City by the Bay!!!!

San Francisco!So SF is a pretty awesome place but after 2 weeks of the tranquility of NZ it was a bit of a culture shock!

So we started out on fisherman’s wharf… And we got there by cable car… Which is the most awesome method of conveyance ever! 

So the scheme is this… There is a rope running beneath the road and rails… And this is constantly moving. The driver controls a leaver which clamps onto the rope and hauls the car along. The driver can let go and use brakes made of wooden blocks to control the speed… This does cause the smell of burning wood to rise up at the bottom of a hill!

  
Fisherman’s Wharf is fun… It’s heaving with shops and food and things to spend your money on lol (which we did!)

There is a short stretch of beach which we sat on and watched the world go by.. Such a lovely treat to sit and look at the Golden Gate Bridge in the afternoon sun. 

  
And if you’re down that way… Order the clam chowder! It is super awesome tasty! And it comes in a sourdough bread bowl which you can dip, nibble or just ditch afterwards.

So next morning then and it was time for the big one… Alcatraz!

  
I’d really been looking forward to this one… We set out from pier 33 and sailed for 15 minutes to the island. The federal notices are still in place warning the general public that it’s a prison. You still follow the 1/4 mile path up to the cell house… The same path walked by the prisoners and into the processing area, this still has the showers and the area where they provided them with clothes etc. It was said of Alcatraz.. “If you break the rules; you go to prison, if you break the prison rules you go to Alcatraz”. Everything was a privilege and you were promised nothing but food, clothing, shelter and medical attention. It was pretty amazing to stand on “Broadway” the central passage of the cell house; the areas all had names like that and “Broadway” is the most famous. To get a sensation of the place, the grim oppression of it… 

   
 This was a place of punishment. It has to be said that whilst I agree in reform there are a few news stories that make me think that The Rock should reopen for business.

In the afternoon we visited The Castro.. This is the massive LGBT part of town and somewhere Twizzles and I feel very comfortable… The whole area just feels very open, welcoming and relaxed… We did some shopping here and had Mexican for lunch, the crosswalk in the centre of the area has rainbow tracks on the ground and up on a flagpole at the start of Castro is the biggest pride flag you’ll ever see! 

   
 We rounded out our trip with a quick visit to Chinatown 

  
(mostly to get another suitcase lol) and finished up in Lori’s diner on Pine&Powell… Now this is the place to go for an amazing all American dinner, burgers, shakes, beers and everything else you’d expect in a classic diner! 

  
Do you know, I’m finishing this on the last plane, the final leg of our round the world adventure. I know Twizzles hasn’t written about penguins yet, I’ll get her to do it. And perhaps she might share a very special thing that happened on the flight from Boston to Reykjavik.

I’ll write something to conclude this voyage in a few days time.

Meanwhile, be extremely excellent to each other.

Love and hugs 

Z xx

Lakes and Mountains 

Setting out from Blenheim on a very pleasant morning we were making for the west coast town of Greymouth. I’m sorry to report that there was nothing massively exciting to report on this leg of the journey. Twizzles did a share of the driving which she seemed to greatly enjoy which left me to relax and enjoy more stunning scenery.But I did do this: 

   
 Arriving in Greymouth on a rainy Sunday afternoon meant that this otherwise lively coastal town was quite dead. But after a quick lunch it was onwards to the Great Alpine Highway and our overnight halt at Bealey. Now New Zealand has many single track river bridges and you quickly get used to them. You also get used to railway lines snaking over your road and back again but… I will never forget the single track bridge that was shared with the railway… No not next to the road… Trains and cars share the same space in both directions!! Weirdest thing I have ever seen!

  
Driving up the highway was a little disappointing but once you hit the mountains all expectations of a mountain road came true including rock fall shelters and even an over bridge to direct a waterfall away from the road!

We arrived at Bealey tired but awestruck by what we saw… I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

   
   
Amazing right? But after a good night sleep we had to move… We were heading this way:

  
And in true adventurer style we left at first light… Destination: Lake Tekapo!

We were planning to see the Glacial lakes Tekapo and Pukaki and if we were lucky… The Tasman Glacier itself… Again… Pictures rather than words

   
 
  
And that evening at Tekapo, New Zealand gave us the most astonishing gift 

  
I’m writing this in Auckland departure lounge waiting for the flight to San Francisco… Twizzles will be sharing her thoughts about the penguins we visited soon.

New Zealand is the most wonderful beautiful amazing country and you must visit here. Stop reading and go book your flight!

Thank you New Zealand… We will see you again

Peace love and be extremely excellent to each other 

Much love 

Z xx

Wine on the South Island 

We landed on South Island in a torrent of light drizzle and headed for Blenheim. We were already running late for our wine tour so we made our way as quickly as we could to the motel. Then disaster!! *thunder and lightning sounds*… Bank cards wouldn’t work!! We called Barclays and as is often the case you need to try twice with a call centre to get the helpful person. The second guy saw what was wrong and got us through to fraud where he bent the rules just enough to get us back up and running again! Good thing too because we were going to buy wine!

So at Steve & Jo’s wine tours we saddled up and hit the trails.

We had about 2 1/2 hours to get through 5 wine tastings… Why 5 you say? Because there was a gold medal at stake! Yes if you get around 5 cellar doors out of a list of about 20 in a day you get a Golden Mile medal. We had less than a day to do this and Twizzles and I work best when there is some pointless or absurd prize at the end. So 5 cellar doors, much delicious wine, one amazing tasting platter and 5 bottles sitting happily in our panniers we made it back with a gold medal each! Proper heavy metal one too!

We are definitely doing this again in the summer but the weather held and it made for a great ride. Big thanks to Steve & Jo, Cherylea motel for being both very comfortable and understanding, Finlay at Barclays and the wineries at Frammingham, Forrest, Wairau River, No. 1 and Giesen for an amazing afternoon!! 

Catch up time.. Wellington 

The South Island is an amazing place and it’s been hard to find the time to write so let’s talk about the capital… Wellington.

First of all… It’s nicer than Auckland (sorry, but it is) 

The city sits on the edge of a massive bay surrounded by mountains which gives some lovely views and a few driving challenges.

We went first to Weta workshop which a a nice tour showing the process they use to build up props for the various movies they have worked on. There is obviously loads of Lord of the Rings stuff there but I was delighted to find props from the Halo promotional shorts including the one and only fully scaled and operational Warthog! (If you understand that last sentence you’ll know why I was excited!)

They have a fully rigged armoury there too which I was starring at longingly and Twizzles said out loud “you just want to go and play don’t you?”…. My wife knows me!

We spent a bit of time and money in the shop before heading back to town.  And yes it was all Lord of the Rings stuff lol. For a mere $16000 they will make a replica Sting sword for you… Their masters swordsmith makes it to order and to the highest standards. Basically, you could take it into battle!

Now unfortunately Twizzles wasn’t feeling too well in the afternoon so I took a ride on the cable car myself. Not as steep as Kyiv but longer with intermediate stations lol.

Wonderful views from up top and I sat, relaxed, wrote a few postcards and just enjoyed the view.

 
The next day we drove up to Rivendell but found the most beautiful reserve and would you believe it… Rainforests!!

  
We crossed a swing bridge (a metal Indiana Jones bridge) and went for a walk. As is so often the case, it’s so hard to describe in words what it was like… Beautiful hardly does it justice but it will have to do.

Nearby is the area used for the Rivendell scenes and although it’s all gone now there are signs up to show where things were and this…

  
A half size replica of the gate way and here is Twizzles wondering if Mordor is left or right.

And just in case you missed it…

Here are her Tattoos again..

  
Seriously adorable right?

Z xx

The Interislander

Just time for a quick post before the ferry to South Island sails. Lovely couple of days in Wellington visits to Rivendell and the Weta workshops really rounded off our North Island Lord of the Rings experience. 

The vessel is about to sail but before we go… Twizzles got the cutest tattoo yesterday at Dr Morse Tattoo studio 

  
Much love 

Z xx

Some time in a volcano

In between Hobbit hunting we had the pleasure of staying in the crater of a volcano, Rotoura was our base for the night after Hobbiton and the next morning I drove us out to Wai-O-Tapu thermals as Zombie wanted to see a geyser erupt. Admittedly it’s the only driving I’ve done so far because reasons but I can say I’ve driven in a foreign country within three months of passing my test 😉. 

So you get your tickets from the gift shop (they’re very encouraging of gift shopping in NZ) and drive back round the corner to a car park next to the Geyser. A nice man explains the history of how this one was found and the chemical found which induces an erruption, washing soap of all things. And then he pours in some soap and off it goes!

Whooosh! 🐳🇳🇿 #geyser #thermals #landscape #nz #newzealand #honeybobs

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 As the tickets include it we walked round their “wonderland” which is basically a bunch of flatish land which is all thermal, so it smells a heck of a lot like sulphur and water/mud bubbles a lot. It was all pretty cool and we both enjoyed the walk (of which we’ve done a fair amount so far). The route itself probably took about two hours including photo stops and just enjoying the views. We bought some magnets on the way out and then it was back into Rotoura centre for our Māori experience at Te-Puia. 

Thermals 🇳🇿 #nz #landscape #newzealand #thermals #honeybobs

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Te-Puia is run by the Māori tribe who have lived on the ground for many many generations, Cinni our guide was fantastic at bringing to life her family history and telling us about the Māori crafts. We learnt about who there was originally no mammals opinion New Zealand so they had to make their clothes out of flat reeds and that the carvings are based on their family members. 

We were treated to another geyser erruption at the end of the tour as there are many thermals in the area, this one going off about every hour. After the tour we milled around and had some lunch then it was time for the daily show of the cultural welcome & Haka war dance. 

Before anyone visiting a Māori Meeting House is allowed to enter they have to be greeted by the warrior of the tribe & display their intent, friendship or battle. Doing so by not flinching when the warrior dances towards them and either spitting on a leaf (in war) or lifting the leaf high (in peace). There is also an amount of ritual singing as part of the greeting and response. 

Once this is through we were ushered inside and watched the most moving & wonderful performance. The ladies traditionally dance with Poi and the men do the Haka dance (lots of body slapping and tongue waggling). The purpose of the poi dancing and some stick throwing dances is to increase hand eye coordination and flexibility of the wrists, all grounding in good battle prospects. David even got up on stage with the men folk to be taught a basic Haka, he really wants to learn the full thing. I wouldn’t mind giving the poi dance a go either!

Traditional Māori poi dance and singing 🇳🇿 #newzealand #nz #maori #poi #dance #perfomingarts #honeybobs

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From Te-Puia we had a slightly hair-raising drive across the country to PioPio (Pee-oh Pee-oh or pewpew for short) to our motel the quaint Owls Nest. It was only so bad because paths sat nave took us on the shortest route which is usually only used by the locals who know the area, to says it was wiggly is an understatement. And it was quite wet and dark, that’s the weirdest thing getting dark at 17:30 in July! But Zombie did an astounding job and we got there safely in time for a takeaway dinner. 

The next day was our other Hobbit adventure you’ve already heard about and then onto the glow worm caves of Waitomo. We couldn’t take any photos as we would disturb said glow worms but it was very beautiful as you’d expect, and the river ride under the caves was so pretty in the dark with the glowy ceilings. A drive back in the same direction, though this time skipping the wiggly road, and we were in Taupo to meet Gregg the man who Zombie fenced with that night (see previous post).

Again another morning (Wednesday this time) Gregg kindly cooked us breakfast and then took us out to his other favourite passtime: pistol shooting! Now I must say its not something I ever thought I’d do but it was actually loads of fun! We started small, just a 22 caliber to get the feel of it and then worked our way through, including a glock like you see open tv! We had a little competition at the end, our clusters were both quite tight, unfortunately mine were a bit high so scored mostly 3-7s and Zombie really got his eye in scoring 7-9s. But it was a huge amoungpt of fun, we were out there for a fair few hours! Though my shoulder didn’t enjoy waking up the next morning much from that recoil! 

I leave you now with the promise of a Weta Cave tour, cable car up the hill and Rivendell walk to come. 

Fencing with Taupo Swords

Before we came out here Twizzles had planned for me to join a fencing class in Taupo for an evening, the idea was for me to get a little time fencing because I was going to be so long between fencing classes. This escalated rather quickly because when their coach found out I was qualified he asked me to teach a lesson! And so I did… A compound attack is an attack in fencing that includes one or more feints… 

This was the basis of the lesson taught, I won’t go into more fencing speak though lol.

The group were of various skill levels but had not had the typical training that most British clubs have had. But it was an enjoyable experience and felt really good to teach and pass on my knowledge so far from where I learnt. 

  
Actually I thought I’d have more to share about this but I don’t lol… I’m so grateful to Twizzles for arranging this for me!