Walking with Edmund at 760 metres

Once a humble beekeeper, Sir Edmund Hillary came to know this mountain very well. For it was here that he would hone his mountaineering skills to become the first man, along with Tensing Norgay Sherpa, ever to reach the summit of the tallest peak in the world – Mt Everest.

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Hillary was certainly an imposing figure, even in Bronze. The man was apparently very tall, and perhaps this is what gave him an edge over other mountaineers, when climbing with cramp-irons on his feet up vertical ice cliffs….??

His statue stands at the Hermitage Hotel at Mt Cook, New Zealand, a place that came to be his second home. Known as Aoraki in the Maori tongue, I stopped here en route to Queenstown and took a walk around the Mt Cook vicinity.

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Yes, I was mad enough to go to the South Island of New Zealand in the middle of winter!!

Mt Cook is in the South Island of New Zealand and a stunning place of phenomenal beauty, yet a very unforgiving place.

 

There was a patch of blue sky in the far distance, which looked promising for my walk, but at this altitude, the weather can change exceedingly quickly so there was no guarantees.

So my walk entailed being extremely careful when I stepped, not wanting to fall on the ice like I did, once, in Norway. That little trick rendered me unable to walk properly for weeks.

Ouch!!

The flora around the Hermitage area is very much alpine heath, struggling to survive in a harsh environment, although there are also sheep grazing here. The finest merino wool in the world, is in fact, grown a few kilometres away, at Mt Cook Station.

 

The sheep seem to have right of way here, at one point we had to ‘split the mob’ to get through.

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The finest fleece – Mt Cook’s Flock

In the area around Mt Cook, you can also see the most delightful blue snow/glacial fed lakes, like this one which form part of the hydro and irrigation scheme.

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We had to walk back very quickly to the Hermitage, as the weather was closing in, fast.

 

Lunch was a quick bite in the hotel restaurant and whether it was due to the intense cold, I am not sure, but it tasted really delicious. And prices were very reasonable. They do have a monopoly as it is the only place to eat, for miles and miles, But oh! I would pay a lot more for such a meal when one can take advantage of that very special view.

We ate in front of these magnificent full length glass windows at the hotel admiring the view. You can also get an idea in the reflection of the windows….

There was then only a little time for my daughter to throw around some snowballs and slide up and down the slopes on a toboggan, which the lady at the hotel reception said we could use free of charge.

She was so kind, and it seemed that her manner was from a bygone era, when you do things for free, with no expectation of returning the favour.

(Great New Zealand hospitality!)

It is claimed by some, that New Zealand is a rather conservative place and that they are still a bit stuck in the past at the end of the world. Well if that is the case, it is not a bad way to be, is it?

And certainly not a bad place to be stuck, either.

All too soon, it was time to leave and I was left with the memory of these wild and extreme walks, I took, at Mt Cook.

Linking to Jo’s Monday Walk

Jo’s walk this week is to Carding Hill Valley

New Zealand
Restless Jo Monday Walks
Footnote: Up to 1953, seven separate climbing expeditions had thus failed to reach the summit of Everest, but on May 29th, Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a native Nepalese climber who had participated in five previous Everest trips, were the only members of the party able to make the final assault on the summit. At 11:30 in the morning, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit, 29,028 feet above sea level, the highest spot on earth. As remarkable as the feat of reaching the summit was the treacherous climb back down the peak.Throughout the rest of his life, he worked tirelessly on humanitarian and fund raising projects, building schools, health clinics, and many aid projects for his beloved country of Nepal, (a country dear to my heart), until his death from heart failure in 2008.
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Walking on Straddie with Maddie

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It started out with Maddie wanting to go to Straddie….

Maddie was Swedish, in high school, and on an student exchange to experience Aussie culture, language, and the few contemporary traditions, we Australians have. She wanted to see Straddie, aka Stradbroke Island, a secluded beach paradise off the coast of north eastern Australia. This is how we came to meet Bill, but more about that later.

As Australians are oft to shorten names, Stradbroke Island is affectionately called Straddie, even though it’s name has anything but humble beginnings, being named as it was, after the British Lord of Stradbroke.

Aboriginal communities have long existed on Straddie, as has a plethora of wildlife and flora, including the much-loved koala, kangaroo and ‘Gin–gin,’ otherwise known as a Grass tree.

Add to this, miles of pristine white sandy surf beaches, and you have a swimming meccas for locals, and occasionally, sharks.

“Maddie” wanted to see “Straddie”, so we booked in at the Backpacker’s  Manta lodge, situated just a few kilometres back from the famous Point Lookout, and took an early morning ferry to Dunwich. This was actually called the ‘Flyer’ and the fare also included the bus to our lodge, which has a convenient timetable that coincides with the arrival of the ferries.

The beach from the porch of the Manta Backpackers Lodge

 Desperately hoping the name Adder Rock was not synonymous with the highly venomous snake, the Death Adder, we arrived at Manta lodge, an accredited scuba dive centre and above average Backpackers in a 4 share room. This backpacker is in an excellent location, step outside and you are on the beach, also reasonably close to Point Lookout by road, but we chose to walk along the beach for the scenic journey over the rocks and beach verges.

Stradbroke Island Adder Rock
4WD vehicles are permitted on the beach here
Gunter’s point where perhaps a German tourist was not careful enough?

If you visit Stradbroke and stay here, I would caution you that the beach trail to Point Lookout takes over an hour, and we found later that it is more direct to take the road, or catch the bus, but, of course, it was a lot less scenic. You can also find toilets along the way at Cylinders beach Caravan Park and a small shop and Post Office. We ever saw a Beach wedding taking place. High Heels in the sand… can you imagine the difficulties???

A nice diversion along the way is the Point Lookout Hotel, good for a hearty/ liquid lunch, or refreshment, or two… the view from there is simply amazing, from anywhere in the hotel. After we were suitably refreshed, we continued on, exploring the headland at Point Lookout, named by Captain Cook as he sailed along the East Coast in 1770.

The views from Point Lookout afford amazing views along Thirty Mile Beach…..or or was it Sixty MileBeach…. plenty of it anyway!   Take the Gorge walk for a long and very scenic view of this cove and the turbulent surf hitting the headland in front of the Surf club and you will see views like this….

As for amenities, Point Lookout has a number of eateries to suit a variety of palettes.  You will find a small collection of avant-garde gift and boutique fashion shops. Their opening times are various, but you could be lucky. One that caught my eye seem so ‘Straddie’…. laid back…. not always open and simple but good… the Fresh local Seafood shop called “The Prawn Shack.”

But this is where Bill comes in, our local tour guide – the quiet achiever Bill who would take us on a 4 hour 4WD tour of the Island.

As I am linking to Restless Jo’s Monday Walks,  I will talk more about Bill’s fabulous adventures in another post.

Some Walking with Restless Jo on her Monday walks – lots to Ponder About

Te Papa, Beach and Wind Walk

New Zealand

Around this time 6 years ago I was walking in Wellington, New Zealand

A light shower greeted me this morning so the day started with an indoor activity hunting down a friend’s family history at the library. To our surprise we found a connection with our own family… is everyone in New Zealand related in some way or another to a resident in the Hawkes Bay area????

Wellington promised to live up to Melbourne’s weather reputation of having four seasons in one day… becuse pretty soon the sun came out, allowing us to have a picnic lunch, after walking along the beach. The children had a great time and I saw the harbour at its best. It really is a huge natural harbour surrounding by breathtaking mountains and forest.

The old part of Wellington has some beautiful houses:many perched on the absolute top of the ridge, and especially around Oriental Bay, one could be forgiven for thinking you were in San Francisco.


After all, New Zealand is on a fault line, like San Francisco, has a cable car like San Francisco, has houses perched on perilously steep cliffs and mountain sides, ending in a beautiful harbour, and lots of wooden architecture from the early 20’s – 30’s like San Francisco, and then of course, there is the earthquake issue.

New Zealand had around 15,000 earthquakes each year, mostly in the North Island, but very few are felt. The town centre of Napier, in Hawkes Bay, was completed flattened by a quake in 1931 and you’ll find footage of this in the Te Papa Museum, central Wellington, which was my next destination on this walk.

An earthquake ‘house’ gives a simulation of what it was like to be in Napier on that fateful day. The terrible rumbling, the premptive the shaking and rattling, and sudden movement underfoot is actually terrifying. Really gives you an idea , of what it is like to live through such an event, without experiencing the danger.

The Maori exhibits are also interesting and one can sit inside a Maori meeting house where they occasionally hold council meetings…. it is quite dark inside and has an atmosphere of solemnity and seriousness.

If you visit this museum, don’t forget to see the Kiwi and, the Giant Squid, both preserved and dead of course. Children are well catered for too, with dress ups, games, activities and play areas that allow for interactive learning.

Travelling further through the main centre of Wellington, we took a ride on the cable car to the small museum at the top of the hill. The museum itself, outlines the history of the Cable car, has some Vintage cars and you can also see the cable mechanism at work.

On our return to the city, we paused at the fully timbered church where my cousin’s parents were married. Truly unique I think in New Zealand’s church architecture. Our walk continued following a short car ride (sorry Jo, I cheated),  to the wind turbines at the Karori Reserve. Some energetic Wellingtonians were actually jogging the whole way up the narrow 5 kilometre road, and this in very windy conditions, one of the reasons I declined the offer to walk the 5 kilometres. Even then, we almost got blown away when we stepped out of the car at the top!

The wind turbine was built with Danish technology. While being able to sustain winds of up to 200km/h, it shuts down when the winds goes over 80km/h.

Wind power is something many cities are now pondering about.

Linking to RestlessJo and her Monday walks

Hanging Around in Helsinki – Part II

So there I was, walking about in Helsinki, [read previous post here] when I discovered  what delighted me the most about this city was the many fantastic things you can see on foot, without spending much at all.

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Esplanadi park – Helsinki

Having just eaten a ‘larger than life’ Cinnamon bun, at the iconic Cafe Esplanadi, opposite the park on Pohjois-Esplanadi, followed by another – yes, another salmon lunch, at the Market Hall, (read more about Helsinki food options here), I set off through the streets to burn off some calories.

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Tuomiokirkko

My walking path through the city took me to the iconic Senate Square and the very impressive and landmark that is Tuomiokirkko. This Lutheran cathedral, built in neoclassical style, in 1830-1852, was originally a tribute to Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, who through the imperialist era, was also the Grand Duke of Finland. It is a must see!

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This church is also a very useful navigational mark for the tourist, dominating the city’s  skyline as it does from every angle, as you can see below.

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Tuomiokirkko

The cathedral is decorated in spartan Lutheran style, quite different from the next stop on my walk:

Uspenski Cathedral

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Walking easterly from the market square, I didn’t stop to buy paella, berries, reindeer meatballs or furs at the many market stalls, but continued in the direction of Katajanokka peninsula and Uspenski Cathedral, a red brick orthodox church with gilded ‘cupola’ style towers. It is a good stretch for the calf muscles getting up the steep path to the church itself, [definitely not wheelchair friendly], but the view from there does make it all worthwhile.

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If you are thinking, ho hum… another church… think again, as it is the largest orthodox church outside of Russia. Much more ornate than the Lutheran cathedral, the cupola domes were even gilded in gold for the church’s anniversary and are often illuminated at night.

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 If you are a fan of Russian style icon art, Uspenski is a great place to visit. Just don’t expect to see the famous icon of ‘St.Nicholas – the wonder maker’, which was stolen from there, in broad daylight, back in 2007, and has yet to be found. It’s free for visitors to enter the church and also handy to know that they do allow photography inside.

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I could also chat about walking past Marimekko outlets and seeing unique Finnish clothing design at Stockmans, or the fact that 60% of the world’s ice breakers are built in Helsinki, but it was the Helsinki architecture, located behind Uspenski, that really garnered my attention.

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Helsinki architecture
Helsinki architecture

I saw so many wondrous examples of Art Nouveau buildings, with ‘Jugenstil’ detailing, often coloured in the soft pastels, so popular in that era.

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“Can you imagine what it is like to live in one of those buildings?” I say to my Finnish friend.  I doubt I’ll ever know, as they proceed to tell me it is very expensive real estate. Security grills and pin – codes on the doors are, no doubt, a more contemporary addition.

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Suomenlinna UNESCO World Heritage Site

My walk, continued following a short ferry ride, across the Helsinki archipelago, to Suomenlinna – (formerly known as Sveaborg): a military fortress  dating back to 1748. Due to its strategic position between three nations, this fortress served not just the Russian Military, but also the Sweden government of the day, (hence the name Sveaborg), and in later times, an independent Finland.  It was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991, and one can make their way around the cobble stoned roads, walls and tunnels on foot.

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There is no charge to visit the island, only the nominal fee for the ferry ride over there, unless you want to enter the museum, which I didn’t, as there was SO much to explore on foot.

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Another Church???

Incredibly, I must tell you about another church, I saw on my walk, in Helsinki – the very unique Tempooliaukko. The concept of a “Church in the Rock,” was  first mooted as an architecture competition,  in 1930’s, before WWII and economic challenges meant plans to build the winning design were shelved until the 1950’s. It finally opened in 1969.

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Church in the Rock

Quarried out of the natural rock that one finds in Helsinki, the church provides excellent acoustics for all kinds of concerts and visitors may enter, anytime, unless there is a wedding ceremony taking place. I was lucky enough to arrive just as a wedding was concluding. As they left, the bride and groom were congratulated by a larger group than they anticipated –  a host of tourists waiting outside! Heads up – they do ask for silence when you are inside the church but photos are welcome!

 

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However you find them, Finns do enjoy their summertime.  My walk back to the hotel took me via a summer music festival, street musicians, even impromptu flea markets along the main street.  I would like to have enjoyed a dinner at the beautiful Kappeli restaurant, but alas, it was Saturday night and the stern-faced maitre told me it was booked out!

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I guess it will just be Something I’ll Ponder About

Linking to Restless Jo’s Monday Walks

 

 

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