is the winter blues exacerbated by Covid-related lockdowns?

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blogging, Photography, Travel

Friendly Friday Blogging Challenge – On the Way

Even though few people are currently travelling, most of us have travel stories about our global adventures, that we can re-visit through writing and photographs.

Welcome back to the Friendly Friday Blogging Challenge, where I challenge you to create a post and share your stories, photographs, or memories, that you experienced ‘On the Way,’ to, or from, somewhere. It may be a shop, airport, workplace, historic site, residence, or whichever place you choose.

Friendly Friday Challenge Theme

On the Way

Instructions on joining the two weekly challenge is found here.

If you prefer an abridged form, you will find that further below in this post.

Now let’s take a trip through photos and a story:

In addition to the above photographs, I’m sharing a story of Just another person from around the world from 1986 that fits with the theme.

On Our Way – to the Airport

It was steaming hot and humid, as only Thailand can be. The vacation was over, but with our well-cured suntans and fond vacation memories lingering softly in our minds, the ‘Moth,’ (ie. Man of the House), and I were ushered into the rear seat of a Mercedes, by two young men who would drive us to Bangkok International Airport.

This older model ‘Merc,’ clearly nearing its use-by date, was the Taxi Airport Transfer our Travel Agent had kindly arranged, which meant we’d avoid navigating Bangkok’s public transport system in the oppressive, pea soup-like heat that had surrounded us back at Pattaya Beach.

Thankfully, the Mercedes was air-conditioned; mind you, the cooling unit was working extra hard to reach anywhere near the back seat and in reality, a vintage metal blade fan spewing tepid air would have been more effective than this car’s cooling system and I smiled a wry smile to the Moth, now seated beside me.

Photo by tom balabaud on Pexels.com

My hand reached across the numerous cracks and wrinkles in the sweat-caressed leather upholstery and touched the Moth’s hand. He’d been a tad nervous about travelling in South-East Asia and was clearly relieved he’d soon be on a plane heading home, to Australia.

Then something happened which began to make that look a little less likely.

We’d already been stuck in not one, but two, traffic jams and to pass the time, our Thai guide and his young driver would repeatedly push the ‘eject’ button, on the 1970’s era cassette player, and laugh uproariously when the ageing cassette plopped out on the floor. Added to this it seemed that absentmindedly switching the windscreen wipers on and off, and on and off again, despite the sun blazing outside, was an additional source of mirth for these two young guys.

Was this their first city job, I wondered? They looked like they were still a bit wet behind the ears.

Glancing over at the car’s instrument panel, I noticed the temperature gauge was spiking ‘hot,’ while the petrol gauge’s needle now flickered on ‘Reserve,’ indicating the fuel tank was close to empty. I raised an eyebrow and felt a slight tightening in my chest.

Cautiously, I asked the Thai Guide how much longer it might be before we’d reach the airport? In broken English, the reply came that it would be around half an hour, more or less, depending on traffic problems around the airport. I raised my eyebrows and looked again at the Moth.

Should I say something more about potentially running out of petrol?

I hesitated for a moment and crossed my fingers, but remained silent.

traffic jam Bangkok 1986
A Bangkok Traffic Jam in 1986. After two hours, we had travelled 100 metres.

Minutes ticked by and I began to calculate whether we could still make our flight if we did get stuck in another of Bangkok’s notorious traffic jams and whether the car would run out of petrol before we reached our destination.

I decided I should speak up.

“Won’t you need a little more fuel, soon?” I finally said, in a polite, suggestive way.

Both the driver and his offsider looked at each other, befuddled. After a moment, they shook their heads firmly. It seemed I might need to clarify a little more what I meant.

“The fuel gauge,” I said, gaining confidence and pointing.“It is showing empty.”

“Ah, hah,” the young Driver said, with a gentle laugh.

Temperature,” he said smiling and tapping the petrol gauge with a knowing nod.

Umm. I don’t think so.” I offered. I was shaking my head but in those days, I had a soft voice and hadn’t developed any kind of authoritative tone, so the driver easily shrugged me off with a quick, “No problem,” and flashed that broad and innocent Thai smile, that can charm almost anyone.

I sat back in my seat thinking there was no way we’d catch our flight if we ran out of petrol. I looked at the Moth, imploring him with my eyes to say something to the driver. His eyebrows were knitted together, yet he remained silent.

Would you like something to eat?” the driver then piped up? “A bowl of rice? You have time,” he said pointing to his watch.”

I thought a detour may use up even more petrol and remembering his questionable skills in reading gauges, I wasn’t confident we had any time for food. Declining politely, I advised him we’d eat at the airport, adding under my breath – if we ever get there.

Photo by Hassan OUAJBIR on Pexels.com

Several minutes later, the frenzied finger-pointing and gesticulating towards the car’s instrument panel, accompanied by feverish Thai mutterings between driver and colleague, suggested something was amiss.

Without warning, the Driver stepped hard on the Merc’s gas pedal. We sped off at high speed through the traffic. I suspected it wasn’t the pressures of time that had prompted his change of heart. He must have realised his mistake in reading the gauges and surmised fuel was now perilously low.

Falsely thinking that accelerating and reaching the airport faster would prevent the car from running out of petrol, meant we were now overtaking every car on the highway, at breakneck speed. I gripped the armrest tightly with one hand and the Moth’s hand with the other.

Just hold on! the Moth mouthed at me silently.

After what seemed like an eternity, I saw the terminal of Bangkok International Airport loom ahead of us through the windscreen. If anyone had been listening in at that moment, they would have heard four very audible and loud signs of relief from both the front and the back seat of the old Merc.

We had arrived.

Join in with the Friendly Friday Challenge

Do you have a story or photograph or two to share?

Compose a post, be that photograph/s, story or recipe, with the theme, ‘On the way,’ somewhere – and include both the tag, ‘Friendly Friday’ and a url linking back to this post.

After publishing your post, return here and leave a comment with your post’s url. That way other visitors can find your post and visit.

Do Follow the Friendly Friday Challenge blogs: The Sandy Chronicles, and StPA for future prompts.

Remember this challenge runs for two weeks and you are encouraged to post once, twice or as many times as you like.

Sandy will be back on Friday 26th February with a new challenge.

beach sunrise with motivation saying to unite bloggers around the world
blogging, Community, Motivational, Travel

Morning World Blogger Video

When Vero from LesFrenchChronicles started a Vlogging collaboration, Bloggers with a View, it was a fun idea that connected bloggers around the world.

Taking a look into the snippets of another’s life, another’s world. People that we only knew through words on a screen.

That is one reason why we yearn to travel isn’t it? To see different perspectives and sights?

To meet and get to know other people?

The first Bloggers with a View video not only was fun to think about and to make, it connected us in new ways.

If one shakey video has the power to connect people from opposite sides of the globe, then what would happen if we did it again, and possibly again?

Thanks to Vero, the Vlogging Project was born. The theme for my Video ‘Vlog’ collaboration was ‘Morning.

Blogger Video Collaboration themed Morning
Blogger Video Collaboration – Morning

Contributing bloggers were from France, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Let’s take a look at how different parts of the world greeted the January morning.

Joining Something to Ponder About in this collaboration were the following bloggers. Thanks so very much for your supportive efforts. Well done!

Sandy – The Sandy Chronicles

Ushasita – Le coin des bobby

‘Toon’ Sarah – Travel with Me

Vero – Les French Chronicles

Are you a blogger who would you like to join in with the next collaboration?

Visit here to find out more

Hallingdal Golfjellet- sheep
blogging, Mental Health, Photography, Travel

Friendly Friday Challenge – Quiet Places

The world can be a stressful place at times. Often there is a need to step back and re-energize our tolerance to stress, pressures and worries.

Certain places in the world can be restorative to our spirit. These places may be somewhere in your own region, in your own street or even in one’s own backyard or a quiet city street.

Such ‘Quiet Places,‘ may bring solace and a settling of the nerves.

norway
Dalen, Norway

In the year of Covid confusion, I re-visit quiet places in my dreams. Photo archives bring those memories to life again, if only for a transient moment, in the present time.

Like the time, I stayed up in the mountains of Norway..

Or on the banks of the Tauber River in Germany.

light

I am drawn to locations by the water, presumably due to the calming effect of the waves gently caressing the shoreline.

What about you?

Where is your ‘Quiet Place?’

Create a Friendly Friday Challenge ‘Quiet Places’ Post

To join the challenge, simply add a ping-back link and a Friendly Friday tag to a new post, then come back here to leave a comment with the published link, so visitors can find you and visit.

If this is your first challenge contribution, there is a full set of instructions on how to join the Friendly Friday Photo Challenge on my blog header.

Friendly Friday will at StPA, in two weeks time. In the meantime, next Friday, you can discover the next prompt at my Friendly Friday Challenge Co-host’s blog, The Sandy Chronicles.

Queenstown
Travel

The Top Spots of Queenstown, New Zealand

Things to do in Queenstown

Queenstown’s idyllic waterside location means you are spoilt for choice of things to do and its compact size means you are never far from the spectacular lake, which is fringed by snow-capped peaks for much of the year.

Take a wine tour, cruise the lake, stroll through beautiful gardens, visit historic Arrowtown or take full advantages of some of the free attractions in the city.

Shopping in Queenstown

If you have spent an exhausting day skiing up at the Remarkables, rejuvenating your tired muscles with a bit of retail therapy may be in order for the following day.

Queenstown can be a fun town to sip coffee, eat, browse sassy shops and classy fashion stores, but you might have to pay at classy prices too. We succumbed to buying some travel souvenirs which were bound to be gifts, including one interesting wind-up ‘rude-finger,’ toy and were not sufficiently tempted by what we saw as somewhat over-inflated prices.

History of Queenstown and Maori Legends

Maori first inhabited this area, of New Zealand, in a search for food, greenstone, and the flightless Moa bird. Legends state that the giant Matau was burnt to death in his sleep after he abducted a chief’s daughter, burning a massive hole in the ground and melting the ice and snow of the surrounding mountains. This became Queenstown’s Lake Wakatipu. The lake is a large “S” shape, exactly like a giant, curled up and sleeping on its side.

Queenstown
Lake Wakatipu

Lake Wakatipu

The lake is a beautiful place to take a short cruise or easy stroll. You could even see the ducks that line the foreshore near the shopping precinct, angling for some crumbs of bread from passing tourists.

One of Wakatipu’s mysteries is the rise and fall of the lake by about 12cm (5″) every five minutes. Legend states that a Giant’s heart is impossible to destroy, and causes this rise and fall, while science says this is due to fluctuating atmospheric pressures. Across the lake from Queenstown, below Cecil Peak, a little island is visible only from a certain angle. Some say this hidden Island is the still-beating heart of the Giant Matua.

Facts about Lake Wakatipu

  • Max depth: 380 m
  • Area: 291 km²
  • Length: 80 km
  • Average depth: 230 metres (750 ft)

15,000 years ago during the last ice age, a huge glacier moving from the north-west carved out what is now Lake Wakatipu. The lake is relatively thin, but the mountains run straight into the lake, forming a deep canyon, 399m at its deepest point.
Lake Wakatipu is the second largest lake in the Southern Lakes District, covering 290 square km. At its widest point, Lake Wakatipu is five kilometres wide, and the total length is 84km. 

Wiki

Tourist Adventure Activities in Queenstown

Besides the tourist drawcards of skiing at Coronet Peak, Cardrona or The Remarkables which we had already ticked off our holiday bucket list, there is a list of high-intensity things to do in Queenstown. Ziplining, Bungee jumping and the Jetboat ride on the Shotover River is high on the thrill seeker’s list. None of which I am qualified to comment on. A thrill-seeker I am not. However, there is plenty of information about it on the net if you are interested.

The Shotover River flows from the Southern Alps and runs through Skippers Canyon and flows into the Kawarau River, just east of Queenstown. The best way to experience the Shotover River is on the famous Queenstown jet boat ride.

https://www.theurbanlist.com/nz/a-list/things-to-do-queenstown

New Zealand was brought to the forefront of adventure sport when AJ Hackett opened the first commercial Bungy jump from the Kawarau Bridge, 43 metres (141 feet), over the Kawarau River, just outside the Queenstown area.

Queenstown Skyline Gondola and Restaurant

The shopping precinct at Queenstown is small enough to walk around in a few hours, and if you take it in one afternoon, you can then walk to the Restaurant complex located up the very prominent hill, a short walk from town. There is only one hill in the town itself, which you can’t fail but see and it is not too far for most people to walk.

At the base of the hill is the Skyline Gondola which takes you to a mountain-top restaurant. Adjacent to the Gondola’s entry, is an Animal education centre where you can learn more about the flightless bird, the Kiwi. Spend around 30 minutes or so here learning about this elusive and rare creature.

http://www.skyline.co.nz/en/queenstown/dining/

Take the scenic ride up to Bob’s Peak to take in the scenic, panoramic views. You’ll be carried 450 metres above Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu. Settle in for dinner at Stratosfare Restaurant.

There’s also the Skyline Stargazing experience, where stargazing guides lead you up Bob’s Peak where with telescopes, you’ll take in sights not visible to the naked eye.

https://www.theurbanlist.com/nz/a-list/things-to-do-queenstown

Inside the Gondola’s capsule, we chatted to a couple who were revisiting the Gondola after their first visit 40 years ago. And it is little wonder. The views from there are mind-blowing. This activity is an iconic must-do, when you visit Queenstown.

Surprisingly, we noticed a flock of sheep grazing underfoot, as we travelled upwards. But it was the view that again and again captured our attention. It got better and better with each passing second.

Stratasfare Restaurant Dining Experience

Our dinner package included a complimentary drink on the terrace where the full spectacle of the snow-capped range, that is The Remarkables, can be viewed.

Queenstown
Queenstown

Being winter, the weather was closing in and longer views of The Remarkables had to wait as the mountain range snuck in behind the incoming snow cloud. Thus, we had to be quick with photographs before they disappeared completely for the evening.

The buffet experience, which may well now be modified due to Covid, was in a word, spectacular. The very best seafood, salads, hot and cold meats, desserts and fine boutique wines accompanied the splendid and vast array of food. And you can of course, eat as much as you like. I seem to remember I did over-indulge.

*Check with the restaurant for the new Covid arrangements. The buffet may be full service.

Tourist should also note that you need to be prepared to wait a long while for the taxi cab back to your hotel on a Saturday night after returning below via the Gondola. There are few Queenstown Taxis and we jumped in a share ride after waiting 45 minutes with a very tired, young child.

Queenstown Bungee

Most people know by now that Bungy jumping (also known as bungee jumping), is where a long elastic cord is attached to the ankles or harness, and the person jumps off a large height into NOTHINGNESS.

The Bungee jump at the Gondola Peak starts 400m, that’s 1300ft, over the city, and you can choose to jump normally, or swing over the township, night or day. Not my choice, but it might be your dream. Or you can skydive!

Skydiving over Queenstown

The Queenstown area actually houses three different Bungy operations. Apparently the jumping-off platform, at the top of the Gondola, was moved around further on the mountain due to it being previously positioned above a graveyard. The inappropriate screaming of Bungee jumpers were rather disconcerting during burials occurring below!

Fun fact:
Bungy jumping was inspired by David Attenborough’s 1950’s footage of the land divers of Pentecost Island Vanuatu, who tied vines to their ankles and jumped off tall platforms as a religious ceremony to bring a good harvest.

Queenstown Luge Ride

More appropriate and adrenalin-packed enough for me was the Luge ride, which is really a modified go-cart, hurtling slowly down a pre-defined track. We had pre-paid for this activity and it was a little underwhelming even for my ten-year-old child. In addition, tourists should beware the Luge rides close at 5pm, so if you plan to do the Luge with your kids before dinner, arrive early or you may face long queues at the buffet restaurant.

Accommodation:
Mercure Hotel – Queenstown
This hotel is located out of the main shopping area, a long walk from the town centre, but wonderfully located right on the lake and includes some really pretty views out from the Dining Room window. The shame is that this dining room is only used at nighttime, when you won’t see much, except black water and a few nightlights!

Location

You will have to taxi to and from the main shopping and town centre, but the desk staff are helpful and the views are wonderful. Amenities include a gym, (with a stunning view), sauna and swimming pool which on account of the prevalence of rain in Queenstown, is often underutilized.

Dining

If you stay at the Mercure and want meals after hours, you can eat at the bar which offers light adult-orientated snacks or alternatively, order Room Service. I chose the cheapest item on the Room Service menu, which was Garlic bread and it came covered with a stainless steel warmer cover, that unfortunately had congealed tomato sauce, on the inner side.

This was reported it to the kitchen staff and on my departure, an error on the bill where I was charged incorrectly for two garlic bread opened the discussion for the congealed tomato sauce. The fee was promptly waived by Reception staff. This goes a long way to making a happy customer. Well done, Mercure.

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Punting on the river
Travel

Re-Visiting Christchurch before the Earthquake

They thought they were safe. Although New Zealand sits atop the “Ring of Fire,” where the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates join, there were no known fault lines where 25,000 people lived for 160 or more years, building beautiful churches, universities and homes. One day, in 2010, that changed forever.

Church

Christchurch, located on the south island of New Zealand, has excellent walking or cycling trails due to its plain-like nature and compact size. The shallow and immaculately clean River Avon runs gently through the city’s centre, and not only boasts trout and salmon in its waters, but is flanked by easy, level, walking trails. The age old Alder, Oak and Birch trees, lining these paths, give the city a distinctive English atmosphere, particularly if you visit during winter.

The tranquillity and reminders of English village living are everywhere and I thought Christchurch a cosy place to make a home, that is, until two weeks after my visit in 2010.

Earthquake

The first earthquake registering 7.1 hit the unsuspecting city of Christchurch on September, 4th 2010, causing widespread damage but no loss of life.

The second quake was felt barely six months later and with a magnitude of 6.3, of which the epicentre was a mere 10 kilometres south-east of Christchurch’s central business district.

Killing 185 people and injured several thousand, many of Christchurch’s unique buildings collapsed, water and gas mains burst causing flooding, roads were uplifted. Countless houses sustained damage, especially in the CBD, where we had stayed not long before. Continuing liquefaction issues have rendered many homes unliveable and unable to be sold.

https://cdn.britannica.com/84/152184-050-0C74FF5D/qualities-soil.jpg

Experts thought a new fault line had appeared in the areas immediately surrounding Christchurch, meaning the city was unlikely to be the same again.

Surprisingly, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, retail store owners in the commercial district quickly improvised, bringing in shipping containers so that they could continue operating, albeit in a limited way.

It is a vast change from Christchurch, the way it used to be, just two weeks prior to that day the first earthquake hit. Here are my memories of the way it was.

My Christchurch Memories

Cathedral Square – as it was

An earthquake was the furthest thing from our mind when we ate a delicious and ample breakfast at the Holiday on Avon motel, prior to boarding the hotel’s free city shuttle bus to Cathedral Square to do some sightseeing on our first day in this pretty city.


Our dining room at the hotel overlooked this lovely vista and a 15-minute stroll along the river took us to the City Square, the site of the iconic 170-year-old Christchurch Cathedral.

Cathedral Square – Christchurch City

The Christchurch Cathedral Square, a few weeks before the earthquake devastates the town. Some people here enjoying Chess, on a clean crisp winter’s day. We spent some time examinging the ornate tiling and interior of the Cathedral, itself.

A group of Maori buskers performed songs for us, with traditional Maori “Poi.” The performance, they freely admitted, was in its early stages.

A short distance away, we explored the Botanic Gardens – a location I always visit when I am travelling, in order to see the local botany and floral displays.

Botanic Gardens Christchurch

The Curator’s house at the Botanic Gardens, replete with herb garden, was tasked with supplying the herbs for the restaurant. Again, very English.

  • Punting in Christchurch
  • Christchurch
  • Christchurch
  • Punting on the river
  • River Avon

Transport in Christchurch

I guess the city was pleased it kept its city tram network, although I am unsure if this is still operating, as a tourist, ‘hop on hop off’ tram. Formerly, it stopped at the major sites surrounding Cathedral Square. For a small city, they really looked after their tourists.

Ornate iron fretwork on the bridge over the river captured my attention. I wonder if it is still intact?

Christchurch’s Heritage Architecture

Beautiful architecture was found in many corners of Christchurch.

A collection of 23 heritage bluestone buildings formed the Arts Centre and University. Housing many different artists and crafts from painting, ceramics, to older ladies spinning and knitting socks, the Arts Centre was evidence of multi-purposing these stately structures. Demonstrations were occurring daily whilst I was there.

Note: This area sustained much damage from the quake, so may look different today.

Day Trips from Christchurch

The Christchurch area of New Zealand can be a convenient hub for day trips to Akaroa, Mt Cook National Park and the TranszAlpine Train Trip to Greymouth.

The relatively small population of Christchurch has had support from the New Zealand Government in the slow process of rebuilding. That continues with further earthquake-proof structures, similar to those found in Wellington.

I feel lucky to see it in its original state.

blogging, Travel

Friendly Friday Challenge – Market

It is quite ironic that my Friendly Friday Challenge Co-host, Sandy, should give us the prompt, Market this week as I was just looking through my photos of the wonderful Market Hall, in Helsinki, Finland.

Finnish Markets

Where the Hungarians are spoilt for choice in varieties of Paprika in their markets, Helsinki is spoilt for choice in terms of Salmon.

Me, being Australian, have only really known three varieties of Smoked Salmon – Tasmanian, Norwegian and Danish Smoked Salmon.

My eyes opened as wide as saucers when I saw the contents of the cabinets in the Helsinki Markets, the day I arrived in the Finnish capital.

I remember it is not just ordinary salmon, because the thing that struck me about Finns, was that they had taken Salmon to a whole new level, like as in Heinz 52 different varieties.

Now I love Salmon, so I was pretty happy with this, until I realized how hard it would be be to choose which one to buy! I needed help to choose between Tsar’s salmon, Cold Smoked Salmon, Flamed Salmon, Lemon Salmon and Rose Pepper Salmon, etc. and in the end, feeling rather befuddled, I settled on Cured Salmon with Basilic. With a large helping of Salmon Soup? How could I resist?

salmon soup in helsinki
in helsinki

You need to know that the people of Helsinki eat a good deal of fish, freshwater fish, that is. Even sometimes three times in a day. So when I think of Helsinki, I think of Salmon, and lots of it.”

StPA – forestwoodfolkart.wordpress.com/2016/09/17/helsinki-travel/

Polish Markets

In Poland, you may not see as much Salmon, but you will see a delicous form of smoked Sheep’s Cheese and lots of traditional style products for sale in Zakopane in the Tathra Mountains.

Zakopane

Japanese Markets

In Japan, the markets were absolutely full of many varieties of seafood. For the Japanese, seafood is a staple. It is a shame my travelling partner dislikes fish!

Australian Markets

Meanwhile back home in Australia, the sun is shining, (as always) and the markets continue with a Covid safe plan for the moment. For how much longer, we are unsure.

Redcliffe Esplanade
Pre Covid photo of Redcliffe Markets
Friendly Friday
monument 9 11 christchurch
Architecture, Travel

Christchurch Cathedral – Now Lost

Church

The Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, was an impressive piece of religious architecture and a tourist draw-card for the small city. Sadly it’s now gone, due to two large earthquakes that occurred back in 2010 and 2011. I was lucky enough to visit just two weeks before the first earthquake.

History of Christchurch

For Christchurch to be declared a ‘city’, with all the privileges that entailed, it had to have a cathedral, so the pilgrims that sailed on the immigrant ships in 1850 and made Christchurch their home, built the cathedral in the historic style of the time. Clearly, they had faith that the city would develop.

The Church though a little damaged, remained intact after the first earthquake, in 2010, but the beautiful tower fell in the second event barely six months later. An earthquake-proof cathedral, presumably of a different design will be re-built on this site.

mosaic christchurch cathedral
Reproduction in mosaics on the floor of the Cathedral depicting one of four pilgrim ships that established Christchurch in 1850.

Early Pilgrims

Some insight into days on board the immigrant ships was provided:

Life on board was cramped. Steerage passengers were confined to a small space below the main deck. Single men slept in bunks. Married couples had a curtain for privacy. This space was used not only for sleeping, but also for storing everything needed for the voyage. There was a lack of fresh air, and dampness was a constant concern. Basic food was provided, such as salted meat, flour, rice, biscuits and potatoes. A bucket was supplied for washing and laundry.

Many suffered from seasickness. The worst, during the first two weeks, but for some, it continued for the whole voyage. Passengers passed the time at sea plotting the ship’s course, writing letters and diaries, sewing, playing cards and games, and dancing. Prayer meetings were held every morning and afternoon, and there was a full church service on Sundays. There were also school lessons for the children. Source: http://www.firstfourships.co.nz/

The Altar

Christchurch cathedral
Before the Quake….

Christchurch cathedral

A door like the Cathedral entry door could withstand any earthquake.

christchurch cathedral


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Christchurch Cathedral’s Stained Glass Windows

Christchurch cathedral
Christchurch before the Quake….

Not able to withstand the quake were the stained glass windows and curiously patriotic cushions on the pews.

Christchurch before the Quake....

Mosaics

christchurch cathedral

The mosaic theme continued all along the wall and floor tiles. They loved these sorts of things in the mid 1800’s. Didn’t they? A real treasure.

Mosaics

Part of the design included a Swastika, a symbol that held a different meaning, prior to World War II.

The Swastika is known as the Fylfot and is an ancient symbol found in the ruins of Troy, Egypt, China, and India. In Sanskit, it means prosperity from the belief that it brings good luck. The Victorians loved the symbol and I have a Victorian hat pin that is a swastika. It gives me the creeps, but historically, that was not the intention.

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Not sure what the relevance of this was for, other than what it says.

Christchurch before the Quake....
Christchurch cathedral

Here is what the cathedral looked like until recently – Reduced to rubble but the door remains intact.

Work was scheduled to begin in 2020, on the re-build.

Linking to Norm’s doors