Monthly Archives: February 2011

WAITOMO CAVES, NEW ZEALAND – my life in their hands

My life hung by a thread...

If you’ve read other RT’s LOTR posts, you may already know about my fear of heights. You will understand that dangling on a rope 100metres above rocks is not my favourite place to be.

However, today I’ve learned to trust gear and trust guides. Continue reading


Filed under New Zealand

WAITAKERE RANGES – a whip along New Zealand’s coast

Waitakere coastline - the orcas will be here in a tick.

Your time in Kiwiland is limited? Try a tramp in the hills just outside Auckland. Sweet as, bro!

Charles* was a traveller in a hurry; not an ideal trait in a tramper, it must be said. The Swiss banker had a four-week break from stuffing people’s cash into secret vaults, and was squeezing in a quick round-the-world trip. He’d just flown into Auckland from South America, and had another plane to catch that afternoon.

Nevertheless, he didn’t want to miss the famed NZ natural beauty, so Charles engaged guide Neill Sperath to show him some. Neill’s company is called ‘Time Unlimited‘, but he’s prepared to get a wriggle on if necessary. ‘T-I-M-E’ is an acronym for ‘To Integrate Maori Experiences’. Neill is German/Irish, his wife Ceillhe is Maori and together they run hiking, fishing and Maori culture tours in and around Auckland.

I could squeeze in a quick tramp too, so I was invited to tag along on their expedition into the Waitakere Ranges, less than half an hour’s drive from the centre of town. The Waitakeres are convenient, spectacular and perfect for trampers in a hurry.

‘How much walking do you guys feel like doing today?’ asked Neill.

‘Oh, as much as we can fit in,’ I said enthusiastically, given the early hour, ‘but I’m happy to do whatever Charles would like to do.’

‘To be honest,’ said Charles, lighting a fag, ‘I do not really like to walk at all.’

This was going to be an interesting trip. Continue reading


Filed under Hiking, New Zealand


Bicentennial Park, Sydney, Australia

I’m a rank amateur when it comes to wildlife photography, and perhaps a swan in a park doesn’t even qualify as ‘wild’. But he was a (slowly) moving target, so I was pleased to get him in focus and catch the water dripping from his beak.

Taken with my Panasonic Lumix FZ18.


Filed under travel photography

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND – a glimmer of good news on travel

Since I wrote about my plans to visit Christchurch, some people have contacted me asking about whether they should postpone or cancel travel to New Zealand. I’m writing from Sydney and have no special inside knowledge, but I have been watching the media and searching the internet for news of the transport and accommodation situation.

The loss of life is tragic, the search for victims is heartbreaking and rebuilding parts of Christchurch will take years. Naturally the media images focus on the worst affected areas, and give the impression that the entire city is a pile of rubble. But an estimated 85-90% of buildings suffered no major damage, and the stoical, resilient Cantabrians are keen to get back to normal as soon as they can.

Christchurch Airport is open and operating both domestic and international flights. Some changes of schedule are being advised.

The city centre is closed except to emergency services. Naturally sightseers would only get in the way and are strongly discouraged.

Hotels : Some, particularly those in the centre of town, are badly damaged. Others are structurally fine, but without water and gas and are therefore temporarily closed, they hope for just a week. However, according to my sample, most accommodation in the greater Christchurch area is open as usual, with many hotels and motels posting good news to that effect on their websites. Some advise those with bookings to ring, rather than email, to get a faster update.

The rest of New Zealand, including the region surrounding Christchurch, while no doubt emotionally touched by the disaster, was physically unaffected.

The bottom line is, unless locals advise me to postpone, I’ll be going ahead with my New Zealand trip this week and urge others to do the same. Make a generous donation to the relief effort, see a beautiful country, meet warm friendly people and spend some money. The Kiwis deserve it.


Filed under New Zealand

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND – to go or not to go?

Photo: John Kirk-Anderson, The Press

I can’t not write about this, because I was booked to spend a pleasant day sightseeing in Christchurch the week after next. My travel-writing trip was organised months ago, with adventures on the North Island, cycling round the South Island, and a short stop-over in quiet, pretty Christchurch before flying home.

Along with all Australians, I’ve been watching in dismay as the Christchurch earthquake tragedy unfolds. We’re supposed to have a rivalry with the Kiwis, but it’s a country we love and we have many New Zealand friends. It’s not right or fair, but it’s only natural that Australians should empathise with New Zealanders even more strongly than with victims of tragedies in farther-flung parts of the world. Continue reading


Filed under New Zealand

SYDNEY CITY GUIDE – alternative accommodation, restaurants and fun

I recently did an interesting job, writing a brief alternative travel guide to the city I’ve lived in for more than half my life. I welcome suggestions for great places and events I missed out (and if you want me to review your hotel/restaurant/adventure, offer me a freebee), but here’s what I included…

That Opera House looks like a nest of copulating turtles.

Australians who don’t live in Sydney are jealous. Melbourne people in particular enjoy niggling their northern neighbours. The Emerald City is a flashy, superficial town, they say. Lucky it’s got a sparkling harbour and brilliant surf beaches, because apart from that…okay, the weather’s sometimes good and yeah, yeah, there are those Blue Mountains…but apart from that Sydney just rests on its geographic laurels and pours itself a self-congratulatory beer. And BTW, that Opera House looks like a nest of copulating turtles.

Sydneysiders know better. Continue reading


Filed under Travel-Australia

PEDALLING POETS – waxing lyrical in lycra

The spokes at summer sunset spake of roads unridden... Photo: Bram Tulloch

There’s nothing like a bike ride to inspire a man (or woman) to try jotting down a bit of verse.

Here follow some responses to my recent poetical post from Sydney Cyclist website correspondents Peter H and Will Wassell. I think you’ll agree that publication in major literary journals cannot be far away.

A man far crazier than thy,
who takes the great western hwy,
with space for none but a car or three.
Tis the M4 with a breakdown lane for me.
Peter H

A rider’s trials and tribulations be not kind
were you though carbound
would comfort of ride and effortless speed
dampen in thy minds spark
a yearning, a siren call to 2 wheels?
Think not I, though 4 wheel’d often
two is my calling
two eyes for the joy of sight
ears also two for the pleasure of sound
Legs two and strong, labouring
Two arms adamant ‘gainst the bars
Single mouth closed lest song of cycle be disturbed.
Will Wassell

Brilliant work, both of thee!

Further contributions gratefully accepted below.

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Filed under Cycling