New Zealand – Caves, Glowworms, Mudpools and Mouri’s

 

The last couple of days have been really special. I embarked on the first two thirds of The Middle-Earth Trilogy.
On the way there i came across the Huka falls. These amazing come to an end at Huka falls where over 200,000 litres of ice-cold water fall 9 meters over the rock face EVERY SECOND.
The next day I went underground and explored the warren of tunnels of the Ruakuri and the Glowworm caves. Ruakuri was really interesting and I learnt all about the limestone formations. It takes 100 years to create 1 cubic cm, look at these bad boys…
The next day I went to Rotorua to visit the geothermal Te Puia. I wandered around and saw bubbling mud pool, geysers including the Pohutu that blasts water and steam up to 30 meters into the air and boiling water pools are still used to this day by the Mouri to cook meat and vegetables.
After a was around Rotorua it was time for some relaxation in the local thermal baths. Some pools were up to 42 degrees, it is amazing to know that these are all natural heated.
That evening I went back to Te Puia for a Te Po Mouri experience. I was welcomed with a traditional ceremony including being met and introduced by shaking hands and touching noses twice; the traditional Mouri welcome.
A display of song and dance followed and then a delicious Hangi dinner; meat and vegetables are cooked in a pit under the ground.
After dinner I sat on geothermal warmed steps next to the geysers and under the stars with a hot chocolate. It has been another day to remember.

Welcome to Mountain View B&B and the Abel Tasman

From the minute I drove up the driveway and came face to face with a Thoroughbred and a Shetland I felt right at home. Out rushed Jan to shove them out of the way and pull me in for a hug with an “alright love” in her thick Scouse accent.

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Following Jan and the horses came two dogs, one cat, eight chooks, three goats, one daughter called Phoenix, Jan’s husband called Damon and 12 peacocks!! I walked into the warm kitchen, she put on the kettle and that was up chatting for two days straight.

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The farm is great there is always something happening; a dog running this way, a peacock flying that way or Jan scurrying around subconsciously chattering to herself as she mentally ticks her never-ending to do list off in her mind.

Jan, Damon and Phoenix all have such a warm and caring way about them and that extends throughout the house and instantly transported me back to my own house with my own family fussing around, though we have less animals, for now!

After the craziness of the last week and a half the cup of tea in the sun with an incredible view across the valley and a natter with a familiar accent was just what was needed. Straight away I felt like I’d known her for years. Another thing that reminded me of home was Jan’s cooking and hospitality, a natural nurturer I don’t think I’ve eaten that much since I left my own mum. With a severe case of home-sickness I embraced it whole-heartedly. Both nights my plate was piled high with a roast and then followed by a warming dessert. The next morning I lied in had a gorgeous brekkie or muesli and home-made Fijoa compote (fruit native to NZ).

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I waited for Jan in the same spot with another cuppa in the sun and pottered around the farm and generally just relaxed. After lunch we were off to Abel Tasman. We arrived to glorious sunshine and made our way round the coast. I was blown away by how beautiful it was.

People gently kayaked by while the abundance of wildlife chirped and rustled away in the bushes. We even saw some giant foot prints leading to a cave, my imagination is going crazy and I’d love to know what it was. For all the other questions I had I was lucky to have my own personal tour guide, Jan on hand to explain what it all was. I’m a bit of a nerd and love mushrooms; eating, photographing etc. And it wasn’t long before we saw this beauty. Apparently it’s called a skeleton mushroom- how amazing is that!

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Before I knew it my stay in Abel Tasman paradise was over, the family meal was eaten, my bag was packed and I was off to bed for a very early start. I cannot recommend Mountain View B&B enough, you will be looked after with love and care as part of the family. I left feeling fully refreshed and got to see Abel Tasman to boot. I loved my stay and can confidently say I’ll be back.

New Zealand – Kaikoura

Kaikoura was one of the best places I have visited. Something that most of you don’t know about me is that I love animals and am a HUGE David Attenborough fan and one of my favourite episodes of his is on the ‘Life’ series. Well today I got to experience first-hand a part of that episode.

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Just north of Kaikoura is a secret waterfall where seal pups live from May to October. I walked through the forest and up the stream until I got to the waterfall and there they were. Around 30 seal pups we all frolicking in the pool, diving in and out of the water and jumping off rocks. You musn’t get too close but it was hard not too as they are inquisitive little things, one nearly stole my GroPro! This was honestly one of the most special experiences I’ve ever had, and to see the cute innocent little seal pups playing together in a natural forest pool was my life made.

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 I also got to go on a whale watching tour while I was there which was brilliant. After my dolphin watching experience in Bali I was a little hesitant to disturb the animals but this tour was great, we were the only ones out there and it didn’t feel like we were intruding on them at all.

 The weather wasn’t the best and it’s probably the coldest I’ve ever been but all that went out of the window when I laid eyes on Tutu. A 22 tonne sperm whale who has returned to Kaikoura every winter since 1994 had just resurfaced after feeding and the 5 minutes he was on the surface seemed like 5 seconds and with a swish of his giant fluke he was gone, back down to feed again. Just seeing his sheer size and how calm was, was amazing. We then came across a mixed pod of Dusky and Common Dolphins. Shannon the guide said there must have been around 200-250 dolphins out there surrounding us, again all doing back flips and diving around the boat. For one last treat a Royal Albatross sailed past us, with a wing span of over 3.5 metres it was incredible to see. I couldn’t help but think of Wilbur from ‘Rescuers Down Under’.

 After I had thawed out I went to Kean Point to have a look at the seals there. You can literally get up so close to them, they were just lazing around on the walkway and on the rocks really near to the car park not bothered by me whatsoever. Kean Point was really cool, the smell of salt and the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks was so nice so I had a walk along the rocks to check out the giant kelp and the rock pools.

 The name means Kai (eat) Koura (crayfish), so that’s exactly what I did and lots of it; all along the front there are places to pick up the freshest seafood and in particular Crayfish (what we call lobster). If you love the seaside, nature and wildlife I would definitely recommend Kaikoura.

 

New Zealand – Lake Tekapo and Mt Cook 

The drive up from Wanaka was stunning, especially winding down the Lindis Valley and passed the amazing Lake Pukaki.

DSC02453DSC02455Once arrived it didn’t take long to find my way around the tiny village, including finding the Church of the Good Shepherd, and settle in to plan the adventure for the next day.

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Up early I was on my way to Aoraki and the Mount Cook National Reserve.

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The Hooker Valley Trek takes 3 hr return and makes its way from White Horse Hill car park to the hooker glacier and back…and it is amazing.

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DSC02521I have a feeling this won’t be the first time I say this in NZ but i feel like i’m walking through the Lord of The Ring. I can see so many parts of the film when I am walking. For a geek like me, this is very exciting, I’m having the best time!
Tonight the fun continues for my second stargazing tour of the trip. this time at the world famous Mt John Observatory in Tekapo’s unique dark sky reserve.
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I was so lucky to have a completely clear night resulting in some great pics.
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New Zealand – Queenstown & Wanaka

New Zealand has been a must do of mine for many years and what perfect timing than on my way back to the UK.

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I am lucky enough to have friends who live in Queenstown so I decided to start my adventure there with a spot of skiing and over the course of several blogs posts will travel to Auckland, and bring you along with me.
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Queenstown has seen a really slow start to the season this year and there wasn’t a huge amount of snow when I was there. Never-the-less there is heaps (my adopted Aussie slang there for you) to do and not much time so strap yourselves in. First on the list was the luge, this involves taking the trip up the gondola which travels past the smaller of Queenstown’s two Bungys (I did neither!) to the top revealing a breathtaking view of Lake Wakatipu which is unlike anything I have ever seen in my life.
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The luge was hilarious, think of a tea tray on wheels being “driven” hair-raisingly fast down a mountain whilst the “driver” is being distracted by one of the world’s most beautiful backdrops. This, along with the gondola, is a Queenstown must do.
In the afternoon we took a trip to Arrowtown, a quaint old gold-mining town full of stores selling gifts, homewares and hot chocolate! You can literally walk around in 20 minutes so we headed back to Queenstown for a pizza at Fat Badgers. Seeing this along the way…
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After dinner it was back up the gondola to don a Canada Goose jacket and stand on top of the mountain for stargazing. I am a bit of a star lover and am fascinated by greek mythology and how that ties with the constellations in the night sky, and I wasn’t disappointed. Our extremely knowledgable guides took us on a tour of the sky where we learnt how to find the Southern cross and with the help of a very expensive telescope got to see the storm on Jupiter, Saturn’s rings, Sagittarius and Scorpio and the Jewel Box constellation up close. The grande finale was the moon, coincidentally we had a full moon that night and through the telescope was amazed to see all its little nooks, crannies and craters. This was my favourite activity during my stay in Queenstown and I’d thoroughly recommend it. Phew, what a day!
Day two was a bit cloudy and wet so I decided to explore Queenstown’s excellent shopping, treating myself to a beautiful print from Nomer. I stopped off at the institution that is Fergburger, and then walked it off around the gardens by the lake taking it yet more stunning scenery.
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Day three it was on, I was up at the crack of dawn with as much excitement as Christmas and on my way up the mountain to ‘The Remarks’; an awesome ski field, even with the limited snow. I managed to psych myself up for ‘Shady Lady’; the iciest black run you ever saw, swearing to myself profusely after realising it was a damn sight steeper at the top than it looked at the bottom. I managed to get down punching the air and wobbling at the knees, it was time for a fire and yet another hot chocolate (can you see a theme emerging) whilst enjoying the view of Coronet Peak.
My last day in Queenstown was a bit disappointing; as is the way with any mountain weather it can turn in no time. I woke up to torrential rain and a cancelled flight to Milford Sound. I was really upset as this was one of my main reasons for visiting NZ, however with so much else to see I pushed on. I grabbed my Juce Box and made my way along the Crown Range to Wanaka, where my disappointment soon dissipated along with the clouds.
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Known as Queenstown’s sleepy cousin I found my bearings and went for an exploratory drive, taking in Lake Wanaka and it’s neighbouring Mt Aspiring – my favouring Mt to date!
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 Today was another rainy day, I hopped in the car and decided to go for a hike around Diamond Lake and up to rocky mountain peak – steep but definitely worth it.
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DCIM100GOPROGOPR0216.I then travelled about an hour up to the blue pools just past Makarora. The drive was beautiful and rugged past Lake Hawea.

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The Blue Pools were stunning and so clear you can see the trout as if suspended in mid-air. Due to the heavy rain the rivers were fast flowing and had a greenish tinge but apparently in summer they are calm and azure.
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Time to make the long drive to Lake Tekapo, see you there.

Bali – Pemuteran and Lovina

In the car with Made we drove North West in the direction of Pemuteran to do some diving.

We found a Kopi Lewak place on the side of the road where Made assured me the civets were treated fairly. I have to say it was lovely but not any better than any other cup of coffee I’ve tasted. So much for the world’s most expensive, they can keep it, and treat the civets nicer!
Out next stop was the iconic water temple, Pura Ulun Danu Bratan. It was magnificent, although slightly over crowded with tourists because of the lovely weather.
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Finally we arrived at Pemuteran where Made and I parted ways and I stayed in yet another incredible piece of accommodation. This time it was a cottage on the beach, I had a gorgeous sunset stroll and found somewhere for a little al fresco dining with my toes in the sand.
The next morning I was up early and ready for a day of diving. I met two great guys who took me on a private dive for the day to Menjangan island. A secluded island where no-one but wild deer live. Off the coast but a beautiful sea wall teaming with marine life, I even saw my first clown fish!
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At the end of a long day I headed West to Lovina where I stayed in the middle of a rice field.
The next morning was another early start and this time for wild dolphins. It was a beautiful sunrise and the dolphins were excitedly flipping in the air although I couldn’t help feeling sad as hoards of paying customers relentlessly chased the dolphins in boats stinking of petrol.
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This Bali is so stunningly beautiful and a wildlife paradise, I just hope tourism doesn’t continue to ruin it too much, you can really see the effects of this in the South of the Island while the North is still largely untouched.

Bali – Locavore

I’d heard amazing things about Locavore for months before I went to Ubud. Hailed as a foodie’s dream I just had to try it. Getting in is pretty tricky so be organised with this one and book in advance, no winging it with this popular spot I’m afraid.

I absolutely love the name; as an advocate of local products I was already intrigued. The idea of neither being a herbivore or a carnivore, but a locavore is genius and now I am stealing it for myself. “Hi, I’m Gabrielle and I am a locavore”.

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The menu is based on European dishes made with locally sourced ingredients. Set in a degustation format you can choose from a five or seven course ‘Locavore’ menu or ‘herbivore’ menu and can chose to pair these courses with matching beverages. I was slightly worried about consuming 7 alcoholic beverages as a girl on my own in a new city. However, I was assured by the waitress that they wouldn’t all be alcoholic (one wasn’t, just one!!!!), so I YOLO’d’ and dived right in.

Forgive the photos but as you can see they get increasingly blurry with every paired beverage!

To start is was given a few appetisers including a spinach tempura and this.

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Then it was on to Seaweed Gili bread with soft egg and tamari emulsion.

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Baby churros with young goat’s cheese and a black rice blini with smoked egg emulsion, Papp rice and leaves.

Local salad sprinkled with Balinese sea salt and spritzed with hibiscus vinegar. This was on my table throughout the meal, I thought it was the flower decoration.

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Oyster mushroom crisp to dip into oyster emulsion.

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Tomato sorbet served with home-grown cherry tomato with a hot consume. And finally a Balinese chocolate mousse.

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