Wednesday, 23 December 2009

A Yuletide Blog!

Thursday 24th December
After a week away in the hills we are now back on the pig farm to enjoy a quiet Christmas as the Kiwi's all get away en masse to enjoy the hot sun and beaches - sorry snowbound UK!
The Southern Alps that provide the spine to South Island also provided us with some memorably remote spots around the huge sheep stations of Arrowsmith and Erewhon both lying many miles up gravel tracks and surrounded by snow covered tops.
A couple of fine walks in the area and over at Peel Forest have left us ready to enjoy a day or two relaxing before we head south to Mackenzie Country and eventually the Otago Rail Trail which will give us a few days cycling before we reach the Catlins and finally Invercargill in the very south.
We wish all readers and bloggers a Happy Christmas and successful New Year - pics again at the link.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

After our visit to Christchurch where we watched the Christmas decorations being erected we have received the excellent news that we can indeed stay here a year so will be extending our plans accordingly. The Banks Peninsula provided quiet nights at Pigeon and Okaines Bay with a free shellfish meal collected at low tide before we headed to friends near Ashburton and met their enchanting young son.
Their cosy home also provided a few days relaxing for us during which we tramped the Mount Somers route staying at two excellent DOC huts - both had fuel provided and in the case of Woolshed Creek this was particularly welcome as it snowed overnight. Our hosts down on the plain had damaging thunderstorms which knocked out power and appliances and added to the already heavy workload of the farm and family. It was an excellent walk in superb mountain scenery - Sarah coped admirably with the steep climbs, slippery snow and swaying bridges.
We are now heading south as the kiwi Christmas rush will soon be on us - plans are slightly vague as Sarah may try to get a physio appaointment for next week to attend to a troublesome shoulder - perhaps I should start to carry a rucksack as well!

Pics again at the link below - wishing you all a very Happy Christmas, keep in touch.

Monday, 7 December 2009

South Island Early Days

South Island has so far proved even quieter than the North with more mountainous scenery, almost no one using tthe DOC sites and loads of potential for the next few months. The road round from Picton to Blenheim passed along the remarkble coastline that the ferry had threaded through before we headed inland passing the famous vineyards to stay near St Arnaud. There we had a superb walk up to the snow line with great views over the Nelson Lakes National Park before heading to the Lewis Pass, Hamner Springs and eventually Hurunui. Here Sarah had a wonderful day's ride with Alpine Horse Safaris - the ten day option sounds awesome.
A walk up to a DOC hut gave us a chance to check them out as we hope to start using them frequently having bought Back Country Hut Passes - very much like the British bothies but on a more formalised basis.
It is the 8th of December and we are in Christchurch to submit our application for visa extensions to 12 months which was a bit involved as we needed new photos, copies of bank statements and so on in support but we are hopeful that we will get a positive reply before Christmas - it would be the perfect joint present.
After a visit to friends near Ashburton we will head in to the hills for a few days, return for the visa verdict and then head way down south for the busier Christmas period - very odd to see Xmas decorations everywhere in bright sunshine with people wearing T shirts and shorts. Still we will get used to it and in the meantime wish all a very Happy Christmas and New Year should we fail to post in the next couple of weeks.
As usual a link to pics below - gluttons for punishment are welcome to email us for free Yuletide Logs - the extended versions of these musings with pics downloadable as a PDF - just ask!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Heading South

After 3 weeks crossing North Island we are now in Wellington awaiting the ferry to South Island tomorrow - we are on a large 'holiday park' in an industrial area near the terminal and being Wellington the rain is probably appropriate.
However this is all in complete contrast to the last month which has been generally fine or hot and seen us finish exploring the remote Coramandel Peninsula and enjoy a swim and snorkelling in the Pacific at idyllic Waikawau,stay with a friend of Sarah's in Omokoroa and then stay in the Tongariro area.
Here we successfully completed in superb weather the Alpine Crossing including a very tough side ascent of Ngaurhoe a snow capped and occasionally active volcano that involved some arduous scrambling on steep loose scree with a very strong wind. Sarah was remarkably tough and rose to the challenge and we were both rewarded with superb views, aching limbs and sunburn.
A few days in a very remote corner of the Ruahine Forest Park on an empty backwoods Department of Conservation site was sublime with the added excitement of a rather precarious cableway to cross the river, no other visitors and some excellent walks.
We have only used 3 'proper' sites so far as the DOC ones suit us better being generally empty, well away from anywhere and providing the necessities of a loo and water. At Broken Hills we saw glow worms and wetas in old gold mining tunnels, parrots were flapping in the trees and kingfishers were as common as starlings back home.
The van seems to trundle on reliably with fuel around 50p a litre and an mpg usually over 40 even after the slow going on the many miles of gravel roads we have covered - dust everywhere after these but they do get us to the quitest spots.
Contact with home has been maintained - sounds like the weather has been its usual if not worse autumnal self.
Yesterday at Feilding we saw a range of old British car makes in a vintage rally and met an old kiwi guy who last year took his 70 year old Austin round Australia and 5 years ago had toured Europe including Pembrokeshire ending up in Fishguard! Plenty of inspiration there.....
A week ago we celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary so lucky old me - for Sarah perhaps the jury is still out!

More pics again at the following link :

Sunday, 8 November 2009

On and Off the Road

Well a fortnight ago we received confirmation that the van had arrived so we collected it from the freight depot after it had passed Customs and quarantine inspections - all expertly handled by our shippers Taurus Logistics of Christchurch.
We then completed the formalities to get road legal, joined NZAA and sourced and fitted gas bottles. After a trial couple of days away we are now finally heading south as we have booked a ferry to South Island for the 1st of December - it feels rather surreal to be in our familiar and comfy van in such a superb country - the coast round to Thames passing Miranda was postcard perfect.
The last few days have been spent in the Kauaeranga Forest Park on the Coramandel Peninsula enjoying three good walks including a long day up to the Pinnacles and nights spent on simple DoC sites with long drop loos and a stream for water - all to ourselves.

The semi tropical jungle of tree ferns, vines, creeepers and kauri trees is remarkable and the bird life very varied. Tracks are hard going in places but generally well marked although being only a couple of hours from Auckland this is apparently a popular area so the standards are likely to be high. Keeping in touch may prove harder from now on although libraries have good free internet connections - we love to hear from people back home and have put more pictures up at the following link

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Arrival in Auckland

After several months of planning and and a couple of weeks of travelling we arrived in Auckland to familiar sights - wet tarmac, streaming windows and grey skies! However this did not last as down here Summer is on its way and the weather improved overnight giving us a chance to bus in to the city and start to navigate the various layers of bureaucracy that surround importing the van.

Our hosts in Orewa, Sue and Danny made us very welcome in their spacious and comfortable home which has provided the perfect base for directing operations with the local shops providing a good range of services and plenty of local walking.

The recent weekend was a bank holiday so Saturday saw us on a creek walk passing through bush where Indianna Jones would have felt at home and reaching Dacre Cottage a shoreline bothy where a work party were carrying out maintenance.

On the Monday we ferried over to the volcanic island of Rangitoto formed less than 600 years ago and providing a remarkable view over Auckland and it's Skytower from the high point of the crater rim.We were even able to see the vessel containing the van unloading its cargo - the commercial port being right alongside the marinas and ferry terminals.

This week has been spent settling invoices, completing forms and planning our journey ahead - the cost of bringing the van over plus on the road expenses has worked out at around £10 a day - compared to hire costs of at least treble this - thanks to the lowly performance of sterling - plus we have been able to bring over all the outdoor gear and bikes.

A recent Skype video call to Brecon confirmed that Amber is very content in her new home or at least a dog looking very much like her and contact with friends and family has been maintained through Skype, emails and cell phones - the internet has made a trip of this complexity very easy - hats off to those pioneers of the 60's and 70's.

More news in a week or so when we hope to have had a trial period away, reinstalled gas and prepared for a general drift south - for fellow map enthusiasts seeing the sun in the north has taken some adjustment, dare we break out the compass!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Japan Final Impressions

After almost a fortnight in this absorbing country we will be sorry to leave as we have felt very comfortable throughout. The scenery of the Japanes Alps contrasted sharply with the cities' bright lights but beneath these Japan's history, culture and religion was still evident. Our travel company Inside Japan Tours Ltd are to be congratulated for their attention to detail and the meticulous travel arrangements which have made this trip such a pleasure. The friendly and genuine welcome from our hosts in the traditional ryokans was much appreciated and even the vast transport system was able to retrieve my camera left on a bus and returned several hundred miles to be collected days later back in Tokyo. Here we spent our final evening 700' up in the Tokyo Metropolitan Govt. Building enjoying the 360 degree view as the sun set to the west and electric dawn broke over the city below.

Our journey now continues with a flight via Sydney to Auckland where we hope to retrieve the van in a fortnight or so - until then we are very much looking forward to meeting Sue and Danny (longstanding friends of Sarah's) who will be our hosts.
Skype has provided a remarkably cheap and effective method of chatting to other friends and family and we were delighted to hear that Amber has settled in very well with Jan and Ian at her new home near Brecon.

Another link to a few more pictures appears below - Japan is well worth a vist as I hope they show :

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Japan - first impressions.

After a long flight enlivened by sunset views of the Swedish Lakes and dawn over Siberia we arrived in Tokyo on schedule to spend three days exploring this friendly, vibrant and above all manageable city. Temples, shrines, tranquil parks, towering skyscrapers and narrow mazes of street level alleys combined to give us a whirlwind but easygoing introduction 'though the heavy rain and strong winds of a typhoon did at least pass through overnight. Cheap and highly efficient public transport allowed us to reach a variety of places by a variety of means with a final water ferry through the centre providing memorable views of the dramatic skyline. Courteous and friendly people made us feel very welcome and this theme continued as we left the capital to visit the Fuji Hakone National Park.

Here the friendly Takahashi running the Fuji Hakone Guest House made us feel very welcome and explained the etiquette behind shared facilities including the onsen a deep bath of piping hot volcanic water.

We spent a sunny day again using all manner of transport from cable car to pirate ship exploring the mountains with a view of Mount Fuji, enjoying black eggs cooked in a sulphurous pool and met a few other travellers. Japan is a very civilised place where losing your cool is seen as a great loss of face which makes for a very stressfree atmosphere where despite the massive language barriers both written and verbal we have both felt very welcome.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Link to the best of Sarah's Peru pictures

Here is a link if you wish to see some of the best pics of Peru

Sarah here, having just returned from 3 weeks in Peru. A wonderful walking trip in the Cordillera Blanca, reaching heady heights of about 5,000m, was followed by two weeks horse riding in the Sacred Valley near Cusco. The whole trip was a fabulous experience and a return trip, with Simon, is planned for the future.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

The Countdown Begins

Well this week saw me presenting our old bus in almost factory condition (SAS's Patent Elbow Grease a tried and trusted product) at the Pentalvers Depot in Southampton. The guy in charge of lashing (!) was friendly, helpful and very laid back. After taking a copy of our shipping note and filling in a condition report he took a key off me and assured me that the van would in due course arrive as stated in Auckland some 5 weeks hence - easier than posting a letter!

Got talking to a group taking 3 Land Cruisers to Egypt for a month in the desert - each vehicle carrying 700l of fuel and 300l of water (apparently diesel is 7p a litre over there.............)The lashing crew would be in charge of stowing the van in a 20' container, chocking and securing the load ready for placing on the Kuala Lumpur Express curently lying south of the Isle of Wight and due in on Saturday.

Sarah is due back from Peru next week having cunningly avoided any involvement (and thus any responsibility) in said procedures. After a brief 10 day turnaround we leave for a fortnight in Japan en route to NZ - the contrast to sleepy Ceredigion should be palpable.

Last weekend's Brecon Beast Charity Mountain Bike Event was a run away success with in excess of 600 riders tackling 60km or 100km routes in superb conditions - full details and pics available on

Monday, 10 August 2009

Things Are Really Flying

Latest news is that we are now loading the van in to a 20' container as this allows us to ship all our various personal goods without customs problems - the estimated departure date is now the 18th of September for arrival in Auckland on October 25th. Meanwhile we have subscribed to the excellent site which has supplied loads of useful info. and even some very kind offers of accommodation.

In other news we managed after weeks of unsettled weather to get Sarah her flight over Pembrokeshire.A 30 year old plane with controls and trim reminiscent of a 60's Triumph Herald took us over our old house, those of various friends and then a spectacular exploration of the superb coast and back up the various tributaries of the Cleddau. This shot shows Dinas Head north of Fishguard, looking north towards Newport and the coast towards Cardigan where we live.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Photographic archive. should take you to a selection of pics taken over the last decade or so covering former life on the farm, caving memories, a new start in Pembrokeshire and images from life on the road in the UK and around Europe.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

New skills for all.

One of the many pleasures of living in Pembrokeshire is the proximity of the spectacular coastal path. Having walked it many years ago it is a bonus to be able to join local kayak enthusiasts for a seal's eye view.

Memorable evenings have been enjoyed courtesy of
and and Sarah will no doubt extract her revenge when I resume horse riding lessons later this week.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

The Countdown Begins!

Our plans are now taking shape with final negotiations ongoing with the shipping companies as they have different definitions for 'personal goods' and we wish to ship our mountain bikes, wetsuits and camping gear in the rear secured section of the van - both the shipping lines and Customs need to be kept happy on this issue although if we chose containerisation rather than ro ro it would be easier. Ro ro however is cheaper and quicker and as you can see from this link there is much better protection for the van on a cargo deck.

NZ quarantine regulations also dictate that all gear and the vehicle must be cleaned and disinfected prior to clearance after which we need to arrange a Warranty Of Fitness ( MOT effectively) for the van not us! Then its pay insurance, join NZ AA - breakdown cover not booze issues, buy a NZ/Aus sat nav, arrange for local gas cylinders to be connected and set off.

Our expected arrival in Auckland is the 20th of October after two weeks in Japan with the van arriving on the 23rd having left Southampton 6 weeks previously - place your bets now on the likelihood of all this actually coming together!

In the run up we now have to do a few dummy packing trials to come up with lists for Customs, replace the radiator that got bashed in Portugal some 8000 miles ago, carry out a full inspection and service of the van, redirect mail to my parents in Coventry, 'lose' credit and debit cards so they can be reissued with longer expiry dates (don't ask me - it's a crazy system), pay a year's rent in advance and sort out other financial matters - online tax returns for example, place our other vehicle with someone for safe keeping - Haggis if you are reading this it could be you.......

Sarah meanwhile will be busy helping all summer at the stables and preparing for her trek and ride in Peru in September. During that month I will be assisting with the Beacons Mountain Bike Event - any offers of assistance over the weekend of the 13th would be gratefully received has all the details

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Birthday Update

Sarah celebrated her BIG 50 on Tuesday with a visit to Heatherton Tree Tops Trail. A great day out and a BIG thank you to everyone who came along and made it such a fun day.

Also thank you to everyone who joined us at Penlan last week - it was a great opportunity to catch up with people. We hope to do something similar over the last weekend in September when Sarah is back from Peru and before we go to Japan.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Just a trial run for uploading pics - this one has little to do with the NZ trip other than it contains one of the party in party mood!

Monday, 29 June 2009

As part of our plans to visit New Zealand later in 2009 we have decided that a blog would be the easiest way to keep up a two way channel of communication between us and friends and family.

It is all rather new to us so any advice guidance or feedback would be welcomed !!

Watch this space