You can’t do that with a ping pong ball??!!…….

I need not pretend of our exhaustion after travelling in the heat.  Days where it was almost too hot to think let alone drive yet I loved the outback.

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Though the heat was demanding and equally suffocating and the flies drove me mad, the outback is a place unrivalled in its dramatic energy and remote magnificence.  Dusk would see the big sky fill with colour. Pink’s and gold’s, shades not imaginable, would fade away to a huge rising moon followed by a night sky filled with a million tiny stars. Morning would come again with a sun which seemed to explode with heat and light.

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Droughts in Australia are merciless.  Even the feral animals, those introduced who normally thrived in harsh conditions, were dying off in these dust bowls.  I lost count of the number of sun bleached bones and skeletal remains I saw…….

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Broken Hill was a welcome oasis.  A remote desert frontier somehow rougher and smudgier than most large tourist-friendly towns, caked with dust and baking away in the heat.  And then there’s that soil. That rich burnt ochre which surrounds the town.  A colour so vivid you could not dream up a better backdrop if you tried.

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We stayed at the aptly named Oasis Motor Inn.  A passé little place – neat, quiet, well located and scrupulously clean. I highly recommend it. Once settled, we grabbed a couple of beers and headed for the pool which was absolute bliss!

Good pool soak done and dust washed from our throats, we headed on a short walk to the town centre in search of number one on my list of top five fabo things to see in Broken Hill’ – The Palace Hotel.

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There are a number of remarkable and beautiful buildings in Broken Hill yet this is the most famous with its cast iron balustrades and gloriously kitschy and stunning interior of colourful murals.  It also featured in the wonderfully iconic Australian movie, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

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Famished, we headed to the dining room for a meal largely held in silence.  We had argued during our walk.  Some vague, tepid argument which had been quietly simmering away of something I had held to weeks before leaving Newcastle.

The character of the hotel and the murals are fabulous yet the food was disappointing.  Nothing was ‘house-made’ and all in all, the dining experience was somewhat lack-lustre.  Thing is, I could have eaten there every night if only to sit amongst the painted murals, old furniture and the clatter of other peoples conversations.

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We healed our spat over processed desserts then headed to the Sidebar.  Sunday nights are good in Broken Hill as most tourists have disappeared for the night or simply moved on.  There were only two other people in the bar so the cocktails, a Japanese Slipper so green and quaint it made me smile, and the Martinis were all well made.

Navigating the quiet streets, we wandered back to the motel.  There was little left of the days fatigue and my spirits were lighter and somewhat lifted due to that remarkable hotels interior.  The next day we headed out to Silverton.

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Set amongst hot, wind-rippled sand and dust, Silverton, with its one pub and population of less than 40 people – it once boasted a population of 3,000 people – is a quirky little dot on the map.   This is also another location of more iconic Australian movies.

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The Silverton Hotel is one of Australia’s most filmed and photographed pubs.  A great place to find a cold beer, good food and to browse the film history of the area.

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On the outskirts of Silverton is an historic cemetery, a raw and harsh reminder of how life was lived in the early days of settlement.  Under a brutish sun we padded about in respectful silence.  Hot glittering sand filled my sandals and my feet were pricked by bone dry spines and thorns yet it mattered little just to be in this most remarkable of places.

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Three nights in Broken Hill was enough for me to explore, wander and to understand why we cling, with such sentimentality, to some things and not others.  I guess in the long run, most things will be okay and for me, it was all going to be okay.

There was no pressure to move on but South Australia awaited………x

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Footnote:  Quote in title from The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Felicia –          “Oh, you can’t do that with a ping pong ball?!”

Bernadette –   “Do you wanna bet”

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‘Ping pong ball reaction’ – image courtesy RockyMusic.org

What no one tells you about Wilcannia…….

While on the road, although spirited and optimistic, I held two hearts.  One was enjoying the outback and the balanced beauty of this land.  That vast and very remote landscape of spindly saltbush, scrub and Mitchell grass so dry neither feral goat nor cattle could eat it and the bone-dry river beds where I could taste the dust and smell the eucalypt.

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The other, the one furthest from me, craved the ocean swell.  Things like that cannot be taken for granted.  I will never deny the beauty of the ocean and the call it has to me which sometimes feels like an almost physical tug.

Before leaving Cobar and with the early morning sun flooding and the day already heating up, we u-turned back to Fort Bourke Lookout to view the open cut copper mine.   The huge land scar is profoundly deep.  A yawing chasm of dirt with the rich mineral belt clearly visible, devoid of vegetation and with the township of Cobar as its backdrop.

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Christ it was hot and it had not even gone 8:30 am.  I could feel beads of perspiration run down my spine, soaked up by the waistband of my shorts.  It was time to move on.

Packed in my car were not only treasured items but a relentless optimism always dragged along for good measure.  I am forever charmed by what others find frustrating, unattractive or irritable.  Made inquisitive by negativity and pessimism and driven by a need to accept what others do not.  Case in point, Wilcannia.

In almost every town I had stopped, folk – generally of a certain demographic – advised me NOT to stop in Wilcannia.  The advice was to drive straight through yet I had an entirely different view on the matter.  Plus many months prior to me knowing of this move, my dear friend Keith (aka one half of the ‘dirty chai runners’) told me if I ever happened to find myself skulking around the vicinity of Wilcannia, I should drop in.  So I did.

Located on the banks of the Darling River with its rich history and lovely heritage listed sandstone buildings dating back to the late 1800’s, Wilcannia was once a thriving river port during the great river boat era of early Australia.

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I noted the rusted security grills, boarded up buildings, small pockets of graffiti tags and the smattering of locals all of which exist in most small towns.  These were the things I had been warned of yet on first impression, Wilcannia did not appear the shit hole I had been told to avoid.

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We pulled up in the main street, parallel parking outside of the IGA and headed inside.  We had planned to grab some bread rolls, ham and cold drinks before heading down to the river.

The store had neither bread nor ham and nor did it have any fresh fruit or veg with the exception of a couple of bags of spuds sweating and sprouting in their plastic sacks.  Processed food, bags of chips and double that of cheap confectionary lined the shelves alongside soft drink and other dust laden products.  The store was as depressing as the woman on the register and I could not reconcile at how this vulnerable community must cope.

We headed across the highway to the Liberty Road House which I will happily recommend.  There were two young guys behind the counter who after chatting with them, cheerfully whipped up a couple of rounds of fresh sandwiches.  Their openness and honesty about the town, the frankness of themselves (one was on community service) and their outlook on life was refreshingly honest.

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Eventually I wandered back out into the heat of the day to watch the vehicles on the Barrier Highway continue to drive straight through, their passengers not daring a sideways glance to the town, its heritage or its residents.  I was perplexed but not entirely surprised because this is what no one tells you about Wilcannia.

They do not tell you of the once thriving town of paddle steamers and how Wilcannia was known as Queen City of the West.  They do not tell you about the beautiful sandstone buildings built from locally quarried stone.  They do not tell you about the uplifting healing project which came to unite this remote community and they certainly do not tell you about the local cemetery which is less than two k from the edge of town.

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Wilcannia has one of the oldest cemeteries in western New South Wales with grave sites dating back to 1866.  The cemetery is a nod to our rich pioneering history, tragedy, resilience, cultural preservation and a new and colourful tradition.

Among the eroding headstones and rusting iron are war graves, family plots and the poignant graves of children, often tiny infants, too numerous to count.  Many sites have fallen into disrepair, many are unidentifiable and many remain unmarked.

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The cemetery, set amongst old gums and saltbush, was incredibly quiet and astonishingly hot yet we managed to spend hours here.

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Due to the large Indigenous population in the area, Wilcannia has a death rate a third higher than the national average.  Death is an expensive business and made even more difficult by isolation and a low socio-economic status with some Indigenous grave sites being without a headstone for more than 25 years.  But all that changed when an inspiring art project recently began teaching people the skill of mosaic head stoning.

The ‘Paaka Thartu Karnu Healing Project’ teaches people the art of mosaic and in doing so, beautifully personal and affordable headstones are being made for departed loved ones.

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This is an odd thing to state but this cemetery is achingly beautiful with its mix of mosaic headstones and heritage grave sites all of which simultaneously uplift yet break your heart.  I loved the mosaics for the richness, inspiration and closure they bring and there is no overstating the power that gift must offer those left to grieve.

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We spent hours in the cemetery and were the only ‘visitors’ except for the local roos and the time spent there instilled in me further how inaccurate and misleading the image peddled of Wilcannia really was.   Yes there was poverty and a weariness to the town but this is also what made it so very, very real.

Time moved along yet somehow, it seemed not to matter much out here. We did however, need to hit the road again as we knew from experience we did not want to travel these highways after dusk and Broken Hill was just under 200k away.

As I rounded a bend I spotted a large dark shape by the very edge of the road.  It was fresh road kill.  A once massive black feral pig, no doubt slain by a road-train due to its size. Checking the rear mirror for another driver, I veered to the opposite side of the road.  Just as I did, a huge monitor lizard longer than the width of my car darted out from behind the carcass to run straight across in front of me.

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I hit the lizard immediately, the force so great my car lurched and shuddered and the wheels lifted. My hand went to my mouth and I looked in the rear view mirror to see, thankfully, that death had been instantaneous.

With tears welling I pulled up then stepped out of the car.  Devastated by what I had done, I looked back to see the huge goanna splayed across the road.

I stood for a moment then squatted in the red dirt and cried. I sobbed into my hands, the power of my desolation wracking my body.

Eventually, I walked around to the front of my car to view the damage flecked in blood and scaly skin. I cared little for the damage to my car, my thoughts only of the damage I had just inflicted upon the local wildlife population.

My husband, who had been driving ahead of me, realising I was no longer behind him doubled back.  Pragmatic as ever, which I often take to heart, he asked if I was hurt then surveyed the damage.  His rational ‘get it together and get back on the road’ kind of approach skewed deeply but I am one who refuses to fall into a pit of self-deprecation……although I did believe the death of the such a majestic beast warranted it on this occasion!

Car sorted (of sorts), emotions back in check (of sorts) and back behind the wheel I pulled out onto the highway.  Broken Hill after all, awaited.   My car made some noises I had not heard before and I did stop occasionally to check the front wheels, axel and bumper were still attached.

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He looked how I felt……

In the afternoon light the town of Broken Hill finally came into view yet my mind was still back in Wilcannia.

I guess it is so very easy to lose perspective sometimes and forget just how damn lucky most of us are.  Even on my worst days, those difficult and terrible days, I am still acutely aware of my own privilege and for this realisation I am grateful.

Perhaps we all just need an opportunity, people who love us and those who believe in us by looking past the shitty bits to find a richness of potential.  Wilcannia just doesn’t have that yet, not everyone does, but I feel very certain it will come……..xx

About as bogan as a fourteen year old mother of four…….

Loaded up with things too precious to leave to the removal, I drove out of Newcastle.  My bones called for the ocean but I did not look back.  Instead, I focused on the drive ahead which would take me along the Golden and Mitchell Highways’ toward the outback.

The days’ heat had already begun to take hold and by dusk it had fatigued with a weariness you feel almost down to your marrow.  We had our eyes on the west but still stopped at small rural townships along the way.  In these places, some of which seemed to carry the immense weight of sadness and neglect to them, I was challenged to consider why the residents have stayed.  Towns that seemed years ago to have been a world of hard work and prosperity now have very little to show for it.

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After just over 3 hours of driving, we pulled up outside the White Rose café in Dunedoo.  This is one of those rare old milk bars.  The kind that used to be around in all country towns during the 50’s and 60’s.  Stepping through the doors of the café you are met with an assortment of tables and sturdy hardwood chairs, a curved metal counter, polished glass and milkshakes made the old way by plunging a long handled dipper into a vat of ice cold milk.

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The food was okay but not great and the wait can be long but perhaps the cafes’ charm is that it succeeds on nostalgia, kitsch and as an air conditioned comfort stop for a hodgepodge of travellers.

Fueled by a steak sandwich and a GI Blues milkshake, it was back on the road where I occasionally stopped to stretch my legs or take a photo.  I was also not adverse to stopping roadside, eroding tiny parts of the landscape as the stock pile of water and ginger beer I had on board quickly diminished.

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The sun continued to beat down, dry grass crunched under my feet and the land was parched.  It was a hot and tiring drive along the baking sheets of tar with little relief except for the ginger beer.  That was until we pulled up in Nyngan…….

Now it seems we like things BIG in Australia.  The Big Pineapple, The Big Banana, The Big Prawn, I think you get the big idea.

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Nothing like a big, sunshiny yellow banana to make you feel good 

And where better to erect a Big Bogan other than right on the edge of the outback in Nyngan New South Wales.

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Should you ever find yourself skulking along Bogan Way, or around the banks of the Bogan River or just mossying along Bogan Street which, by the way, are all smack bang in the Bogan Shire, you will happen upon this iconic structure.

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Dwarfing all around, this impressively tall thong wearing stubbie holding statue – who looks uncannily like Hulk Hogan – is about as Australian as it gets from his Southern Cross tattoo and huge-ass esky right up to his mullet.

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Hulk Bogan…….

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Big Bogan

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Little Bogan

I seemed to get my second wind in Nyngan.  Perhaps it was the break from the weariness of the road or perhaps it was just because I had a soft spot for this fun but often scorned and ridiculed effigy.

Late afternoon, and after clocking up just over 9 hours on the road, we headed to the copper town of Cobar for the night.  The 130k run from Nyngan to Cobar was slow going as unpredictable herds of feral goats (more than I have ever seen in any one location),  a random old sheep or two and the occasional kangaroo grazed or moved about right by the road side.

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Cobar eventually came in the relief of a cold shower, cold beer and a Chinese meal at the local bowls club where it seemed half of the population of the town had gathered for happy hour.

Later that evening and back in the motel room although bone tired, I could not sleep.  I felt so very far away and the ghosts of the life I had lived in Newcastle from the beautiful ocean waves, my favorite coffee haunts, the lanes and street art, the sea caves and everything and everyone else in between bled through.

The air conditioning unit above the bedhead hummed and I eventually fell asleep knowing that morning would bring with it the blank slate of another day.  I had wide open spaces, the languid pace of the road, blood red soil and forgotten townships to slow me right down and the thought of it all filled me with a freedom and longing only this kind of travel can bring…….xx

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New beginnings…….

We are deep in the good vibes of summer.  Summer is never coy in Australia and this summer has been no exception with a band of unrelenting heat-waves which set temperatures soaring to record numbers.  Now I have no hunger for coquettish summers but I can tell you, the blistering furnace of heat during the last couple of weeks really did knock many, including myself, for six.

For me, summer is usually filled with consistent swells and the clean lines of traditional boards, sunshine, mangos and cherries (my favorite spoils of the season), frangipani flower and skies which are bleached a paler shade of blue.  This year however, Australia really did have its day in the sun as everything seemed to melt  beneath our feet.

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See!  I told you it was hot!!

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Once again my jumpers, jeans and wetsuits were all traded for a lightness of season and as I packed up my wetsuits I realised, the next time these steamers see the light of day it will be in a very different ocean, in a very different state…….

2018 was a mix of the confounding and the brilliance in its yield of absolute unknowability.  People entered my life, returning in the various forms they have now morphed in to, I was challenged and equally inspired and I lived a living which teaches you a little of everything and anything.  And now in 2019, what is it I predict. Well, absolutely nothing as I do not etch my year to stone but mindfully intend to keep doing my best with what I have when I have it.

2019 has also bought with it a major move and it seems through choice or circumstance, any steadfast fixture in your life will change.  It’s a difficult process as sometimes you go back to a place you have once been, even if ever so briefly, to find the place you are returning to has changed……. but not as much as you have.

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Zoe, lovely and ever helpful on packing days…….

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Two shipping containers!  Really!!

Throughout my life, I have often come and gone with ease by not making any great attachment.  Leaving can be difficult for different reasons but there is a part of me that likes to go just the same.  Moving on drives my curiosity and my sense of wonderment.  It always spurs me forward even though I have no surety of what awaits.  Perhaps though, I am content with the idea of everything passing for a later return just as the waning of this summer.  It’s end also being the promise of its return.

When I initially knew of this move, my immediate thoughts went to my ocean.  I believed I would die, just a little, but of course I knew I would not.  To think like that is deeply impractical and it does no one any good.  Do I wish I could have stayed in Newcastle forever?  Perhaps!  But that was not to be so I will hold my time of Newy up to the light like a beautiful piece of sea glass and stay a little longer with all of the good of which there has been plenty.

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I am not one easily seduced but for me, there is always the seduction of an ocean and I can find that anywhere I live but leaving this time also meant leaving a job which I have loved.  A place of work and volunteering that offered a strange and unique gift.

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I read somewhere years ago to ‘find your tribe’ and in circumstances most fortunate for me, I had that wonderful gift for just on three years.  I never really understood the analogy of a tribe until my days meshed with some generous and epically wonderful folk and days became joyful beyond any expectation this girl had.  And work, which is never work when you are doing something you absolutely love, wormed its way into becoming a passion.

In a Newcastle suburb, an open and profound offering of friendship, kindness, a sense of belonging and respect took hold and my time there, so deeply appreciated has left an indelible mark upon my heart.  Humanity, in its blessed munificence, is a strange thing but perhaps these are the journeys we are meant to take when we dare to find the courage to do so.

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This was a difficult goodbye (oh heart, what is this feeling) but there is only so much time you can spend grieving that which is gone.  You can however, hold to a city or to a place or to a time and even to some folk who live there.  Nothing is impossible.

As I drove out of Newcastle for the last time, headed on a road that would lead me through the outback before reaching my final destination, I rested my head against the driver’s window when stopped at the lights.  I tried to take in a little more of the place before the traffic lights changed and the city and my time there rushed away.

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I thought of all the things I loved about living in Newcastle and New South Wales, some people, about the incredible experiences and opportunities afforded me but most of all I thought of how truly fortunate I had been and how truly fortunate I still was……..

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I gave fair warning to all pedestrians of Newcastle…..x

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Over the coming weeks it will no doubt be a chaotic time with little more than a moment to spare, the unpacking of literally hundreds of boxes – for all my perfectionism I still prefer my life lived with a little imperfection of organised clutter and lopsidedness, antiquated books and beautiful vintage china – trying to make the house a home as 5 years of rental neglect has not been kind to it nor the garden, finding my feet (and my place) and allowing those curious textures of everyday life to appear.

I will also share the road trip, countless moments I do not want to lose because the soil was so breathtakingly red and indescribable and the outback so remotely beautiful it almost broke my heart.   There are other snippets too such as the beast of a lizard which damaged my car, the roo’s bigger than I have ever seen and the hundreds of feral goats on the side of the road from Cobar to Broken Hill which never once startled as the occasional road-train hurtled by.  All moments dichromatic but no less wonderful……

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I never set out to have a blog and since those early days of 2014 I have shared much in the warmth and generosity of the countless places I have visited and the unselfish respite this beautifully wondrous world of ours offers.  So my blog will continue on as I do.  Ever evolving, ever moving, ever resilient and always ever grateful.

Here’s cheers to new beginnings and what they bring……..xx

Footnote:  Incredible ‘melting ice-cream truck’ sculpture created by Glue Society and installed in Sydney 🙂

Coober Pedy: 845k north of Adelaide and 2,088k west of Sydney as the crow flies…….

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Sometimes I worry I have the maturity of an eight year old and other times, I am actually convinced of it.  Perhaps this imperfection is because of the way I often see the world.  I find an almost innocence of curiosity and enchantment where others find only the tiresome.  I still make a wish on a shooting star, I always want to see the best in people and continue to show them kindness even when they have shown themselves not to be deserving of it and most of all, by my spirited enthusiasm at the prospect of a road trip.

Now there is no sugar coating this road trip because heading to Coober Pedy is a bloody long slog so it requires many stops along the way to not only to fuel up and stretch the legs, but stopping also gives you the opportunity to really appreciate this iconic stretch of highway and its many eccentricities.

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It will take much longer if you go by bike though…….

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Truth!!…….

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I do love a road trip and this trip to Coober Pedy was no exception as it encompassed some of the things I love most about Australia………the outback and the characters you find there.

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These are the places where a local will tell you danger is highly overrated yet go on to tell you up until the 1980’s you could still buy dynamite over the counter at the local supermarket and that you can very easily disappear without a trace………as many have!

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The locals are hard working, hard living and hard drinking.  Boot Hill Cemetery is a testament to that fact and is so named because the folk of Coober Pedy work so hard and for so long that they literally die and are buried in their boots.  Charmingly macabre don’t you think.

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The locals really are a friendly lot if not a little wary, but they become sincere and entertaining when you get to know them.  People out here can also spend their entire lifetime with just a nickname.  No Christian name.  No surname.   Just a simple and often endearing sobriquet which everyone knows you by and of which I think is rather wonderful.

It is said some people are running to something but most are running from something and its a good place to head if you don’t want to be found.   The sort of place you can live the sort of life you want to live without judgment or persecution.  Isolation it seems, is good for some souls……..

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Coober Pedy is blistering heat, one main street, cold beer and the gin passable.  The skies are enormous and the earth is scorched, painted and peeling.  It is a beautifully multicultural community, rainfall is low, you can get a latte (the least likely advice I was going to take)…..did I mention the beer is cold 🙂 and there are no trees.  Summer days hit 50 degrees plus, the slow black flies are in plagued proportions, there is pizza and magnificent opal.   It is a place that doesn’t throw its weight around but holds its own with a commanding yet unassuming ease.

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Ventilation…….

Located in one of Australia’s hottest desert climates, ‘the opal capital of the world’, as Coober Pedy is often referred is a labyrinth of underground mining tunnels and dugout housing.

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Looking up from deep underground…….

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An opal seam…….

Attempting to avoid the stifling heat, much of the town has been built underground and you can visit homes, churches, the lovely time-warp that is Faye’s House and stay in the underground motel.

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And you know we did……. 😉

The dog proof fence, built during the 1880’s is about 10k out of Coober Pedy.  It runs 5,614k (3,489 miles) and is one of the longest structures in the world, even longer than the Great Wall of China.  It’s well worth the hike out of town just to see the fence disappear out over the horizon.

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This is about as tough as it gets and I knew being out here I could take no photo to truly capture that nor the immensity of it all and words, well they wouldn’t cut it either.  What I can say though, is that this really is one of my most favorite places on earth.

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Will I return?  Absolutely!  That goes without question.  I found a deep sentiment for this area and although almost apocalyptic it is one hell of a place so easy to love.   My plan has always been to live out in Coober Pedy for a while and fossick about in the burnished golden desert under that massive outback sky and I already have a name for my slag heap.  That life’s adventure has been a dream since I was a girl and I sincerely thank The Leyland Brothers for that 🙂

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I could not help but wonder that perhaps it was not the getting to Coober Pedy, but the idea of it that struck me so.   That starkly beautiful arid landscape, barren as the moon and riddled with thousands upon thousands of holes surrounded by mounds of white powdery dirt.

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Did my photos and text of Coober Pedy do it justice!  Of course not!  This place is like a wild brumby.  Too stunningly glorious to be captured and tamed but a girl with a heart for wild horses can always dream can’t she………x

Slice of Heaven – Part III

A final snapshot of New Zealand…….

In a patchwork of weather patterns which saw me peeling off layers often down to a t-shirt and other days of cold and fog, New Zealand, with its history, stretches of coast-line and spectacular mountain ranges, is a lovely part of the world to find yourself in.

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One is continually stunned by a beauty which seems is made for large expensive lenses and slow shutter speeds.  It is those photographers who can capture the scale and beauty of the landscape.  They catch the perfect light, the lift of the land, the panorama of the sounds and an incredibleness of a country which somehow seems too captivating for words.

551.JPGNow it is no secret I love a city.  I really am a city girl at heart and sometimes, I just like the feel of concrete beneath my feet.  And of course, cities are made to be walked.

Even when the streets (like some folk) show their very disagreeable side, even when overcrowded with tourists, even when the weather is miserably inclement and even when I get hopelessly lost I am still smitten by a city.

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I walked a lot through the bigger cities of New Zealand.  Some days I was driven with a purpose to see something in particular and other times my wanderings led me to a cocktail bar or bakery……… which I swear was coincidence!  Sometimes its nice to walk without purpose or a plan.  Just filling my skin with that moment of solitude.  If tired, I occasionally hopped on public transport but for the most part, I saw everything on foot.

I liked Wellington a lot.  It reminded me so very much of San Francisco with its steep winding streets, its fog covered bay, the hill set houses and its lovely architecture.Lean+Timms+Welly+Like+a+Local++(44+of+110)[1]007366140

Located right in the westerly belt known as the Roaring Forties, the city did indeed live up to its name The Windy City.  Howling winds can whip through at up to 160kmh with average daily gusts of 30kmh so its probably not the best place to hang out if you want to practice your skill as a sabre juggler!

The wind in Wellington became difficult toward the end of one day.  It was that sort of icy wind that will always find that tiny gap between your coat and the bare nape of your neck and as most know, I am not a fan of windy weather.  Gusty winds tend to make me irritable yet although I was having possibly the worst bad-hair day ever, it just didn’t seem to matter.

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The harbour-side city Auckland hit the mark too with its ferries, super-yachts, galleries, restaurants, bars, cafes and the very iconic sky-tower.

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And then, there were all of the little towns and places in between.  Those places where my heart felt so glad for just being there.

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And as quickly as the New Zealand trip began, it ended.  I guess that’s just how travel goes sometimes…….x

Slice of Heaven Part II – Eat Drink New Zealand…….

For the most part during the trip I did two things – ate and indulged in my own private wanderings of sea, art deco architecture, rain-slicked back streets, record shops and stunning scenery.   There were places I could have stayed forever and my leaving was with a heavy heart.  Other times, I was ready to move on with barely a backward glance.

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Some of my other favourite moments were found fossicking around a little curiosity shop, eating tartare (one of my favourite things at present), sitting up on a hard wood stool devouring oysters, watching my husband engrossed in reading ‘tap’ and ‘tasting’ notes, ordering and sharing plates and looking for huge bumble bees on flower spikes.

Eat New Zealand

There is something quite nostalgic and humble about that most quintessential of all NZ cuisine, fish and chips.  When I was growing up, every Friday night was fish and chip night.  Never ever take-away, but always home-made by my Nana of fresh fish daubed in plain flour with hand-cut potatoes.  I can’t say I remember how it tasted but I remember it was always covered in table salt.

The fish and chips in New Zealand I remember.  They were piping hot and perfectly seasoned, the locally caught fresh fish encased in a golden batter served right up alongside crispy chips.  Just perfection!

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If fish and chips aren’t the official national dish of New Zealand then holy cats, they should be…….

The seafood on offer in New Zealand is not only incredibly fresh but it also comes from some of the most pristine waters of anywhere in the world.

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There was an undeniable charm to be found when hunkered down in a small windswept coastal village, a harbour or even a big city while tucking into the freshest of seafood, the best fish and chips or shoveling freshly shucked oysters straight into our mouths.

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It doesn’t get much better than this – freshly shucked oysters, smoked mackerel pate and a fabulous New Zealand Sav Blanc.  Definitely a slice of heaven.

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On the whole, the fish and chips were to die for and the deep fried paua we tried, well that was a whole other story.  It looked really tempting even with its odd blue/grey-green colouring but to the bite, it was gritty and had the taste and texture of a huge prawn poo-shoot which had been compressed!

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The paua shell however, is lovely when polished.

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Hello my lovelies……..I’m talking to the pav’s 😉

Created in honour of the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, this long favoured and often contentious dessert – both Australia and NZ claim to have created it – never failed to impress.  Each lovely pav I devoured (and lordy, there were many!!) had that very beautiful marshmallowy meringue centre encased in a crisp, snowy white shell.  Bliss…….

The humble pie has been consistently voted New Zealands’ number one comfort food ahead of its popular Hokey Pokey ice-cream and chocolate.  And for very good reason!  After having one (okay, once again it was more than one) they get a colossal tick of approval.  The pies, due in part to the rich buttery golden pastry used, are amazing.   I’m a traditionalist when it comes to a pie.  I love steak and kidney or a simple mince pie but I do appreciate the flavours on offer in NZ such as satay, butter chicken, venison with cab sav, pork, bacon and cheese, lamb and mint and curried chicken.  The unofficial hangover cure when washed down with a Harpoon Cold Brew Coffee!

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We also tried lamb, green lipped mussels, venison, scallops and a traditional hangi while in the thermal region of Rotorua.

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A Kiwi microwave

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Getting beach bod ready

Drink New Zealand

Wine:  ‘only the first bottle is expensive’……..

  • Sav Blanc:  a pungent and almost grassy wine produced in the sunniest and driest part of the land.  Most view it as a bit of a ‘have with anything, goes with anything’ kind of wine.
  • Riesling:  wow!  This style of wine continues to cement NZ’s reputation as a world class wine producer.
  • Pinot Gris:  swung between pear and honeysuckle notes and oftentimes, pleasantly intense.

We tended to favour the whites on this trip but all the New Zealand wines we had were equally lovely.

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Coffee:  another hotly contested debate between Australia and those across the ditch as to who created the Flat White, but I care little a dot when the coffee is good.  Most coffee is made with locally roasted, organic or fair trade coffee beans.

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Craft beer aka Liquid Gold!:  craft beer is a huge industry in NZ with just over 160 boutique breweries cropping up across the land.  We tried some of the best on offer from aromatic hop driven Pale Ales, punchy sours, big malty reds to the richly roasted coffee stouts.  The beers went well with all food including the pavs.  Happy days indeed……. 🙂

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Mulled Wine and Cider:  a great boozy winter warmer laced with cinnamon and cloves available in just about every pub and bar.  Choice.

Part III coming soon……x