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.

stpa logo

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


.

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.

.


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

winter windmill skansen sweden
Traditional Art, Travel

Swedish Skansen Museum

Overlooking Stockholm, Skansen Open Air Museum is a walk back in history that every visitor should make when visiting Sweden.

Skansen is the first open-air museum and zoo in Sweden and is located on the island Djurgården in Stockholm, Sweden. It was opened on 11 October 1891 by Artur Hazelius to show the way of life in the different parts of Sweden before the industrial era.

In a few hours, oner can stroll back through time to pre-industrial Sweden and imagine life in the beautifully preserved collection of traditional buildings.

All levels of society are featured here from the humble bonded farmer to the wealthy Corn Chandler, a dealer in grains, whose quaint summerhouse is a postcard-worthy.

Summerhouse cottage of the Corn chandler

If you are visiting at Christmas and through early January, there are extra activities organized with attendants in period costume singing Christmas songs and dancing around the tree as well as reindeer sled rides for the children.

history
Head coverings for.both men and women, were a practical and significant feature of life

The Old Church in Skansen is reminiscent of a turbulent period in religious history. The Church in Sweden was heavily influenced by the traditions of Martin Luther whose idea was not to start a new religion, but rather to reform Christianity. He extolled the virtues of finding, “Salvation through Faith.” Although there are very old Swedish Churches dating back to the end of the Viking era with heavily decorated ceilings, later buildings were more austere in decoration.

Photography is encouraged throughout the museum, but the interiors of many buildings are quite dark and in order to preserve any painted objects, such as a splendid Swedish Mora clock, the use of a camera flash is prohibited. The clock at Skansen was painted in Swedish folk art style similar to the one below and dated back to 1799.

In years gone by, it was customary for art students to travel to Stockholm in order to learn to paint and later, return to the countryside to decorate household items and furniture for wealthy farmers, in typical folk art style.

sverige museet i vinter
Farmers cottage

Accompanying the collection of historic buildings is a small zoo, which would delight the younger members of the family, and features arctic animals such as reindeer, moose, lynx, bear and grey wolves.

Don’t forget to snap your panoramic shot, as the view from Skansen gives you an opportunity to capture the Stockholm skyline and city centre.

sweden
Stockholm and Sami Hutsami Tepee

I recommend the various lunch options nearby. You could easily spend the afternoon here visiting other attractions such as Grona Lund Amusement Park, Vasa or the ABBA museums and the Art Gallery.

Lunch options in the area range from cafes to a la carte restaurants. One of which claimed to serve the best salmon in the world so I just had to try it. Served with potato and dill it was definitely a ‘melt-in-the-mouth,’ flavour and the freshest salmon I have eaten. In archetypal Swedish style, a simple dessert of fresh raspberries with ice cream and raspberry sauce was a fitting complement to the meal.

Skiing Bitihorn Beitostolen Norway
Travel

Skiing in New Zealand

Several years ago, we endured a heart-stopping trip to The Remarkables Ski Fields in the South Island of New Zealand. Australians flock to the NZ ski fields, every year, as it is more cost effective for them, than skiing in the limited fields in Australia.

Finally, we arrived!

After the 8 Kilometre, nail-biting transfer to the Remarkables Ski Field, in a very old bus, we checked “in,” to receive our NZ Ski My Pass Card, microchipped to follow our progress around the ski fields and were measured for clothing, boots, and skis.

Hiring Skis and Clothing on the Ski Fields

The Ski Centre, (at 1610 m a.s.l.), was awash with bodies of all sizes in snowsuits, teeny tiny kids sliding about on snowboards and loads of skis resting in the snow.

Travel tip: Visitors can hire ski gear for their skiing adventure, (pants, jackets, and boots etc) but they do have to bring some items of their own, as I was to soon discover.

No, you can’t hire gloves, Ma’am, for hygiene reasons” – the attendant in the Ski shop told me sternly, upon enquiring. What was I thinking? (Even in this pre-Covid vacation). Ski gloves would be a personal item you couldn’t and wouldn’t want to hire!

I regretted not thinking through the Travel agent’s vague advice: “Travel light, you can hire everything over there.” I cursed leaving my own super-thick Norwegian gloves at home and regretted passing up the opportunity to buy a pair at our local supermarket, (which had so many on sale, as ski gloves aren’t usually a popular commodity in Australia). Thus, having a captive market, I succumbed and purchased a pair for $50.00 at the small mountain Ski shop. It would be impossible to ski/toboggan without gloves.

Storage Lockers for Hire at The Remarkables

I also regret not hiring a storage locker at the ski centre; however, the locks appeared dubious and I preferred to have my passport, drink bottles and asthma medication with me so chose to carry it around on my back, whilst skiing, not realizing how destabilizing this would be on my balance.

Update: The Ski centre now offers secure day storage with automated pay lockers and if skiing the next day you can store your used gear overnight in the Rental Department. This is available downstairs in the base building and you can pay by credit card or EFTPOS.

Ski Lessons

Group and Private ski lessons can now easily be booked ahead of time, via the website.

I’d opted to introduce my daughter to the thrill of downhill skiing in New Zealand, so I attempted to teach her what little I knew from a trip to Thredbo Ski Fields, as a school student, some 30 years ago.

Unfortunately for my pride, it fast became apparent that following the lead of another beginner skiers in the very generous Beginner’s bowl as well as eavesdropping on a few instructors was far more successful for my daughter, than listening to Mum’s antiquated knowledge. Physically adept, she quickly got the hang of it, having been cross-country skiing in Norway, several years previously. Before long, she was going up and down the magic carpet in the Beginner’s bowl area, while I watched on from a distance.

Hands up in a Happy ‘Y’

Lifts at the Remarkables

It is useful to bear in mind that lift passes allow you to access both The Remarkables and Coronet Peak ski fields and do not need to be used on consecutive days.

From the ski centre, we jumped, (literally), onto the chairlift, to travel up to the Tubing area. With skis on, it is no mean feat for a 10-year-old, new to downhill skiing, to manage this without any assistance. What happened to those nice attendants I remember who were there to help you on and off the chairlift with a modicum of grace?

In this age of economic rationalism, they had been replaced by a single safety officer, who replied to a request for assistance with a lackadaisical, “You’ll be alright!”  That is Kiwi skiing for you and his confidence in my skills, as anticipated, was sorely misplaced. Getting on the lift, was managed fine, but getting off was quite a different matter.

Busily advising my daughter, Miss 10, on what to watch out for when alighting from the chair, (which she managed with incredible finesse), I suddenly realised I’d left alighting from the chair a second or two, too late!! By which time, I had to jump, as the lift had started to turn and the ground was fast disappearing beneath me. The sharp decline on the slope meant I promptly lost my balance, falling over right in front of the turning chair!

With not a soul to help, I got up with the help of Miss 10, which was humiliation enough. I was then relieved to see a friendly face approach me, thinking this stranger was going to assist me to maintain my precarious balance on the snow. Alas, she was a photographer out to take an obligatory-first time ski portrait- the kind they sell in kiosks at somewhat ridiculous prices.

Snap snap snap, clicked the camera.

I inwardly hoped she didn’t get one of me falling at the top of the chairlift. On second thoughts, that could have been a better tourist photo! With my mouth wide open, gasping for air and scrambling for something on which to gain a solid footing, (said backpack swinging around on my back), it is little wonder the photographer suddenly hesitated, thinking I was about to sneeze, or collapse. No, it was me with a mild bout of asthma, gasping for a little more air.

Tubing and Snow Fun at The Remarkables

After that mild mishap, and a few more falls and runs down the slopes, we arrived at the Tubing area – which is a short walk from the lift.

Riding a Rubber tyre tube down a huge slope is a real blast in the snow. I can’t tell you how much fun it is, even for a person of my age. It is not just for children.

Miss 10 and I tubed up and down for over an hour, and I would have continued if I could have. I think sometime we may have reached speeds of 20 -30 km/h. It was heady! I felt young again!

Back then, the Tubes are pulled up by a rope tow, which has to be held taut whilst you are seated on the large rubber tube. For me, that meant holding the tow rope in a position that rather awkwardly was between my legs! Yet this was so much more preferable to walking up the hill in the snow dragging the tube in thick snow. And it meant we could get more downhill runs in. Yay!

Of course, the ubiquitous Tourist Photographer was there too. I think two photos cost near to over NZD$60.00 – you have been warned!

After several more hours, I was utterly exhausted and needed some fuel and asthma medication to continue. We returned to the beginner area instead of attempting more advanced runs. We’d fallen over too many times to remember, by this stage.

Despite seeing a nasty beginner snowboarding accident which to me looked like a flip gone wrong, we had so much fun, going up, coming down, going up, coming down, throwing snowballs, sliding down the snow cave/tunnel etc.  And the view from the Remarkables was well, remarkable!

Ski Transfer to Queenstown from The Remarkables

The return trip from the ski fields is simple enough. No need to book as apparently shuttles leave the mountain every hour, or as soon as they fill up a bus load, from 2 pm onwards.

Something to Ponder About

ski area New Zealand
blogging, Travel

Risking Life and Limb to Ski in New Zealand

Queenstown

Lindis pass New Zealand
On the way to Cromwell…

To reach our destination in Queenstown, we’d had to firstly cross the Canterbury plains and central Otago – Mckenzie country, take lunch at stunning Mt Cook, had a tea break at Omarama and Cromwell before traversing the very scenic Lindis Pass, before finally reaching Queenstown.

Along the winding road into Queenstown, there’s a small hydro plant and narrow gorge where the famous Queenstown Jetboat scoots along, at ultra high speed for tourists. Just another one of New Zealand’s many thrill-seeking activities.

The Jet boat ride is not for me. I don’t relish paying money to be thrown around at a high speed whilst getting splashed with cold water for a half-hour. Little did I know, that our bus ride from Queenstown would make the JetBoat ride look like a casual walk in the park.

The lake in Queenstown New Zealand with snow capped mountains in the background
Lake in Queenstown

Ski Transfer to the Remarkables Ski Fields

As you cannot stay “on-snow,” in New Zealand, one must book a bus transfer to the ski fields, 8 kilometres away, which the travel agent had kindly pre-booked for me.

When the bus finally arrived at our hotel, I boarded it with a fair degree of trepidation. Picture an aging school bus dating from the 1950s, apparently called, ‘Old Bertie,’ with seats thinly padded with threadbare green vinyl. The rusty push slider windows with white metal casings gives you the impression of what this creaky old bus was like.

I mulled over whether I should be daunted that I was double the age of anyone else on board, including the driver, who introduced himself as Bevan. Bevan appeared so young he might still be ‘wet behind the ears,’ I thought.

Our pick up time was so early in the morning, we’d only grabbed a piece of toast from the extensive hotel buffet, which seemed criminal. Especially when we spent the better part of the following hour, picking up numerous beanie-clad snowboarders from the hostels around Queenstown, some of whom kept us waiting for quite some time. Bevan, our driver, had no qualms about reprimanding them for being late! Finally, though, we were on the way to the ski fields called The Remarkables: Eight kilometres away, so the road sign had said – in large print.

Snow capped peaks of the Remarkable mountains in New Zealand
The Remarkables

Early on the driver had problems with shifting the gears in Old Bertie the Bus, as we started up the mountain road towards the ski fields. My monkey mind worried he had not long had a license to drive this old jalopy.

“No snow on the road up to the Remarkables,” the two-way radio croaked out through a crackling speaker to the driver. Apparently, it was a ‘no-go,’ if there was snow on the road and our transfer would be cancelled. That would be a shame, I thought.

The reason for the two-way radio message was soon to become apparent as it wasn’t long before a distinctive burning smell and a handbrake in need of some tightening, confirmed my worst fears. The travel agent had booked us on a low-budget bus transfer, where passenger safety appeared to be a secondary concern. Eek!

Panaromic view over Queenstown
The road to and from the Remarkables, looking down towards Queenstown

We drove and we drove, on and on, as the old bus creaked and groaned and slipped and slid wildly back and forth across the wet and slushy roads. My young daughter, who was huddled beside me, tentatively asked, “Mum, what’s that burning smell? Is it the bus?”

So she was noticing it too.

Great!

Not!

The remaining passengers seem completely unaware of any impending engine issue or disaster. Most were sleeping or dozing in their seats, heads listing awkwardly to alternate sides in perfect time with the lurching of ‘Old Bertie,’ around the corners. If it wasn’t so worrisome, it might have been laughable.

Quickly hushing my daughter’s question with reassurances, I noted we had came dangerously close to slipping off the soft edges of the mountain road. The lack of guard rails meant that if the bus happened to slide, we would go over the side of the mountain into the valley below.

Heart stopping stuff.

I told myself and my daughter, that the company must drive up here every day in winter, so it must be safe enough. With my heart palpitating at a level way above normal, I wondered if my daughter could hear the tremble in my voice!

It felt like an absolute eternity of nail-biting terror as we rounded each corner, then another and another. We had been driving for around 30 minutes. It was slow progress. Surely, I thought, we must be almost there. The sign had said 8 km to the ski fields themselves, hadn’t it?

In the distance, I saw another large sign and craned my neck to read the words emblazoned therein, which declared:

“The Remarkables –

You are now half-way there!”

I felt ill.

There was probably another half-hour of this torture to endure! I gripped the seat even tighter as the bus continued to lurch from side to side, (shock absorbers or suspension was clearly unknown at the date of its manufacture).

Snow capped peaks of the Remarkable mountains in New Zealand
The mountain side with the Remarkables in the distance

Does anyone remember those days of driving without synchromesh in the low gears of a manual car? If you do, you might have become nostalgic about this bus which took me for a ride down memory lane, or rather, nightmare lane.

Along with no shock absorbers, the driver had to ram the gear shift down into first gear after having to stop the bus completely first, at which point the tyres would skid and slip underneath us, and the bus would slide backwards on the road, as Bevan desperately tried to get the tyres to grip the gravel mush.

What if there had been a little snow on the road? It didn’t bear thinking about.

I had to close my eyes. But finally we made it to the ski site, safe but not sound!

Can you see the winding road coming up the mountain?

Before we stepped hurriedly off the bus, our driver had a stern warning that we must return to the bus at 4pm, or else!

“You must tell us if you come down any other way,” he said, “otherwise we will send the ski patrol out looking for you, as we don’t leave anyone on the mountain.”

I had already decided to descend from the ski fields a completely different way, as we were on a time limit to reach our dinner destination at Queenstown’s Gondola restaurant, so the frightening bus trip merely cemented my plans in concrete. Looking out the window, I had spotted two new all-weather terrain shuttle vehicles advertising transfers back to Queenstown, for NZ$25 at the mountain Bus Stop.

So eager was I to report to Bevan the Bus driver-come-potential-troubled-youth, that I was going to use the alternative shuttle bus to return to town, I almost spat out the words to him. The bus trip up the mountain was harrowing enough, I can only imagine the absolute terror of sliding down those mountain roads in “Old Bertie,” and its questionable braking ability.

The return journey was spent in a dazzling new vehicle. Even though the vehicle came very close to the edge of the moutain road, I did not feel in any danger. No burning rubber smell, either.

I wonder how Bevan and Bertie got on?

Something to ponder about.

Merino Sheep, Mt Cook
blogging, Photography, Travel

Cromwell and The Lindis Pass

Lindiis pass
Iceland or New Zealand?

New Zealand has often been compared to Norway. In fact, on the way to Kastrup airport in Denmark, I saw one of those massive billboards, illuminated with a photograph of a snow-covered mountain.

The caption read,

“Norway?

No! New Zealand!”

Several years ago, I took a bus from Christchurch in the South Island of New Zealand all the way to Queenstown, via Mt Cook. I am hoping that I will be able to do this trip again.

If you are tempted to travel this section of New Zealand, I recommend taking a power block, or back up batteries for your phone or camera, because, if you are anything like me, you will find many jaw-dropping photo opportunities, as you pass through the Southern Alps.

One of the sights we passed by, that got the attention of fellow bus passengers, was a location that was one the film sets of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Movie trilogy.

Cromwell.....the Lindis pass
The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy was filmed in this location

Apparently, the local farmers were called in to provide extras for the Horse Stampede scene. This involved a large number of horsemen, a battle charge and horse stampede. The crews were set up and ready to film and had organized a large group of local farmers to be on standby as horsemen actors, but Peter Jackson felt that the weather and light was not optimal for filming so he cancelled the day.

This went on each day, for seven days. The farmers dutifully turned up each day, at the appointed time, ready for their big-screen break. After Peter Jackson cancelled filming again on the seventh consecutive day, the Farmers walked off the set.

They complained they couldn’t afford to be away from their farms, for so many days on end, twiddling their thumbs, so it was decided that their wives would step in and provide the horsemen extras for the stampede scene.

Next time you watch one of the movies and you think you are witnessing a cavalry charge of men, think again!!!

The Lindis Pass

The 60 kilometre stretch of road, known as the Lindis Pass, is considered by some to be the most beautiful passes in all of New Zealand. With the tussock grass covering all but the high snowy peaks, it is a great place to stop and view the majesty of the Southern Alps.

Be sure to check road conditions for the pass in the town of Omarama before you embark on this journey, as the pass crosses 971 metres above sea level, at its highest point. As such, its often closed due to bad weather conditions. It can even have black ice, making driving treacherous.

Approaching Lindis pass in our bus, I spotted a road farther up encircling the peak of the mountain; one that would give Norway’s “Trollstigen” a bit of competition.

On the way to Cromwell.....the Lindis pass

Traffic through the pass will often queue up when weather conditions force road closure for a few hours, or days. Oftentimes, travellers waiting along the road, will leave their cars and walk around collecting piles of rocks which they turn into cairns.

Norwegians would call these trolls.

Norge
Trolls at Trollstigen

Yet another parallel between New Zealand and Norway.

In many ways, travelling through this area I that if I squinted, I could easily fool myself that I was somewhere in Scandinavia or Iceland again.

Merino Sheep, Mt Cook

And that brings us to Lake Dunstan. It glorious aqua colour indicative of the glaciers that feed it.

Ski Fields and Lake Dunstan

Andrew our bus driver, explained how Lake Dunstan was created when a river was dammed, so the old township of Cromwell had to be relocated and the locals rehoused.

If you’re a ski bunny, the ski fields of Queenstown are a manageable driving distance away from this spot, (50 minutes to The Remarkables and 40 minutes to Wanaka). This is a great alternative to staying in Queenstown itself, which can be a tad more expensive.

Mt Cook

Activities in Otago and Queenstown

Besides Skiing, activities for individuals and groups who prefer to explore and experience places at their leisure, include:

  • Four-wheel driving the many hill tracks, or guided 4WD tours
  • Trekking and mountain biking
  • Visiting the Central Otago vineyards
  • Exploring the heritage stone buildings
  • Museum and Old Cromwell Town
  • Old mining landscapes
  • Guided fishing trips on Lake Dunstan
  • Golf
  • Snowmobiles (winter only)
  • Jet boating the Kawarau or Clutha Rivers

Continuing our bus journey meant only a short Tea stop at the roadside Fruit stall. I took the opportunity to purchase a couple of serves of breakfast fruit at farm gate prices.

do not touch

The stall also displayed some of the largest pine cones I have seen.

Ever the compliant tourist, I didn’t touch them.