I will be looking forward to keeping up to date in our up and coming travels.
My first trial on being able to create a blog on my ipad is very exciting, as it is something I have been wanting to do for years!
I will be looking forward to keeping up to date in our up and coming travels.
I have not got far with getting this blog going have I! Having enjoyed two months travelling in our new campervan around the South Island we had a wonderful time revisiting places already been before and exploring new ones. Highlights were our visit to Stewart Island where we stayed in the South Pacific Hotel.The old historic original hotel on the waterfront at Oban. We did several lovely tramps including a trip out to Ulva Island....the bird sanctuary. We saw a variety of birds rarely seen, and walked every track on this small island.
Walking the Hollyford Valley was a fantastic experience. Three days walking through pristine bush with a small group of 16 and not another person to be seen except the 4 at the very end of the track. We stayed in lodges with our meals cooked for us.....delicious venison, salmon, vegetables with cakes and snacks and fruit. We certainly didn't go hungry. Sleeping on a bed after a hard days walking was lovely! Bard, our guide was a wonderful teller of tales. He knew all the local characters and stories of the pioneers who lived out here in incredibly basic conditions. With a jetboat ride into the track and a helicopter ride out this was a very special experience. Topped off by an overnight cruise of Milford Sound to finish off a once in a lifetime experience.
I was thrilled with the knife I made at a day long course at Barrytown on the West Coast. Starting the morning with a lump of steel and finishing with a beautiful knife that had a brass mid piece, wooden handle and shaped to my own design it was a great sense of achievement.The others doing the course were a mix of tourists...some felt it was the best thing they had done in New Zealand, a butcher planning to return and make another knife and one of the cooks on the Hollyford Track. Sam was on leave when we went through but his co workers assured me he loved his knife and used it all the time for chopping up the venison and other meats.
We spent a few lovely days in the Catlins staying at a remote DOC camp beach which was beautiful.We walked to Cathedral Cave and just enjoyed the natural beauty.
Having taken our bikes we did a few new tracks.The Spooner Tunnel near Nelson was most enjoyable. We were taken to the tunnel and then rode through the tunnel about 2km's then downhill....yippee.....where we were picked up and dropped at Wakefield for us to ride through to Richmond. Roxburgh Gorge has long been on the list and not only was it a stunning clear blue sky day but the ride was my all time favourite bike ride. Amazing scenery, few people and relatively relaxing.
Arthurs Pass was also beautiful with clear mountain skies. We enjoyed a few of the walking tracks in the area.Waterfalls, bush, colourful birds all abound. It was cool for summer though!
We finally made the Waipara Food and Wine Festival. A very wet experience so requiring raincoats and boots, but still most enjoyable.Torlesse Winery is always very generous in letting us stay in their vineyard,which was just a short walk away. Haybales for seating and gazebos to keep off the weather, music, food and a great selection of local wines made for a good day.
Many other wineries were also visited.We particularly enjoyed travelling through the Moutere Valley where there were a couple of interesting wineries. Akarua's new cellar door on the Lake Hayes - Cromwell Rd is really lovely.We will try the restaurant next time. Wet Jacket nearby is also and interesting winery.Using an old sheep shearing shed it has a cheese room and unusual decor. Three Miners en route to Alexandra was also well worth a visit with an interesting winemaker and some very nice wines.
A video of the trip will be posted in a few months time. We are off again and time has run out.
It is time to revive Yen for Travel. Unfortunately the travel got in the way of writing on this blog because I was unable to use an Ipad to update at the time.We don,t travel with laptops as they are too cumbersome. However, progress has been made and I can now update as we go along.There has been a lot of amazing travels we have had in the last couple of years to record.
I will be starting with writing about our latest adventure - ten wonderful weeks in South America. Starting in Ecuador we travelled through Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile.
Our trip to Sri Lanka for five weeks last year (2015) already seems a long time ago. And 2014 we headed for Europe, staying with our daughter and son in law in the Swiss Alps and travelling around Switzerland, through northern Italy, down the coast of Croatia to Montenegro and back to Switzerland via Bosnia Herzigovina and Italy. We had a week following the wine in France before heading home.
I have still to record our travels in Portugal in 2013 too. It wil be done.
In between all these wonderful experiences we spent two months each year touring our stunning New Zealand South Island in our motorhome. And enjoyed a couple of weeks in Australia's Sunshine Coast. Life is never boring!
Our travels these days are a mix of enjoying the sights, people and unique experiences each country offers, as well as plenty of gournmet and wine indulgences. Town (not so much big cities which we tend to avoid) and country, beaches, lakes , mountains all attract us. The history, architecture, unique festivals, amazing walks. There is never enough time.
We hope you enjoy our travels second hand!
We woke late......10.00 am…so spent a quiet morning sorting a few things and bought tickets for the tour bus which is a Hop on,. Hop off bus. We had some problem finding the bus stop as there are different stops depending on whether you bought tickets for the yellow or red bus.
Walk ing some distance up the road. to the bus stop, we passed craft shops, enjoyed wonderful views across to Reid's Palace and out to sea, and of course the ever stunning, colourful tropical gardens.
The bus wound round the hills giving birdseye views of the houses and their courtyards filled with pots of colour, en route to Camara de Lobos - the famous fishing village where Winston Churchill apparently used to retreat to to paint Although the village itself was a little disappointing after similar villages we have visited. It was pretty....but perhaps a little over hyped. Fishing boats dotted the small harbour and cafes, restaurants and shops hugged the cliff surrounding the bay.
There was a Soundshell on the foreshore and we were entertained by the performers having a practice run and sound check for what we assumed would be the evening entertainment.
As you can see, the hillside behind was covered in bananas and grapes. Camara de Lobos is the main wine growing region in the south of the island.
After a wander, we settled for a simple salad at outdoor tables, overlooking the bay, before taking the bus back. to Funchal. We stayed on the whole trip getting off at Blandy’s, but the wine tour we hoped to do was not on. Their wine tasting is rather expensive, so in preference we bought a 4 bottle sample pack to try ourselves at our leisure.
We had another pleasant happy hour sipping pina coladas...yum! Then we tried dinner next door. We both went for the Espetada Beef skewers with a huge salad, polenta, potatoes how you wanted....chips, sauteed or boiled, and sweet potato and were not disappointed. This time the meat was threaded onto the real laurel skewers. We had the house wine which was actually a whole bottle and was very good!
After a rest at the Market Cafe we wandered along to the Madeira Story Centre and had a quick look through – this is where you can learn the history of the island with interactive displays.
Next we went to Blandy’s Wine Center where we used our bus tickets for a free tasting. We started with a medium dry Madeira......5 years old which was very pleasant and not too sweet. After booking tickets for the tour we sat in the Jardim Sao Francisco Park just across a narrow road until 2 .00pm when the tour started.
The tour was extremely interesting and informative. The wines are labelled by age and if white by the grape variety… but all red grapes are the same Tinto Nero. If it was a good year it will be marked with a letter.
The Farmers Market
We set off for Mercado dos Lavradores - the Farmers Market, by bus, which saved the feet as we knew it would be a long day with heaps of walking.
Fruit, vegetables, flowers, embroidery, local woodware ...all were piled high on stalls set around the edge of the building with the fruit in the middle, beautifully displayed. There was an abundance of tropical fruits.
Day Two and we're feeling more refreshed . We did a heap of walking down through Funchal to the old town. We wandered through the now famous street of “ 100 doors “ where artists were invited to paint a door. This was a really great idea. It was a way of improving the old town and attracting visitors to the area. Each door is an artwork in it’s own right and there are so many different themes and styles. The old cobbled streets have colourful flags draped across in criss cross style, and there is a good choice of restaurants to choose from.
Street of 100 Doors
It was rather an arduous trip from Marrakech to Madeira with two plane trips and a 5 hour stop in Lisbon. We had ended up on TAP the Portuguese airline, maybe we could have flown direct but almost certainly for a more expensive airfare.
Arriving late at night, the taxi driver drove like a bat out of hell with virtually no other traffic, over mountain roads and through numerous tunnels clinging to the cliff edges, which were a surprise. Tunnels at home seem to be so expensive to build they become a major talkfest causing much angst usually for a very short tunnel, yet here on Madeira they have dozens, and some are quite long. I thought Portugal was a relatively poor country.....yet ( you will read more about this later), their whole roading system is one to be envied!
Where are the Road Signs?
Surprisingly the road from Essaouira to Marrakech was nowhere near as good as the one coming in from Rabat. 50 kms from Marrakech we decided to take the big motorway but.....we had trouble as to which exit to take with no distinct signs, and we ended up going past the main Marrakech exit and had to drive on 25 kms to take us to the Palmeria.
Bad move, as we then had to double back 15 kms and find our way by asking where the airport is. I am not sure why they don,t have clear and frequent signs for the airport. When we finally picked the signs up we got so far, came to a T junction and……. no signs! Do we go right....or left? Who knows! We asked and carried on as per French instructions. Still no airport signs. This is getting very frustrating! Brian didn,t trust I was correct so turned around ( with difficulty on a 4 lane road) and asked at a garage....I had been right - ( and love to say "I told you so" but resisted) and after much stress we finally made it to the airport.
B deposited me and luggage at the arrivals and went to meet the rental car men, who kept him waiting on the tarmac for 30 minutes in 42oC heat….Phew!
The taxi man Merwan had ordered for us was found, and off we went. The taxi was pretty old and dodgy.....the taxi man highly amusing. He drove right in through the Medina with several near misses People were jumping to the side as he whizzed through singing away about Laughing at the Moon....yes in English...as he nearly collected a pedestrian or two, finally coming to a halt almost at the door....at the top of our little alley! It was absolutely hilarious....like something from the movies!
After a shower and a sleep for Brian who was not too well after his conger meal in Essaouira, we went into Djemaa El Fnar Square for our last dinner in Morocco. A simple tuna salad and fruit salad for dessert did the trick at our favourite 7 Heaven Restaurant right next to La Glacerie .It has cool breezes and also had the sprayers going which helped.
Back we came through the souk with not one wrong turn... and that will be it for Marrakech.
Our bags are packed and we are waiting for our amusing taxi driver to take us to the airport. Next stop.... the island of Madeira !
Essaouira - originally called Mogador by the Portuguese, is a truly beautiful town to visit. With a much more diverse population historically with several ethnic groups including the Amazighs, Arabs, Africans, and Europeans as well as Muslim, Christian and Jewish people. The town was designed by a Frenchman in the 17th Century so has a more European feel to it.
The ramparts overlook the coast and were beautiful with huge waves crashing on the rocks. The old cannons are lined up and create an interesting vision of what has been in days gone before. On the other side you can look down into the wood souk with an amazing array of handmade woodware.
While we were on the ramparts waiting for the sunset, a group started singing and playing their instruments right beside us, drawing a big crowd. Everyone from young men to old men, with their rustic handmade instruments, came to join in.
We could hear the official aid concert which was in a tent just across from our bedroom balcony. The atmosphere was amazing.
We were pleased to leave early next morning for what appeared to be a long drive. However....the motorway was excellent to El Jadida and then the smaller road was also in excellent condition and we found the further we went the less traffic. We arrived in good time in Essaouira, (eza-wee-ra) found our accommodation Chem Bleu easily in the Medina, and again have a lovely balcony for not only good views, but hearing the music for the Gnaoua and World Music Festival which is on.
We wandered through the crowds avoiding the piles of wares they were selling from rugs on the ground, to find somewhere for lunch. A bit late… many cafes were shut ,but we found a place in a small Square and while we ate were serenaded by a trio playing violin like instruments and a tambourine.
Chem Bleu - Great Location
Breakfast in Chefchouen was traditional. pancakes with cream cheese and jams, and the freshly squeezed orange juice we love, along with good coffee.
Omar recommended a secondary road through to Sale but had not been on it for two years. It must have deteriorated, as it was very slow going. It was a terrible road full of potholes and clearly not maintained. It was tough driving for Brian - he did well! We met little other traffic until we got to the road near Casa blanca. It was mainly rural with people working in fields, but not overly interesting. We were happy to arrive in Sale. Well….initially!
Until we found our instructions were incorrect and we couldn't find our way to our accommodation in the Medina. We went round in circles asking various people which proved difficult as few had any English. We finally managed to get to the Medina wall and park. We rang Riad Dar Nawfal only to find they spoke no English so we were in a real quandry. It just seemed hopeless.
Eventually we saw a travel place and the man who spoke some English rang for them to come. It had taken nearly an hour and a half to get to our accommodation!
Coastal Sale is dirty, unattractive and definitely not to be recommended. The reviews were a little more glowing than I felt Sale deserved!
I decided to take a walk around the Medina, but after a short walk it had little appeal, with unkempt dirty paths and nothing of interest to see. Sale was a big disappointment. I guess it is not geared for tourists....usually something we prefer, but this time it would have been nicer if they had cleaned the streets and made more effort.
We had expected it to be easier to get across the bridge to Rabat and thought Sale would be quieter. But the major bridge was very busy and difficult to even get onto, so walking across the bridge did not work.
Our accommodation was nice enough and cheap. The meal was expensive, though very nicely cooked. Prune Tajine with a very large portion of meat, followed by a dessert of fruit salad with mint which was very refreshing.
Breakfast was also very pleasant. If you had to stay in Sale ( sar - la) as the other guest did - she was a performing arts teacher and came for blocks of 6 weeks at a time. Riad Dar Nawfal was a nice Riad and very cheap.
However, Rabat across the river looked much more interesting and I would stay in Rabat given my time again!
Chefchouen was everything we had hoped. Charming, heaps of character and just so beautiful with shades of cornflower blue, cobalt blue, electric blue, aqua blue, turquoise all blended onto walls, doors, and walls inside and out, which was both refreshing and gorgeous. In interiors bright shocking pink was a popular contrast to the blue.
Hotel Kortubia was easy to find...the beauty of staying in a small place. We were able to park just outside the Medina entrance by a hotel.This is a small Medina compared to Fez or Marrakech. Our host Omar an ex science teacher, had returned to Chefchouen where his wife was born, to run a B&B as a way to meet people from around the world since he couldn,t afford to travel the world himself. His delightful daughter studying engineering spoke excellent English and will be studying in France for a few months in the new semester. Omar was extremely helpful with restaurant suggestions, things to see etc
Hotel Kortubia - Recommended
We left Fez by 9.00a.m after a little discussion re the parking man wanting double the money!
Fortunately due to research the night before, we managed to find our way out of Fez easily and were soon on the road over the Rif mountains. They are lovely but........the 6 hour drive did not really offer any great variety. The mountains and villages looked much the same the whole way.
The road was in much poorer condition than the roads we had driven on so far. Full of potholes, narrow, and of course windy. The hills were bright green with large patches of cannabis openly grown right down to the road.side Cannabis or Kif as it is known in Morocco is illegal……but it couldn’t be more visible in the Rif Mountains if you tried.
After a difficult entry to Fez ......we find the accommodation at Dar El Ouedghiri very comfortable.....although there are a lot of stairs. Recently redecorated apparently, the fabric in the traditional Moroccan lounge is a beautifully colourful fabric traditional to Fez. They had the same fabric in a restaurant we went to. Khadija, the daughter does most of the talking as she has good English. We had dinner on the rooftop and breakfast on our balcony. Dar El Ouedghiri is one of Fez's historic houses in a great location.
We, Gail and Brian, have permanently itchy feet .
Our list of travel aspirations never seems to get shorter, despite visiting many fascinating countries over many years. While we have both visited about 100 countries each - not all the same, we look forward to enjoying many more, as we satisfy our "Yen for Travel".