Domestic Travel

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Is Rottnest Island home to the cutest animals on earth?

<p>Discover the stunning beachfront home of the cutest Australian wildlife the quokka. With 63 beaches, 50 kilometres of roads to and 65,000 years of history to explore you’ll love Rottnest Island’s unique natural attractions.</p> <p>It’s a beautiful island populated by perhaps Australia’s most endearing animal. So what was Dutch Captain De Vlamingh thinking in 1696 when he spent six days here and, thinking the hopping, marsupial quokkas were rats named the island Rotte Nest. He probably would have thought platypus were furry ducks.</p> <p>Today we know the island as Rottnest, the national park, historical site and quokka home some 18 km off Fremantle. So it’s even more western than West Australia.</p> <p>For generations of Perth residents “Rotto” has been the family holiday home. Now it’s been revitalised and attracts visitors from all over Australian and all around the world.</p> <p><strong>How to travel</strong></p> <p>Whether you catch the <a href="https://www.rottnestexpress.com.au/">Rottnest Express</a> from Fremantle (inevitably trimmed to “Freo”) or cruising down the Swan River from Perth, it takes less than half an hour up to 90 minutes to arrive at the dock at Thomson Bay, Rottnest’s main settlement. It’s likely that less than five minutes after disembarking you’ll meet your first quokka.</p> <p><strong>The home of the Quokka</strong></p> <p>Quokkas are small marsupials, a relative of kangaroos and wallabies. But they are small, cute and apparently totally lacking in fear – and seem to have the ability to smile.</p> <p>Walk along Sommerville Drive, the settlement’s main street, and you’ll encounter them everywhere. There are signs on the shop doors indicating that quokkas aren’t allowed inside. Now there’s a sign of admirable animal intelligence.</p> <p>Early Dutch explorers seemed to have little skill as naturalists. In 1658 Volersen thought quokkas resembled Asian civet cats but with brown hair. De Vlamingh who named the island said it was a kind of rat as big as a common cat.</p> <p>Fortunately, quokkas have taken one of their Aboriginal names but, sadly, that name is from an area of WA where they are no longer found.</p> <p><strong>Visit the island for a day</strong></p> <p>If you are a day visitor and so not staying in one of the many casual resorts around the island, then consider arranging your own transport. Cars aren’t permitted and buses are infrequent, but the island is pretty flat and well suited to bicycling. You can even include bike hire with your ferry ticket.</p> <p>A scan of a map of the island will convince all but the very keen that it’s too far to cycle around the island in a day. You can do it, but it won’t allow enough time to explore. Cape Vlamingh and the seal viewing platform at Cathedral Rocks are about 10km from the settlement.</p> <p>One option to get around this is to book a 90-minute Adventure Boat Tour and see the whole island – and its offshore whales and seals – from the water. A bonus is you’ll get to experience an exciting burn in a very fast vessel.</p> <p><strong>Explore by bike</strong></p> <p>If you are exploring by bike, then it’s a matter of which way to go first? My suggestion is to take an anti-clockwise course and don’t forget swimmers and towel. So, after leaving town then the golf course behind you’ll be at The Basin, the first of many secluded sandy coves that will prove irresistible after a hot ride.</p> <p>The ideal is to bring a picnic lunch to the island and ride till you find the perfect beach to declare your own and stop there for a swim and lunch. Alternatively, the settlement has cafes, restaurants, bars and a bakery – or a general store if you wish to make your own.</p> <p><strong>Discover fascinating history</strong></p> <p>On our ride, we cut back across the middle of the island, through the picturesque lagoons and via the central Wadjemup Lighthouse.</p> <p>There’s a lot of history on Rottnest (from salt farm to prison to military base to nature reserve) and the best way to make sense of it is to have a look through the museum then take the free daily one-hour walking History Tour around the settlement. The quaint old colonial buildings take on new meaning afterwards.</p> <p>Best of all, the guided walk took us past the Pioneer Cemetery to the Lakes Walk where we encountered a family of shelducks. But this was wild quokka territory where there was a quokka under every bush and groups sitting out in the open.</p> <p>We only had to sit for a few minutes before the quokkas came over to say hello. Soon we had quokkas sitting in our laps and exploring our backpacks for the food (that we all knew they weren’t allowed to eat). It was a wonderful moment with nature.</p> <p>As we left on the last ferry for the day, we swore that we’d come back to Rottnest to stay and experience the tranquillity that must descend when the daytrippers depart. Of the half million who visit Rottnest Island each year only a third stay overnight.</p> <p>We also swore to be more diligent in applying sunscreen - there’s not much shade when you’re out on a bike all day.</p> <p>The main reason we’ll be back, however, is that spending just one day with quokkas is not nearly enough.</p> <p><em>Written by David McGonigal. Republished with permission of <a href="https://www.wyza.com.au/articles/travel/uncover-the-natural-beauty-of-rottnest-island.aspx">Wyza.com.au</a>.</em></p>

Domestic Travel

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Why every Australian should visit Uluru’s big sister – Kata Tjuta

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Plenty of people travel to the middle of Australia’s red-hot centre to see the glorious rock formation known as Uluru.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">However, many people think that’s all there is to see. After all, it’s one of Australia’s most well-known rock formations.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Kata Tjuta is one of the hidden gems in the middle of the nation. It towers over Uluru, which stands at a small 348 metres high compared to the height of Kata Tjuta at 546 metres.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Kata Tjuta is also bigger than Uluru, as walking around the base of Kata Tjuta is 23 kilometres compared to the 10 kilometres around Uluru.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There’s also a sense of wonder and curiosity that surrounds Kata Tjuta. Inspiring Journeys guide Myles Devonshire explained to </span><a href="https://www.escape.com.au/australia/northern-territory/ulurus-taller-neighbour-is-a-mustsee/news-story/e33319885ef6691712e01393b616a7fb"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Escape</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">:</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I’ll talk about the geology, but I can’t tell any of its stories. I like it that way. Respecting the mystery of Kata Tjuta adds to the magic.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There are two walks available around Kata Tjuta. One is called the Valley of the Winds, which takes between three to four hours to complete. The easier and shorter Walpa Gorge walk can be completed in less than an hour.</span></p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/BvqdzDzhHgX/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_medium=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BvqdzDzhHgX/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_medium=loading" target="_blank">A post shared by Marco Lino (@ganglio88)</a> on Mar 31, 2019 at 12:00am PDT</p> </div> </blockquote> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For some, the beauty of Kata Tjuta has to be seen to be believed. As there are no photos allowed along most of the journey out of respect for the sacred site you’re walking upon, only photos like the one above can be shared. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Kata Tjuta has dual World Heritage status and has been recognised for not only the natural beauty it possesses, but the cultural values it continues to uphold. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Have you been to Kata Tjuta? What was it like? Let us know in the comments.</span></p>

Domestic Travel

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The top 5 most relaxing destinations around the world

<p>It can be hard to get away from it all, especially when you don’t know where to start. <a href="https://www.lastminute.com/en/discover/most-chilled-out-countries-in-the-world.html">Lastminute.com</a> has ranked a variety of locations from around the world in order of noise, light pollution and the number of green spaces available to make this easier for you.</p> <p>The top 5 most chilled out destinations worldwide are:</p> <p><strong>1. Indonesia</strong><a href="https://www.gettyimages.com.au/detail/photo/ohoililir-beach-kei-island-royalty-free-image/1012860334"></a></p> <p>Indonesia is well known for relaxing by the ocean, as well as connecting with Mother Nature. With 88,000 of coastline, a beach isn’t too far away from you no matter where you are in Indonesia.</p> <p><strong>2. Australia</strong><a href="https://www.gettyimages.com.au/detail/photo/helicopter-view-of-the-white-sands-turquoise-ocean-royalty-free-image/952973680"></a></p> <p>Australia is known for their abundance of wildlife, as well as the variety of natural beauty that occurs. Whether you’re along the Great Barrier Reef or journeying into the red-hot centre of the nation, there’s something for everyone.</p> <p><strong>3. Iceland</strong><a href="https://www.gettyimages.com.au/detail/photo/cascata-di-gulfoss-di-notte-con-aurora-boreale-royalty-free-image/932194018"></a></p> <p>Iceland is ideal for stargazing, as it’s near the top of the Arctic Circle. This is where you can see the Northern Lights. However, with an average temperature of 1.75 degrees Celsius, don’t forget to bring your thermals.</p> <p><strong>4. New Zealand</strong></p> <p>With landscapes that can make you believe you’re in another world, it’s no surprise that New Zealand was chosen to be <em>Middle Earth</em> in the Lord of the Ring franchise. You’re also never too far from the sea, but if you’re not a fan of the waves, lakes are nearby as well.</p> <p><strong>5. Sri Lanka</strong></p> <p>With lush rainforests covering the landscape and a solid average temperature of nearly 27 degrees celsius, this is bound to have you feeling more relaxed as soon as you step off the plane.</p> <p>Scroll through the gallery to see what these relaxing destinations look like.</p> <p>Have you been to any of these destinations? Are they really as relaxing as this list claims? Let us know in the comments below.</p>

Domestic Travel

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Lisa Wilkinson’s “forever home” is for sale

<p>The gorgeous Mosman residence in NSW once owned by Lisa Wilkinson and her husband Peter Fitzsimons with Harbour Bridge and Opera House views has hit the market.</p> <p>It’s got a lot of more modern features since the beloved couple first moved out, but it houses a lot of memories for the couple and their three children, Jake, Louis and Billi Fitzsimons.</p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="/media/7824526/gettyimages-819086378.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/01d427a6228f4a589d1f9a08d740dad9" /></p> <p>The five-bedroom, three-bathroom home – with a market value of $7.5 million – hosts gorgeous harbourside views as well as a healthy mix of informal and formal living spaces so everyone in the family has a place to call their own.</p> <p>The property spans over 1143spm, just a jump, hop and a skip away from Australia’s beloved Taronga Zoo, Balmoral Beach and a number of parks by the Harbour.</p> <p>The prime real estate is one of the largest freestanding properties located close to Mosman village, and is not too far from where Wilkinson’s former <em>Today </em>colleagues, Karl Stefanovic and Georgie Gardner reside.</p> <p>With high ornate ceilings and leadlight window, it's hard to understand just why Wilkinson and her husband let this home go.</p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/BugDf2xFqhp/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_medium=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BugDf2xFqhp/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_medium=loading" target="_blank">A post shared by Lisa Wilkinson (@lisa_wilkinson)</a> on Mar 2, 2019 at 1:26am PST</p> </div> </blockquote> <p>In an article she wrote for <a href="https://10daily.com.au/lifestyle/homes/a190303lxr/lisa-wilkinson-why-our-first-house-will-forever-be-our-home-20190303">Ten Daily,</a> the TV show host explained the importance of her and Fitzsimons very first property together.  </p> <p>“What our house did have… was a warm hug for us from the moment we walked through that front door,” she wrote.</p> <p>“Like that great philosopher from <em>The Castle</em>, Darryl Kerrigan, always said, it was about ‘the vibe’.</p> <p>“…All the bones of the home we loved so much were all still there.</p> <p>“The memories too: from the tyre that used to hang in the gnarly old camphor laurel tree in the backyard, sleepless nights spent with newborns, tooth fairies, scraped knees, Easter egg hunts, birthday parties and fairy bread... they all came flooding back.”</p> <p>Wilkinson and Fitzsimons sold the Mosman home in 1998 for AUD$1.655 million after purchasing the property for AUD$875,000 five years before in 1993.</p> <p>Swipe through the gallery above to see the stunning Federation home.</p>

Domestic Travel

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Inside Olivia Newton-John's $5.7 million Aussie mansion: "Selling with a heavy heart"

<p>After owning the extravagant home for 40 years, it’s with a heavy heart that Olivia Newton-John has decided to sell her home in Ballina, in northern NSW. Newton-John has trusted her longtime friend and now real estate agent Jillian McGrath with the sale of her 187-acre home, which has an asking price of $5.5 million.</p> <p>“We flew up to the area during her 1980<span> </span><em>Grease</em>-era as she wanted somewhere she would have extreme privacy,” McGrath explained.</p> <p>“Since then she bought up adjoining properties, had over 4000 trees planted and has created a beautiful sanctuary.</p> <p>“She hopes that the person who buys this will live here full-time or a family will enjoy it; she wants someone to love it as much as she has.”</p> <p>McGrath made a point to mention that the decision to sell the beloved home has nothing to do with Newton-John’s health, as she has recently been diagnosed with cancer for the third time.</p> <p>“This decision is nothing to do with her health," the real estate agent noted. </p> <p>“It’s an ideal residence or maybe for someone who wants it as a holiday escape, as it has been this to her.”</p> <p>The luxury escape has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a creek, two dams and a tennis court.</p> <p>Scroll through the gallery above to see inside Newton-John's magnificent property. </p> <p><em>Photo credits: Domain.com.au</em></p>

Domestic Travel

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Best places to view the stars in New Zealand

<p class="">Who doesn’t love a night staring at the stars? </p> <p class=""><span>New Zealand is home to the only island granted dark sky sanctuary status – the north’s Great Barrier Island. Head to the south and you could catch a glimpse of the </span><span>Aurora Australis. </span></p> <p class=""><span>The night sky is woven into the culture of the New Zealand Maori people. Matariki, the rise of the Pleiades constellation, signals the start of the Maori New Year. </span></p> <p class="">Here are some of the best places to view the stars in New Zealand. </p> <p><strong>Great Barrier Island (Aotea)</strong></p> <p class="">Great Barrier Island is an<span> International </span><a rel="noopener" href="http://www.darksky.org/idsp/sanctuaries/" target="_blank">Dark Sky Sanctuary</a><span>. It’s </span><span>one of only four places in the world (and the only island) to be granted sanctuary</span><span> status.</span><span> </span><span></span></p> <p class=""><span>A dark sky sanctuary is defined as public or private land that has "an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights".</span></p> <p class="">Great Barrier Island the largest of the Hauraki Gulf islands north east of Auckland. It’s <span>isolated, has a small resident population and is free from the electricity</span><span> grid. What this means for travellers is less light pollution and more protected stargazing. At night the Milky Way spans the sky and the Magellanic Clouds, not visible in the Northern Hemisphere, are easily seen.</span></p> <p class=""><span>For the roughly 1000 residents, a dark night sky has become a way of life and you’ll find yourself slowing down and appreciating life on any visit here. But star gazing isn’t the only thing you can do. </span><span>Aotea is also a boating paradise, a popular destination for diving, fishing, surfing, mountain bike riding and hiking.</span></p> <p><strong>Aoraki Mackenzie</strong></p> <p class="">Another top spot to search for shooting stars is Aoraki Mackenzie, in the middle of the South Island. Aoraki Mackenzie is a designated International Dark Sky Reserve. The difference between names is that a sanctuary is usually in a remote place with little threat to its night skies. It includes Aoraki Mt Cook National Park, and the villages of Lake Tekapo, Twizel and Mt Cook.</p> <p class="">Aoraki Mackenzie isn’t remote – but it is still a prime place to admire the constellations. It is the largest dark sky reserve in the world. </p> <p class="">Spend one night doing a classic guided tour to the observatory to learn about the stars. And then the next just soaking up the view while relaxing in the<span> </span>hot pools at Tekapo Springs.</p> <p class="">Or for something really special, check out SkyScape Lodge, an architecturally designed, glass-roofed accommodation building on a 6000-acre high country station about 12 kilometres from Twizel. </p> <p><strong>Lake Tekapo</strong></p> <p>Lake Tekapo is home to New Zealand’s premier scientific astronomy observatory, Mt John Observatory. The observatory site was chosen in 1963 for the clarity and darkness of the night sky after three years of site testing.</p> <p class="">About three hours drive south-west of Christchurch in the Mackenzie Basin, Earth and Sky Tours at Mt John Observatory offers a range of astro-tours. On a clear night several telescopes are set up outside. If you bring your DSLR camera, the observatory’s astro-photographers may capture the night sky for you. </p> <p class="">If the sky is cloudy, don’t worry. Mount John also offers a fascinating behind the scenes tour of what life is like for an astronomer. It offers the chance to see the research equipment that is usually off limits to the general public and to learn about the research conducted at Mt John. </p> <p class="">In the day time, the views at Lake Tekapo are just as stunning. The remarkable turquoise colour lake is framed by snow-capped mountains. Lake Tekapo gets its intense milky-turquoise colour from the fine rock-flour (ground by glaciers) which is suspended in the water. </p> <p><strong>Stewart Island</strong></p> <p>Head south if you want to see the Southern Lights, also known as Aurora Australis. The aurora occurs when <span>electrically charged solar particles collide with gases such as oxygen and nitrogen</span><span> in the Earth’s atmosphere</span><span>, causing those gases to emit light. The most common colour is a yellow-green, but the aurora can also be pink or purple. </span><span></span></p> <p><span>The auroras happen in ovals around the earth's two magnetic poles. The further south you go, the more likely you are to see the Aurora Australis. </span></p> <p>The furthest south you can go in New Zealand is Stewart Island. Up to 80 per cent of the island is made up of the Rakiura National Park – meaning there’s little light polution and a great chance for star-gazing. </p> <p class="">Auroras can happen at any time, but they are more common in the winter months. </p> <p class=""><span>The website </span><a rel="noopener" href="http://www.aurora-service.net/aurora-forecast/" target="_blank">Aurora Service offers hourly aurora forecasts</a><span>, using real time solar wind data from Nasa’s Ace Spacecraft. The aurora strength is measured in Kp. Kp ranges between zero and nine. Zero is the weakest and nine is the strongest. Anything Kp5 or above is considered a geomagnetic storm and a good chance of an aurora occuring.</span></p> <p class="">Dunedin is one of the best larger cities to catch the colourful night-time display. Queenstown has also been known to have incredible southern lights displays. And Lake Tekapo (see above) is also known for spectacular displays.<span></span></p> <p class=""><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of <a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/dark-parks-the-best-places-in-new-zealand-to-view-the-stars/">MyDiscoveries</a>.</em></p>

Domestic Travel

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5 reasons why New Zealand rocks

<p>New Zealand is a geological wonderland featuring a range of fascinating formations – some as old as time, some more recent arrivals.</p> <p>Smooth round spheres or squished pancake stones, New Zealand boasts all manner of rocky curiosities that make visitors scratch their heads. What are they? How did they form? Here’s a brief guide to some of the country’s most interesting and otherworldly arrangements.</p> <p><strong>Dinosaur Eggs, Kaikōura</strong></p> <p>The 2016 Kaikōura earthquake unearthed a cluster of previously unseen stones. The size of beach balls, these newest kids on the geological block have been dubbed “dinosaur eggs”. Part of the uplifted seabed at Gooch’s Beach, the boulders are concretions – distinctive masses of mineral material that have embedded themselves in sedimentary rock. Some are cracked in two while others are perfect spheres. One thing is certain: they were not apparent before the mighty November shake. The question on all the locals’ lips is will these stony orbs give New Zealand’s famous Moeraki Boulders a run for their money?</p> <p><strong>Travel Tips</strong></p> <p>Kaikōura is about 200km north of Christchurch and 155km south of Picton on the South Island. Most visitors come for the town’s famous seafood (Kaikōura means 'eat crayfish') and to spot whales, dolphins, seals and shorebirds. The Southern Alps meet the ocean here, and the region is welcoming year-round. Gooch’s Beach, a stony bay popular among surfers, is a short distance from the Kaikōura Esplanade.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>Split Apple Rock, Tasman Bay</strong></p> <p>Created via a process known as ice wedging, this whopping nugget of granite is shaped a little bit like an apple that’s been cut in half – hence the name. Historically, Māori people explained the oddity with a tale that involved two mighty gods fighting over who owned the rock. To settle the matter, they chopped it in half. Resting on a boulder pile that seemingly floats on the sea about 50m off the beach between Kaiteriteri and Marahau, this wonder (called Tokangawhā in Māori) is accessible by foot or kayak and, when the tide is out, you can even wade over and peer directly into its core.</p> <p><strong>Travel Tips</strong></p> <p>Tasman Bay, near Nelson at the top of the South Island, is a tourist hotspot – the gateway to Abel Tasman National Park and home to all manner of hikes, cycling adventures and wildlife. Visit any time, though the cooler months between April and October mean less people and more peace.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>Pancake Rocks, West Coast</strong></p> <p>Punakaiki’s layered Pancake Rocks were formed 30 million years ago from the penetration of marine creatures and plants into submerged limestone by extreme water pressure. Over time, seismic activity lifted the limestone above the seabed, and acid rain, wind and waves further sculpted the striated stone. When the tide is high and the sea is rough, some of the rocks become gushing blowholes. Make time for the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes Walk, which takes about 30 minutes.</p> <p><strong>Travel Tips</strong></p> <p>Punakaiki is located between Greymouth and Westport on the west coast of the South Island. The road between the two towns was rated one of the world’s top 10 coastal drives by Lonely Planet. If you’re not in a hurry, spend a night at Punakaiki Beach Camp, where the stargazing is out of this world. There are also walks, glow worms and the Pancake Rocks Cafe, which serves delicious food – yes, even pancakes.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>Cathedral Cove, Coromandel Peninsula</strong></p> <p>Known to Māori people as Te Whanganui-a-Hei, this stunning natural formation near Hahei Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula is accessed via a relatively easy 2.5km walk. The cove features dramatic coastal scenery and an archway that frames a giant sea stack (which stars in countless photos). With towering white cliffs that burst out of the earth during an eruption some 8 million years ago, Cathedral Cove is named for its photogenic triangle-shaped cave. From the car park, the walk takes about 90 minutes return, though you’ll want to spend the better part of the day here.</p> <p><strong>Travel Tips</strong></p> <p>Hahei is a roughly two-hour drive east of Auckland. Besides hiking in Cathedral Cove, visitors can snorkel at the magnificent marine reserve off Gemstone Bay, kayak, take a boat tour or soak at heavenly Hot Water Beach. Take food and drinks with you, or try one of the delightful cafes at Hahei when you’re tuckered out.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>Elephant Rocks, North Otago</strong></p> <p>Discovered on a private farm in North Otago, 5km from Duntroon, these sizable limestone rocks – some 10m wide – squat in the green grass like animals. If you didn’t have your glasses on, you’d be forgiven for mistaking them for elephants. At least if you squint. Access is via an easy five-minute walk, whereupon visitors wonder how these permanent pieces found their way into this paddock. It’s also refreshing that the farmer hasn’t chosen to charge admission so long as visitors respect the rocks and the stock.</p> <p><strong>Travel Tips</strong></p> <p>A 40-minute drive from historic Oamaru on the South Island (today also known as the steampunk capital of New Zealand), tiny Duntroon is home to Vanished World, a facility that shares the magic of the area’s fossilised charms. The Māori rock drawings Takiroa are also in the region, as is the Alps 2 Ocean cycleway, which passes Elephant Rocks.</p> <p><em>Republished with permission of <a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/5-reasons-why-new-zealand-rocks/">MyDiscoveries</a>.</em></p>

Domestic Travel

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A day on the TranzAlpine

<p><em>Justine Tyerman survives a tornado on the TranzAlpine ...  </em></p> <p>The excitement was at fever pitch as the passengers filed into the spacious carriages of the TranzAlpine train and found their seats beside the huge panoramic windows. On the dot of 8.15am on a bright, cloudless, spring morning, the train glided smoothly out of the station.</p> <p>The twin diesel locomotives pulling the 10 or so carriages quickly gathered speed as we whizzed through suburban and industrial Christchurch at the start of our five-hour journey from the Pacific Ocean on the east coast of the South Island to the West Coast town of Greymouth on the Tasman Sea. </p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 0px; height: 0px;" src="/media/7821376/the-diesel-locomotive-one-of-two-that-pull-the-tranzalpine.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/0b27eb4ddbc4431c8b1b75f7ae69ec34" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>The diesel locomotive, one of two, that pull the TranzAlpine.</em></p> <p>Most of the passengers were contented to sit in their comfortable seats watching the ever-changing landscape flicker by but I joined a handful of hardy, puffer-jacket-clad photographers who braved the blustery, dusty and decidedly chilly conditions in the open-air observation car at the rear of the train.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 0px; height: 0px;" src="/media/7821375/open-air-viewing-carriage.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/8ac591c42fb54b13bfc28f2f49b40f5b" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Justine wearing many layers in the open-air viewing carriage.</em></p> <p>The lack of windows certainly enabled photos to be taken without the impediment of reflective glass but the constant rocking and rolling motion resulted in more than a few blurry shots and random views of my boots and the ceiling. Navigating my way around a forest of selfie sticks without being clonked on the head was another challenge. </p> <p>A veteran of many train trips overseas, this was my first such journey in New Zealand and as one of the few Kiwis onboard, I felt inordinately proud of my own land. </p> <p>The grass on the Canterbury Plains seemed greener than ever and the lambs even more frolicksome. There were squeals of delight as foals, calves, alpacas and fawns came briefly into view looking impossibly cute in paddocks alongside the train. Were they placed there deliberately to enchant the passengers? If so, it worked.</p> <p>Giant irrigation lines, some up to a kilometre long, stood ready to pour water onto the pastures as soon as the summer heat set in.</p> <p>The Main Divide was visible in the distance, a seemingly impenetrable fortress of mountains. We’ve travelled to the West Coast via Arthur’s Pass by road a number of times, but after the rural town of Springfield, the TranzAlpine took a completely different route, leaving me feeling quite disorientated.</p> <p>As the train approached the foothills of the Southern Alps, the stunning aqua-turquoise Waimakariri River came into view to a chorus of ‘wows’ and a frantic scramble for cameras by the overseas passengers.</p> <p>The train climbed high above the Waimakariri, crossing the river on steel girder viaducts so high I felt dizzy looking down into the gorge. There are 15 short tunnels and four viaducts, including the 72-metre-high Staircase Viaduct, as the TranzAlpine ascends the Torlesse Range</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 0px; height: 0px;" src="/media/7821379/waimakariri-river.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/e34def7056e541e1a4e8389c4a308e79" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>The Waimakariri River far below as the train crosses a viaduct.</em></p> <p>The landscape changed again as the train wound its way along the broad upland plains of Craigieburn where the braids of the Waimakariri spread across a wide silver shingle river bed. The alps, so distant at the start, were now almost close enough to touch.</p> <p>The black-green forested lower reaches of the mountains were a startling contrast to the snowy white peaks and pinnacles above. Lake Pearson sparkled in the spring sunshine and the golden tussocks, tossed by the breeze as the train sped by, were vibrant and glossy. The summit of Mt Bisner looked as though it had been freshly iced, the snow cover was so deep and smooth.</p> <p>I’d like to have leapt off the train to watch as it crossed the iconic, often-photographed long, low bridge over the glacier-fed Waimakariri, heading towards Arthur’s Pass. It’s such a dramatic sight as it spans the river against the spectacular backdrop of the alps.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 0px; height: 0px;" src="/media/7821373/arthurs-pass.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/4098f785d5474ae0bcd26a369a4390d1" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Stunning mountain scenery as the train approaches Arthur's Pass.</em></p> <p>The TranzAlpine stops briefly at the village of Arthur’s Pass (740m above sea level), a popular hub for serious climbers, hikers, snow sports enthusiasts and nature-lovers. Last time I visited, it was snowing heavily, and the mountain tops were shrouded in mist but on this occasion, the little settlement was basking in the warm sunshine under a cloudless, blue sky.</p> <p>A handful of fit-looking trampers disembarked at the pass, laden with heavy packs and climbing boots, no doubt heading into the mountainous national park to engage in rugged outdoor activities. I was sorely tempted to join them.</p> <p>The hiking and climbing trails there are epic. There’s also a backcountry ski field nearby, Temple Basin, where I skied in my younger days. The field is largely unchanged today with ungroomed slopes, three rope tows and a cosy lodge.</p> <p>The timely appearance of a couple of kea, New Zealand’s comical alpine parrot, created a frenzy of selfie sticks among the overseas passengers. Little did they know how mischievous these entertaining birds can be. Many a sandwich has been tweaked out of my hand by a sly kea. They’re also particularly partial to the rubber on windscreen wipers and ski racks.</p> <p>The next phase of the trip took us through the 8.5km Otira Tunnel under the Southern Alps, the backbone of the South Island. The tunnel, completed in 1923, was the final stage of the TranzAlpine railway which began in the 1880s. When it opened, it was the longest rail tunnel in the British Empire and one of the longest in the world.</p> <p>The outdoor viewing carriage and café car were closed as a safety precaution as the train slowly descended from the pass at a steep gradient of 1:33. I wish I’d made it to the café beforehand because the tunnel was the only time during the five-hour trip that I could prise my eyes away from the stunning scenery.</p> <p>Emerging from darkness into light, we found ourselves in a different world. The West Coast never fails to intrigue with its misty rainforests and snow-capped mountains. The train travelled alongside the Otira, Taramakau, Arnold and Grey Rivers as we made our way towards the Tasman Sea, trundling through towns with colourful pasts that sprang up overnight in the gold rush of the 1860s, and other settlements associated with timber milling, coal mining, the Cobb and Co stagecoach and the construction of the road, railway and tunnel.</p> <p>As we passed through Otira, population 45, I happened to be taking a rare break from the viewing car, sitting in my luxurious seat listening to the excellent commentary. Former railway-workers’ houses were lined up neatly along the roadside. They were a hardy lot to live and work in a region with five metres of rain a year and only a few hours of sunshine in the winter.</p> <p>I chuckled as I heard about the ingenious way the local policeman dealt with thefts of coal from the railyards at Otira. He devised small explosives, painted them black, hid them among the coal bins at the station, and when a chimney blew up, he went to the house and arrested the culprits, no doubt caught black-handed.</p> <p>That was the only disadvantage of the perfect weather. I missed 95 percent of the commentary because I was outside in the viewing car most of the time.</p> <p>We skirted lovely Lake Brunner, tranquil and sombre under the slate sky, and the village of Moana with its quaint Kiwi baches. The previous summer we had camped there and spotted the rare whio or blue duck in a tributary. The fishing and walking trails are outstanding, well worth a stopover. You can catch the TranzAlpine on to Greymouth or back to Christchurch the next day … or whenever you are ready.</p> <p>The terrain opens out from Lake Brunner and after a sharp left turn at Stillwater, the train travels along the Grey River into Greymouth … just in time for the lunch I missed while ogling the scenery.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 0px; height: 0px;" src="/media/7821378/the-tranzalpine-at-greymouth-railway-station.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/3479a08c4e88490294860dedbd919226" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>The TranzAlpine at Greymouth Railway Station.</em></p> <p>Far from grey, the West Coast’s largest city was bathed in sunshine so after a quick snack and a cool beer at the historic Speight’s Ale House, I strolled along the river bank walkway making mental notes of future hikes and bike trips. I stopped at a beautiful riverside memorial to pay tribute to the coal miners who have lost their lives in a series of disasters in the region: 1896, Brunner mine, 65 dead; 1926, Dobson mine, nine dead; 1967, Strongman mine, 19 dead; 2010, Pike River mine, 29 dead. I vividly remember the Pike River tragedy which is still fresh in the minds of all West Coasters.</p> <p><img style="width: 0px; height: 0px; display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="/media/7821377/the-memorial-at-greymouth-to-the-coal-miners-who-lost-their-lives-in-mines-on-the-west-coast.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/b416da7e6e784df5852bb52897a42098" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>The memorial at Greymouth to the coal miners who lost their lives in mines on the West Coast.</em></p> <p>A plaque near the train station tells the story of the 1864 goldrush which attracted 29,000 miners to the region and saw three million ounces of gold extracted.</p> <p>The text also reminds New Zealanders:</p> <p><em>“Our gold financed this country’s growth. Westland’s coal fired the furnaces that industrialised New Zealand and our timber helped build the nation.”</em></p> <p>Greymouth is an ideal place to purchase pounamu, also known as New Zealand jade or greenstone. Found in many places on the West Coast, part of a UNESCO World Heritage site known in Maori as <span>Te </span><em>Wahipounamu, the Place of Greenstone, it is t</em>reasured for its spiritual significance, strength, durability and beauty.</p> <p>Most of my fellow passengers headed off to explore the magnificent West Coast glaciers and beaches while I reboarded the TranzAlpine an hour later for what I expected to be a slightly more relaxed return trip seated in my comfy armchair.</p> <p>But the landscape, transformed by the long shadows of late afternoon and a dazzling sunset in the evening, demanded that I return to the viewing car for another blustery episode, dashing from one side to the other to get the best views. But this time I was almost alone, thanks to the near-zero wind chill.</p> <p>And I did find time for a pinot noir with tasty lamb shanks for dinner.</p> <p>My husband, who met me at the station, expressed surprise at my red cheeks, dishevelled appearance, double puffer jackets, gloves and woolly hat, assuming I’d spent the day in the lap of luxury sipping bubbly and dining on fine food while languidly gazing at the scenery through the panoramic windows.</p> <p>“You look like you’ve been in a tornado,” he said.</p> <p>“Yes, nine or 10 hours standing in an outside carriage of a train travelling at around 100km per hour can have that effect,” I replied.</p> <p>“No seats left inside then?” he asked.</p> <p>“Plenty … comfy, warm, luxurious, big panoramic windows, great commentary.”</p> <p>He just shook his head …</p> <p><em>Justine Tyerman travelled courtesy of Rail Plus international rail specialists, and Great Journeys of New Zealand.</em><em> </em></p> <p><strong>FACTBOX:</strong></p> <ul> <ul> <li><em>The TranzAlpine scenic train trip is a daily return service in New Zealand’s South Island between Christchurch on the East Coast and Greymouth on the West Coast, or vice versa, covering a distance of 223 kilometres in just under five hours.</em></li> <li><em>Visit <span><a href="https://www.railplus.co.nz/new-zealand-by-rail/tranzalpine/prices-book.htm">www.railplus.co.nz/new-zealand-by-rail/tranzalpine/prices-book.htm</a></span></em></li> <li><em>for more information on this and other epic train adventures around the world, or phone 09 377 5420</em></li> <li><em>A veteran of many rail journeys organised through Rail Plus, I’ve also travelled on the <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/travel/domestic-travel/what-it-s-like-travelling-across-australia-on-board-the-indian-pacific">Indian Pacific</a>; the <a href="http://www.oversixty.com.au/travel/international-travel/on-the-unesco-world-heritage-bernina-express-from-switzerland-to-italy">Bernina Express</a>, the Golden Pass and Jungfraujoch.</em></li> <li><em>Rail Plus has a </em><span>dedicated</span><em> team of experts to advise you on Great Train Journeys all around the world including the famous Orient Express. </em></li> <li><em>The magnificent <a href="https://www.railplus.com.au/canada-by-rail/independent-packages/snow-train-to-the-rockies/prices-info.htm">Snow Train to the Rockies</a> is next on my list. </em></li> </ul> </ul> <p> </p>

Domestic Travel

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Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan touch down in Sydney

<p>The long-awaited moment is finally here as Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex have landed in Sydney for their Australian tour.</p> <p>The couple travelled with Australian airline Qantas instead of British Airways as previously predicted. The flight touched down around 7am at Sydney International Airport.</p> <p>Surrounded by security personnel and their entourage, the royals still found the time to give a smile in the direction of fans, media and countless waiting cameras.</p> <p><img style="width: 0px; height: 0px; display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="/media/7821329/capture.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/c4fe2065a2364f0e899c2adcc19d18cd" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;">Photo credit: <a href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-15/prince-harry-meghan-royal-tour-begins-in-sydney/10376108"><em>ABC News</em></a></p> <p>Their large entourage is said to comprise of 10 staff members, a hairdresser and press secretaries.</p> <p>According to <em><a href="https://www.news.com.au/entertainment/celebrity-life/royals/prince-harry-and-meghan-arrive-in-sydney/news-story/23300d87611204a8c1772635a9ce45ea">news.com.au</a></em>, it is said that Meghan has invited her best friend and stylist, Jessica Mulroney, along with her husband Ben to help her with the styling of her outfits in an “unofficial” capacity.</p> <p>After leaving the airport, the Duke and Duchess made their way down to the Admiralty House in Kirribilli.</p> <p>The tour consists of visiting locations in Australia such as Sydney, Melbourne, Dubbo and Fraser Island, while also visiting other countries that are a part of the Commonwealth, which includes Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand.</p> <p>While they are here specifically for the Invictus Games, the royals will also take part in events surrounding mental health, farm visits and public picnics.</p> <p>Their official duties won’t start until tomorrow, giving them one day to wind down.</p> <p>The two will start off by spending time with the Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove and his wife, Lady Cosgrove, where they will be joined by representatives from the Invictus Games. Afterwards, they plan to visit Taronga Zoo to meet two baby koalas.</p> <p>Heading to Dubbo in NSW on Wednesday, the Duke and Duchess want to “see first-hand the hardships local farmers are facing by visiting local property” and also want to take part in a public picnic.</p> <p>On Friday, eager fans will be able to catch Harry and Meghan at Bondi Beach in Sydney where they will be promoting the awareness of mental health. And afterwards they will be seen climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge with Prime Minister Scott Morrison to raise the Invictus Games flag.</p> <p>They will also be visiting Melbourne and Cockatoo Island before departing for the South Pacific.</p>

Domestic Travel

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At the source of history: Dart River, Aspiring National Park

<p>My fingers traced the cool contours of the mauri pounamu touchstone. The massive chunk of pounamu (jade), centrepiece at the Dart River Jet visitor centre in Glenorchy, was alternately smooth and rough in texture.</p> <p>His name was Te Matua o Manatu meaning "precious reminder from the throat of the reclining giant, Te Koroka". He stood on a pathway where ancient Maori once trekked, searching for pounamu.</p> <p>Eight hundred years ago, Maori were the only people here – first the Waiaha tribe, then Ngati Mamoe and now Ngai Tahu. It was here that Maori first discovered the home of the pounamu giant, Te Koroka. High in the mountains, they found him resting with a seam of pounamu tumbling from his gaping mouth. The giant became famed throughout the whole country for his pounamu, treasured equally for its utility and its pearly allure.</p> <p>Trade, economy and culture were built around this precious resource. Then with the arrival of Europeans some 200 years ago, Maori lost their connection to Te Koroka. When the first European explorers encountered these shores, they too heard tales of the celebrated source of pounamu at the head of Lake Whakatipu-wai-maori (Lake Wakatipu.)</p> <p>Preserved in memory, song and oral tradition, the exact location was unclear until the pounamu taonga (treasure) was rediscovered on Pekerakitahi (Mt Earnslaw) in 1970. This sacred pristine source of pounamu is now fiercely protected by the Ngai Tahu tribe as the tangata whenua (people of the land), and the state. He is a lasting remnant of ages past, one that evokes the spirits of the ancestors, the first people to travel these ancient pounamu trails.</p> <p>The throb of the Hamilton jet engines in the distance disturbed my contemplation and brought me tumbling back to the present. We were about to set off on an expedition up the Te Awa Whakatipu (the Dart River), in Te Wahipounamu, a Unesco World Heritage Area. The day ahead would be richer armed with my knowledge of Te Koroka and Te Matua o Manatu.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">  <img src="https://resources.stuff.co.nz/content/dam/images/1/9/j/n/s/u/image.related.StuffLandscapeSixteenByNine.620x349.19jhxq.png/1454620665260.jpg" alt="Take a jet boat ride to the heart of the Mount Aspiring National Park." class="photoborder"/></p> <p align="center"><em>Take a jet boat ride to the heart of the Mount Aspiring National Park. Image credit: Ngai Tahu Tourism</em></p> <p>After a quiet start to the day, the high-octane exhilaration of the jetboat ride set my heart pounding and pulse racing. I sat on the edge of my seat, enthralled as our jetboat driver Daniel took us ever deeper into the Aspiring National Park and the southern reaches of the Main Divide, weaving our way up strands of the braided river at the foot of tall mountains named after Greek gods - Pluto, Nox, Amphion, Chaos, Poseidon.</p> <p>The beautiful silvery face of Pekerakitahi was wet with tears of melting snow. My eyes searched the mountain and clear waters of the Dart, hoping for a glimpse of pounamu. I convinced myself I could see the elusive green stone.</p> <p>I was high on negative ions, intoxicated with the sweet taste of the air, the shock of the ice-cold spray whenever Daniel performed one of his heart-stopping 360s, the dazzling turquoise waters of the Rockburn Chasm where a giant's sword had sliced a deep gash in the side of a mountain, and the throaty roar of the twin Hamilton jet engines.</p> <p>Encircled by craggy peaks with gleaming glaciers and wispy waterfalls, I wanted to speed onwards to the head waters of the Dart but after 90 minutes of pure adrenalin, we were off-loaded on the side of the river with our Ultimate Nature Experience guide Pam. As the boats thundered away, disappearing in a plume of spray, I was momentarily stunned by the sudden silence and abrupt change of pace.</p> <p align="center"><img src="https://resources.stuff.co.nz/content/dam/images/1/9/j/m/0/d/image.related.StuffLandscapeSixteenByNine.620x349.19jhxq.png/1454620665260.jpg" alt="Take a Dart River Funyak through the Rockburn Chasm." class="photoborder"/></p> <p style="text-align: center;" align="center"><em>Take a Dart River Funyak through the Rockburn Chasm. Image credit: Ngai Tahu Tourism</em></p> <p>We followed Pam up a shingle bank and entered another world, a forest wilderness with no tracks or signposts. The bright sunlight, towering mountains and silver river were replaced by the tall, gaunt trees and diffuse, mottled light of the beech forest where the only sounds were bird calls, gurgling streams, and the muted footfall of boots on the spongy leaf-litter carpet. </p> <p>Pam knew the forest like the back of her hand, retracing the steps of early saw millers and prospectors. She led us along the route of a tramway built in the 1920s to transport logs out of the forest for the construction of bridges, buildings and car and bus bodies. A wheel and some rusty kerosene tins were all that remained of what was once a busy thoroughfare.</p> <p>We also came across the debris of a gelignite explosion where a hopeful prospector had blasted away a cliff face in the 1950s in hope of finding tungsten, the metallic element of scheelite, an ore in demand during both World Wars and the Korean War for its metal-hardening properties. His identity is a well-kept secret because there are family members still living at Glenorchy, Pam said.</p> <p>Our lunch venue was sublime. Sitting on a log in the warm winter sunshine, munching hearty sandwiches by the remote Sylvan Lake in the company of cheeky South Island robins as far superior to any fancy gourmet cafe.</p> <p align="center"><img src="https://resources.stuff.co.nz/content/dam/images/1/9/j/m/0/e/image.related.StuffLandscapeSixteenByNine.620x349.19jhxq.png/1454620665260.jpg" alt="A South Island robin stops by our lunch spot at Lake Sylvan." class="photoborder"/></p> <p align="center"><em>A South Island robin stops by our lunch spot at Lake Sylvan. Image credit: Ngai Tahu Tourism</em></p> <p>It was a day of extreme contrasts – the mauri pounamu touchstone grounded me in history. Daniel and his twin Hamiltons administered a hefty shot of adrenalin while the majestic glacier-gouged mountains enthralled me. The peace and solitude of the beech forest soothed me and the simple picnic lunch beside a pristine alpine lake delighted me.</p> <p>Late afternoon, Pam drove us back along the magnificent 46km lakeside road to Queenstown, rated one of the top ten scenic drives in the world by Conde Naste and Lonely Planet.</p> <p>The mountains were under a cloud shroud when we drove to Glenorchy early in the morning but they were dazzlingly clear on our return trip. Tourists on the road that day got a bonus – there were two of everything, mountains upright in their usual position and upside down in the looking-glass lake. It made my Kiwi heart soar with pride.</p> <p align="center"><img src="https://resources.stuff.co.nz/content/dam/images/1/9/j/m/0/f/image.related.StuffLandscapeSixteenByNine.620x349.19jhxq.png/1454620665260.jpg" alt="Sunshine peaks through as we make our way along an avenue of native red beech trees." class="photoborder"/></p> <p align="center"><em>Sunshine peaks through as we make our way along an avenue of native red beech trees. Image credit: Justine Tyerman</em></p> <p><strong>Fact box:</strong></p> <p><em>Getting there: Air New Zealand</em></p> <p><em>Staying there: <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://www.crowneplazaqueenstown.co.nz/" target="_blank">crowneplazaqueenstown</a></strong></span></em></p> <p><em>* Dart River Jet, the only operator on the Dart River, and Guided Walks New Zealand, the only company permitted access to the Ultimate Nature Experience wilderness area, are both owned by Ngai Tahu Tourism. </em></p> <p>MREC-TAG-HERE</p> <p><em>* The Ultimate Nature Experience is a flexible 4 to 7km easy to moderate hike on unformed trails. Transport departs from Queenstown at 8am with pick-ups from all Queenstown accommodation.</em></p> <p><em>Justine Tyerman was a guest of Ngai Tahu Tourism. </em></p> <p><em>Written by Justine Tyerman. Republished with permission of <a href="https://www.stuff.co.nz/" target="_blank"><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong>Stuff.co.nz</strong></span>.</a></em></p>

Domestic Travel

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Men in high heels: Tramping The Remarkables

<p>My husband has never worn high heels before. He's always been extremely scathing about such silly footwear but on this occasion he thought they were practical and even enhanced his performance. Besides, the other two burly men in our party had donned high heels too so he would have felt left out without them. </p> <p>We were hiking uphill with snowshoes strapped to our tramping boots. Our feet were at a 90-degree angle to the slope thanks to a clever device which lifted the heels of our boots off the frame to the height of a reasonable stiletto.</p> <p>However, there was no mincing or prancing along in these high heels – the technique required a firm, deliberate stride engaging the rows of metal spikes on the soles into the hard-packed snow on the Remarkables. </p> <p><img style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" class="photoborder" src="https://resources.stuff.co.nz/content/dam/images/1/8/4/d/z/b/image.related.StuffLandscapeSixteenByNine.620x349.183tm8.png/1447969994454.jpg" alt="Lunch was simple but delicious." width="600" height="NaN" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;" align="center"><em>Lunch was simple but delicious. Image credit: Nigel Kerr</em></p> <p>The snowshoes were lightweight, high-tech models, much more streamlined than the cumbersome ones we had experimented with in Europe earlier in the year.</p> <p>The spikes ensured there was no slippage and with the addition of two height-adjustable walking poles, I felt entirely secure even negotiating quite steep slopes. A quick flick of the cleat engaged the high heel and saved our leg muscles.</p> <p>"Your calves will thank you for it later," said our guide, Shaun, who was practically sprinting up the slope despite carrying a full pack with lunch and snacks for our party of five,  along with a spade and other emergency equipment.Once into the rhythm of the snowshoes, which took all of 20 seconds to master, I forgot about them. It was just like ordinary hiking but with a footprint the size of Sasquatch. </p> <p align="center"><img class="photoborder" src="https://resources.stuff.co.nz/content/dam/images/1/8/4/d/z/f/image.related.StuffLandscapeSixteenByNine.620x349.183tm8.png/1447969994454.jpg" alt="The secret snow cave where groups take shelter when the weather turns nasty." /></p> <p style="text-align: center;" align="center"><em>The secret snow cave where groups take shelter when the weather turns nasty. Image credit: Nigel Kerr</em></p> <p>With every step the sound of the chairlifts, skiers and snowboarders faded and the grandeur of the mountainscape and the Wakatipu Basin unfolded. In a region where even superlatives fall woefully short, it's one of the most awe-inspiring of panoramas.</p> <p>Once we reached the remote, high-altitude Lake Alta cirque, the silence was sublime. The dead flat, smooth surface of the snow was the only indication there was a lake there at all. Shaun got out his spade and dug down through half a metre of snow to prove it . . . and to reassure us the ice was safe to walk on. With visions of cracking ice and plunging into frozen water, I had a strong urge to skirt around the lake edge but Shaun was one of those veteran outdoor Kiwi blokes who inspired total confidence. Still, I felt like a brave intrepid explorer setting off after him into the white wilderness. I expected to see wolves appear at any minute from behind the rocks.</p> <p>Our lunch spot was a rocky promontory just below the jagged jet black sawteeth of the Remarkables range, the reverse side of the iconic view you can see from Queenstown.</p> <p style="text-align: center;" align="center"><img class="photoborder" src="https://resources.stuff.co.nz/content/dam/images/1/8/4/d/z/k/image.related.StuffLandscapeSixteenByNine.620x349.183tm8.png/1447969994454.jpg" alt="'High heels' engaged, heading straight uphill on the Remarkables." /></p> <p style="text-align: center;" align="center"><em>'High heels' engaged, heading straight uphill on the Remarkables. Image credit: Nigel Kerr</em></p> <p>Bathed in winter sunshine, we looked down on our tracks across the frozen teardrop lake as we munched on huge wedges of pumpkin bread sandwiches stuffed with chicken, brie, salad and relish. Simple fare but delicious.The only sounds were the whoops of exhilaration from an occasional extreme skier or snowboarder plummeting down the narrow chutes above us. And the squawks of the kea, the cheeky mountain parrot with its lethal hooked beak and vivid red plumage on the underside of the wings. </p> <p>One of our Aussie companions was a bright spark marketing man. As we chatted over lunch, he decided snowshoeing was a clumsy term so he came up with sniking - snow hiking – with a nod to Nike as a company that might like to rebrand the sport. My contribution was shnoeing. Not quite as marketable.</p> <p align="center"><img class="photoborder" src="https://resources.stuff.co.nz/content/dam/images/1/8/4/d/z/e/image.related.StuffLandscapeSixteenByNine.620x349.183tm8.png/1447969994454.jpg" alt="The view from a lookout on the Remarkables." /></p> <p style="text-align: center;" align="center"><em>The view from a lookout on the Remarkables. Image credit: Nigel Kerr</em></p> <p>On the way down the mountain, we visited a secret snow cave where groups take shelter when the weather turns nasty or have lunch if it's too cold outside. Dug out under a huge jutting rock, it would hold eight to 10 people in cosy comfort. </p> <p>Shaun tailors the degree of difficulty of the expedition to suit the fitness of the group with some overseas visitors opting for a short play around in the snow and a photo opportunity and others climbing as far as the South Wye Saddle at 1950 metres.</p> <p>Ours was a serious workout. We covered about 6-8km with a climb of 300-400m  reaching an elevation of 1900m at the Grand Couloir, a gully between Double and Single Cone, the latter being the highest point on the Remarkables Range at 2319m.</p> <p>The snowshoe concept appealed to the greenie in me. In a tourist town famous for its expensive, high-octane adventures, it's the ultimate accessible low-risk activity. Apart from the 35-minute van trip from Queenstown, there is no artificial means of propulsion. And you don't have to be a finely-tuned athlete or even particularly well co-ordinated to master the technique. The prerequisites are two functioning legs with feet attached, mild to moderate fitness depending on the steepness of the gradient you opt for, and the taste for a gentle, scenic adventure in the Great Outdoors.</p> <p><em>Justine Tyerman was a guest of Ngai Tahu Tourism who own NZ Snowshoe. <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a rel="noopener" href="http://www.ngaitahutourism.co.nz/" target="_blank">www.ngaitahutourism.co.nz</a></strong></span>; <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a rel="noopener" href="http://www.snowshoeing.co.nz/" target="_blank">www.snowshoeing.co.nz</a></strong></span></em></p> <p>MREC-TAG-HERE</p> <p><em>The writer flew Air NZ from Auckland to Queenstown return. <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a rel="noopener" href="http://www.airnewzealand.co.nz/" target="_blank">www.airnewzealand.co.nz</a></strong></span>  and stayed at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Queenstown <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a rel="noopener" href="http://www.crowneplazaqueenstown.co.nz/" target="_blank">www.crowneplazaqueenstown.co.nz</a></strong></span></em></p> <p><em>Written by Justine Tyerman. Republished with permission of <a rel="noopener" href="http://www.stuff.co.nz/" target="_blank"><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Stuff.co.nz.</span></strong></a></em></p>

Domestic Travel

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Why Fiordland National Park is a must-visit

<p>I've always been a bit of a greenie but a recent wilderness experience in Fiordland National Park transformed me from a wishy-washy pale granny smith to a radiant evangelical emerald.</p> <p>I have tramped in many a New Zealand native forest, always appreciating the beauty and serenity of the pristine environment but oblivious to the genius of my surroundings, the intelligence of nature.</p> <p>However last month we had the benefit of a wilderness guide on the Hollyford Track whose knowledge of things green — and many other things — was encyclopaedic.</p> <p>It was a subtle change rather than a Road-to-Damascus epiphany-type moment and I only became aware of it when I next set foot in a forest and began to wax eloquent about the tiny umbrella moss that carpets the floor of the forest.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img width="500" height="NaN" src="http://static.stuff.co.nz/1433978275/363/11962363.jpg"/></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Even the little umbrella moss has an important role to play. Photo: Justine Tyerman</em></p> <p>My friends of many years looked bemused as I knelt on the squidgy, damp ground and began caressing the bright green moss, talking reverently about the clever little plant whose job it is to protect the forest floor.</p> <p>They rolled their eyes and carried on hiking as I took close-up photos of my diminutive friends, remembering how I came across our Hollyford guide Graeme Scott in a similar pose, apparently worshipping small green plants at the foot of a tree in deepest Fiordland. </p> <p>This was his favourite part of the track, he said, a place where his "two best friends" reside — a pair of ferns that have adapted perfectly to their environment.</p> <p>I found myself entranced by the delicate filmy fern with its translucent fronds and the ingenious kidney fern which cups and tilts its "leaves" to channel rain water to its root system.</p> <p>Our guide's passion was so infectious, I developed a new reverence for "plant intelligence"... and so the process of my viridescence began.</p> <p>I loved Graeme's analogy of the forest being constructed like a house with all the components designed to make a comfy, safe environment for its inhabitants.</p> <p>Ancient large conifers provide the roof or canopy to protect against rain and wind erosion, beneath which are kamahi that further disperse the rain, then a layer of tree ferns, followed by shrubs like pittosporum, coprosma and ground ferns, and finally mosses which form the carpet, binding the ground together.</p> <p>These are the "furnishings of the forest". Each plant has an intelligent way of protecting the layer beneath. Even the smallest component like the little umbrella moss has a part to play.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img width="500" height="NaN" src="http://static.stuff.co.nz/1433978129/301/11962301.jpg"/></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>The protective layers of the native lowland temperate rain forest. Photo: Ngai Tahu Tourism</em></p> <p>When a tree falls over, fern life rushes to shelter the carpet. Everything works in synergy — maintaining balance.</p> <p>Fungi also have a special role, cleaning up dead trees, sucking the nutrients out of the limbs until they drop off. Early Maori used them as their "Little Lucifers", taking smouldering fungi in a basket from one campsite to the next.</p> <p>Later in the day I spotted a lancewood and found myself parroting on again about the juvenile and adult forms of the tree and how it had adapted to protect itself from the eating habits of the moa.</p> <p>I seemed to lack Graeme's gravitas and authority as my friends were highly sceptical at my pontifications, especially the link to a large flightless bird, extinct since the mid-1400s.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img width="500" height="NaN" src="http://static.stuff.co.nz/1433978387/384/11962384.jpg"/></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Guide Graeme Scott beside an ancient rimu tree. Photo: Justine Tyerman</em></p> <p>I ploughed on, talking to myself about this fascinating tree and the way it avoided predation — in the juvenile stage, the lancewood has long thin leaves like spiked sword blades which were inedible to the moa but it changes form radically in the mature stage, growing foliage when it is tall enough to be beyond the reach of its predator. In the Chathams where there were no moa, there is no juvenile form of the lancewood. That proved the theory as far as I was concerned.</p> <p>My male friends showed a flicker of interest when I remembered something about a certain part of the lancewood having Viagra-like properties. I just couldn't recall which bit. I'll have to ask the oracle.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img width="500" height="NaN" src="http://static.stuff.co.nz/1433978590/443/11962443.jpg"/></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>The lancewood tree has Viagra-like properties. Photo: Ngai Tahu Tourism</em></p> <p>Anyway, somewhere deep in the Fiordland forest, the pieces all fell into place — the intelligence of nature, the interconnectedness of all living things and how man can easily destroy the delicate balance that exists between such species as the rimu and the flightless kakapo, our critically-endangered native parrot. </p> <p>The kakapo is only fertile when the rimu tree seeds which is once every three or four years, depending on the warmth of the spring. In order to thrive, the chicks need to eat a staggering number of rimu fruit per day and yet our rimu are still not fully protected. There are only 126 kakapo left. </p> <p>The matai and miro are totally dependent on the kereru or native wood pigeon to disperse the seeds of the large plum-shaped fruit. Meddle with one and you risk losing the other. I hugged the pitted trunk of a venerable 200-300 year-old matai to show my solidarity with her... or him. Such co-dependency is both enthralling and terrifying.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img width="500" height="NaN" src="http://static.stuff.co.nz/1433978748/454/11962454.jpg"/></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Mt Madeline in the Darran Mountain Range. Photo: Ngai Tahu Tourism</em></p> <p>We heard about the war being waged in our forests. I knew we had a possum problem in New Zealand but was flabbergasted to hear there are 44 million of them and they consume 25 thousand tons of vegetation per day. The bushtail possum loves nothing better than to feast on the leaves of the southern rata and once a third of the foliage is gone, the tree dies.</p> <p>It was not all serious stuff though. We met some cross-dressing ferns (males that wear long brown skirts), learned how to determine the sex of rimu trees, and visited a few avian pubs, leafy establishments frequented by kereru who topple off their perches after over-indulging on the intoxicating fruit of the miro. The fruit tastes like turpentine so there were no volunteers to sample them.</p> <p>Next day, when he thought no one was looking, I saw one of my track-mates scrutinising the sharp barbs on the leaves of a lancewood with a puzzled look on his face... he walked away, shaking his head, much as the moa might have done.</p> <p>Ahh, the intelligence of nature.</p> <p><strong>Factbox:</strong> The Hollyford Track is an easy-paced, three-day/two-night all-inclusive guided wilderness experience from the mountains to the sea, along the glacier-hewn Hollyford Valley by foot, jet boat and finally helicopter to Milford Sound.</p> <p>The track is 56km long of which hikers walk 43km. The low-altitude, largely flat track begins 100km from Te Anau in beech and fern forest, descends to coastal podocarp forests and ends at the sand dunes of Martins Bay at the mouth of the valley.</p> <p>Expert guides, first-rate cuisine, comfortable private lodges, transport from Queenstown or Te Anau, day packs and rain jackets are included in the price.</p> <p>MREC-TAG-HERE</p> <p>Hikers carry a light pack with clothing and lunch on their first day and thereafter an even lighter day pack to hold wet weather gear and water.</p> <p>A maximum number of 16 guests provides for a personal experience.</p> <p><em>The author was a <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://www.hollyfordtrack.com/" target="_blank">guest of Hollyford Track.</a></strong></span></em></p> <p><em>Written by Justine Tyerman. Republished with permission of <a href="http://www.stuff.co.nz/" target="_blank"><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Stuff.co.nz.</span></strong></a></em></p>

Domestic Travel

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10 jaw-dropping pictures from Australia’s best drives

<p>With vast, expansive landscapes Australia is one of the best countries in the world to drive through. And many people would argue that driving is the best way to experience it!</p> <p>From the Great Ocean Road to the Indian Ocean Drive we’ve put together a series of pictures that represent the beauty of this sunburned country when travelling.</p> <p>To see the pictures, scroll through the gallery above. They correspond with the list below and provide an enthralling look at everything that’s beautiful about Australia.</p> <p><strong>1. The Great Ocean Road</strong> – One of the world’s most iconic drives, the Great Ocean Road takes you past the magical 12 Apostles, iconic beaches and gorgeous bushland.</p> <p><strong>2. Explorers Highway</strong> – The trip from Adelaide to Darwin is not for the faint of heart, but reveals the diversity of Australian scenery form the Barossa Valley to Alice Springs.</p> <p><strong>3. Pacific Coast Touring Route</strong> – This scenic drive from Sydney to Brisbane showcase the beauty of the Eastern states with sweeping beaches, sleepy villages and rainforests. </p> <p><strong>4. Red Centre Way</strong> – This drive through the heart of Australia’s spectacular red centre lets travellers experience ancient scenery, legendary gorges and red desert sands. </p> <p><strong>5. Indian Ocean Drive</strong> – Taking drivers on a captivating journey along Western Australia’s Coral Coast, this drive offers impossibly white beaches and salty fishing towns.</p> <p><strong>6. Gibb River Road</strong> – This challenging 660km dirt track runs through the wild heart of the Kimberley. The reward? Some of the most beautiful desert scenery in the world.</p> <p><strong>7. Trip to the Tip</strong> – Speaking to anyone with a sense of adventure, this road trip from Cairns to Cape York is the perfect way to experience the beauty of Australia’s north.</p> <p><strong>8. Sydney to Melbourne Coastal Drive</strong> – With a range of stopping points like Nowra, Eden and Phillip Island this drive encapsulates the benefits of taking a more scenic route.</p> <p><strong>9. Nature’s Way</strong> – There’s no better way to wine through the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park than this fully sealed road that showcase the Territory’s beauty.</p> <p><strong>10. Circle Tasmania</strong> – This circle of Australia’s southern-most state will leave you spellbound, from World-Heritage listed Cradle Mountain to Mount Field National Park.</p> <p><strong>Related links:</strong></p> <p><a href="/travel/domestic-travel/2016/04/what-to-do-tropical-north-queensland/"><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em><strong>8 things to do in Tropical North Queensland</strong></em></span></a></p> <p><a href="/travel/domestic-travel/2016/04/6-places-to-whale-watch-in-australia/"><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em><strong>6 places to go whale watching in Australia</strong></em></span></a></p> <p><a href="/travel/domestic-travel/2016/03/best-places-to-ski-in-new-south-wales/"><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em><strong>The best places to ski in New South Wales</strong></em></span></a></p>

Domestic Travel

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Freedom camping: Australia vs New Zealand

<p>Freedom campers in New Zealand may think they have it tough, but Tony Allsop reckons the Aussies have it even tougher.</p> <p>Born in Wellington in 1940, Allsop fell for the freedom camping lifestyle when he first moved to Australia at 19 and went on to carve out a career in writing and taking photos for caravan magazines on both sides of the ditch.</p> <p>Now retired and based in Queensland's Mackay, he still freedom camps regularly, but says the days of going walkabout (or driveabout) and expecting to be able to set up camp in a secluded spot in the wilds are long gone.</p> <p>"In New Zealand there are many free camping spots and councils even set up places for free campers. Here now, councils are making it illegal to camp unless you are completely self-sufficient, have holdings tanks for both grey and black water and there's a limit to how long you can stay."</p> <p>Many so-called free camping areas in Australia are now patrolled and have introduced fees "as the rubbish and toilet paper has become intolerable"</p> <p>"Rubbish left at sites is a big problem in Australia, whereas it was not so bad in New Zealand [on a recent trip]. Backpackers are often blamed in Australia and we have had some bad experiences here with them. Once, two of them high on drugs wanted to fight us at 1am."</p> <p>The costs associated with maintaining caravan parks have forced many to close or sell to developers, he said, pointing to the recent example of Discovery Parks buying the Top Parks brand. </p> <p>Allsop is a camper of the old-school variety, having spent his formative years travelling around the East Cape, Napier and other parts of the North Island with his camping-mad dad. He slept in an old army surplus pup tent alongside his parents' larger canvas one until the family upgraded to a comparatively flash plywood caravan with louvre windows when he was 10.  </p> <p>"Compared to these days it was all very primitive. Caravan parks just had toilets and showers - that was about all."</p> <p>On his first working holiday in Australia, he met three fellow Kiwis who were travelling around the country in an old Plymouth and even older Chrysler towing two caravans (old as well of course) and decided to join them. </p> <p>"Two of the guys had girlfriends travelling with them so I had to sleep in the Plymouth or cheap hotels."</p> <p>Despite the dodgy accommodation and poor state of state of the roads in Queensland at the time - most were dirt and some were little more than tracks - he was hooked. </p> <p>After two years back in Wellington, he moved to Brisbane permanently and married his girlfriend Denyse, a doctor who luckily happened to love camping just as much as he did. </p> <p>In 1974, the couple set off in their new two-door Ford Falcon on what was to become the first of several "round-Oz" trips. </p> <p>"We freedom camped a lot, sleeping in the car or beside it in sleeping bags on a deserted beach."</p> <p>They spent a year on the road, covering thousands of miles and picking up work whenever and wherever they needed it. </p> <p>"We met very little traffic and most roads were dirt. It was a real adventure in those days."</p> <p>While the couple now travel in relative luxury in a well-equipped modern caravan, they consider their second round-Oz trip in 1988  - in a 1986 Holden with a small off-road camper - as the greatest camping trip of their lives. </p> <p>"We stayed mainly off-road on this 10-month trip and saw very few people as caravans with all the ensuites, batteries and DC-DC chargers... We camped on wonderful isolated beaches, in national parks and the made the most of our small camper with no real amenities apart from those I put in ... We really felt like explorers as some places had seen no traffic for a long time."</p> <p>But while it might have been basic, their camper was still more or less self sufficient. Allsop had installed a battery under the seat - which they used to power two lights, one inside and one out - they used a black plastic bag left out in the sun as a shower and carried a gas stove, small fridge-freezer and port-a-loo. </p> <p>Returning home, the couple had an eight-year flirtation with boating before returning to their true love of caravanning. </p> <p>Allsop had begun freelancing for RV magazines when they set out on their third Australian tour in 2001, this time in a custom-built Roadstar caravan with low-power features which allowed them to stay off-road for a week without having to recharge their batteries. They had such a good time that they simply kept going - and going (they've only just settled down after 17 years of spending six months on the road). Denyse retired from medicine to help Allsop write, take photographs and shoot video and he says they "did very well". </p> <p>The couple enjoyed a mixture of freedom camping at staying at caravan parks. </p> <p>"Solitude, having a quiet beach or tropical forest to ourselves was wonderful and yet staying overnight sometimes in a van park was also good. The happy hours, community barbecues and companionship of other campers was very welcome in some van parks."</p> <p>These days, however, Allsop finds himself whether freedom camping in Australia has changed irrevocably - for the worse. </p> <p>The couple have had several bad experiences in freedom campsites near towns where "youths have run rampant on drugs and alcohol.</p> <p>"Nowadays we always make sure there are other campers there and try to get an off-road site by about midday, as they tend to become full in Australia by around 2pm."</p> <p>Some popular sites are crowded with more than 200 vehicles during high season and they are usually packed in like proverbial sardines.</p> <p>"You are parked as close as or closer to your neighbour than in a van park and on a dusty site. You also have no control over noisy neighbours. Apart from the cost, is it worth it?"</p> <p>Have you been freedom camping?</p> <p><em>Written by Lorna Thornber. First appeared on <a href="http://www.stuff.co.nz/" target="_blank"><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Stuff.co.nz</span></strong></a>.</em></p>

Domestic Travel

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Te Ariki Nui: A luxury lodge in the remote wilderness of New Zealand’s Wanaka

<p><em>Justine Tyerman comes across a 'talking landscape' on the outskirts of Wanaka in the South Island of New Zealand </em></p> <p>I’ve made the pilgrimage to Wanaka hundreds of times since the days of my youth and we’ve always stayed within sight of the lake.</p> <p>The panorama of Lake Wanaka is without doubt magnificent but it’s a busy, bossy view which demands to be looked at all the time – jet boats, para-gliders, water skiers, kayakers, rowers and swimmers. The lake is seldom quiet and even when it is, it exerts a magnetic force that compels one to watch it. Hours can be lost just gazing at its changing moods from satin smooth to grey and stormy.</p> <p>But on this occasion, we needed a quiet hideaway to prepare for a family wedding, a place far enough away from the lake and the township to ensure privacy and deter well-meaning friends from ‘just popping in’. </p> <p>On the outskirts of town, we found Te Ariki Nui, an idyllic, peaceful rural retreat surrounded by the wild and rugged Central Otago landscape I’ve loved since my childhood days. Mountain ranges gouged by ancient glaciers, tussocks flattened by the wind and the snow, sweet-smelling pastel-hued lupins growing wild along the roadsides, sun-ripened sweet apricots and tart green gooseberries, lizards basking on the warm schist rocks, the shimmering dry heat of the Central Otago sun,  pink sunrises and golden sunsets, the long dark shadows cast by the late afternoon sun . . .</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img width="500" height="NaN" src="https://travelmemo-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Te-ariki-nui-wanaka-landscape.jpg" alt="Te Ariki Nui Wanaka New Zealand" class="size-full wp-image-14499 no-display appear lazyloaded"/></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Te Ariki Nui sits light and low on the landscape, recessed into a shallow gully.</em></p> <p>We were only 10 minutes from Wanaka but Te Ariki Nui felt like a luxury lodge in a remote wilderness. Apart from invited guests, we saw no other human beings. Our only neighbours were the sociable alpacas in the paddock next door and a large family of bobtail rabbits. </p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img width="500" height="NaN" src="https://travelmemo-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/wanaka-alpacas.jpg" alt="Alpacas in Wanaka New Zealand" class="size-full wp-image-14502 no-display appear lazyloaded"/></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>The alpacas feeling the chill after a mid-summer snow storm.</em></p> <p>Te Ariki Nui exceeded all our expectations. Designed by award-winning architect Paul Clarke and runner-up in the 2005 New Zealand Home &amp; Entertaining Home of the Year Award,it is the Wanaka home of New Zealand fashion icon Robyn Hall.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img width="500" height="NaN" src="https://travelmemo-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Te-ariki-nui-wanaka-hollow.jpg" alt="Te Ariki Nui Wanaka New Zealand, photo by Simon Darby" class="size-full wp-image-14498 no-display appear lazyloaded"/></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Te Ariki Nui is nestled in a hollow surrounded by 4 hectares of land on the outskirts of Wanaka.</em><br /><em> Image credit: <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://www.wanakaphotography.co.nz/" target="_blank">Simon Darby Photography</a></strong></span></em></p> <p>The long, low concrete, glass and timber house sits quietly in its surroundings, allowing the landscape to take centre stage.</p> <p>I loved the simple, clean lines of the house – the dull sheen of the natural polished concrete floors, the warm glow of the tall beech doors and cabinetry against a predominantly white palette, the floor-to-ceiling glass walls, and the minimal adornment.</p> <p>“The landscape does the talking,” as Hall says.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img width="500" height="NaN" src="https://travelmemo-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/te-ariki-nui-interior.jpg" alt="Te Ariki Nui Wanaka New Zealand" class="size-full wp-image-14489 no-display lazyloaded appear"/></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>The interior has minimal adornment allowing “the landscape to do the talking”, as the owner says.</em></p> <p>Four bedrooms and three bathrooms including a lovely detached, self-contained studio provided ample private space for eight of us while the large open-plan kitchen, dining and living area was perfect for family dinners and socialising.</p> <p>The kitchen was equipped with every imaginable high-end appliance and utensil along with a generous array of pantry essentials.</p> <p>The massive floor-to-ceiling glass walls on both sides of the house slid aside to unite inside and outside living areas. Double-glazing, underfloor heating and a raised gas fireplace in the lounge would make Te Ariki Nui super-cosy in winter.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img width="500" height="NaN" src="https://travelmemo-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/te-ariki-nui-living-area.jpg" alt="Te Ariki Nui Wanaka New Zealand" class="size-full wp-image-14491 no-display lazyloaded appear"/></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>The massive floor-to-ceiling glass walls allow the ultimate in inside-outside living. Image credit:  Simon Darby Photography</em></p> <p>The luxurious master bedroom at the far end of the house had an Agape tear-shaped bath by the window where you could bathe while communing with nature.</p> <p><em style="text-align: center;"> </em><img width="500" height="NaN" src="https://travelmemo-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/te-ariki-nui-bathroom.jpg" alt="Te Ariki Nui Wanaka New Zealand" class="size-full wp-image-14487 no-display appear lazyloaded" style="text-align: center;"/></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>The Agape tear-shaped bath by the floor-to-ceiling windows in the master bedroom. Image credit: Simon Darby Photography</em></p> <p>The bathrooms in the main part of the house featured glass-walled showers and unencumbered views of the landscape through full-height windows.</p> <p>An impressive gabion wall made with stones smoothed by the nearby Cardrona River provided a visual shield between the entrance pathway and the house. Rectangular steel inserts in the wall allowed light to filter into the hall and master bedroom without sacrificing privacy. </p> <p>A Jacuzzi in a sheltered courtyard offered hydro-therapy to soothe the nerves. It was quite surreal to soak in the pool surrounded by mid-summer snow on the peaks and ranges, the aftermath of an unseasonal ‘weather bomb’.</p> <p>Nearby, a table and chairs with a large shady umbrella was an ideal spot for alfresco dining.</p> <p>I liked to sit on the swing suspended from the terrace roof at the front of the house and watch the antics of the alpacas in the paddock next door. Hand-feeding the quizzical creatures provided a welcome distraction from wedding preparations.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img width="500" height="NaN" src="https://travelmemo-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/wanaka-new-zealand-alpaca.jpg" alt="Alpacas in Wanaka New Zealand" class="size-full wp-image-14503 no-display appear lazyloaded"/></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Is it feeding time?</em></p> <p>I also loved exploring the stunning collection of sculpture Hall, an enthusiastic supporter of New Zealand art, had scattered around her 4-hectare property. Large sculptures were cleverly placed outside to catch the eye while smaller pieces quietly adorned the interior but did not challenge the dominant feature, the landscape . . . art framed by the windows.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img width="500" height="NaN" src="https://travelmemo-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/sculpture-axeman-hannah-kidd.jpg" alt="Axeman Sculpture by Hannah Kidd" class="size-full wp-image-14484 no-display appear lazyloaded"/></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>The axeman in the orchard at Te Ariki Nui never quite managed to fell the tree. The sculpture is by New Zealander Hannah Kidd</em></p> <p>To the right of the house, Hall has planted an impressive orchard of fruit and nut trees including hazelnuts, plums, peaches, pears, nectarines, redcurrants, cherries, apricots and gooseberries. The trees have to struggle to survive so Central Otago fruit has an intensity of flavour like no other region.</p> <p>And beyond the artworks, orchard and alpacas, a spectacular 360-degree necklace of majestic mountains - Black Peak, the Buchanan Mountains, Mt Maude, Mt Iron, Mt Barker, the Cardrona Mt Pisa Ranges - encircled the house.</p> <p>We seldom ventured into town, which was hectic with mid-summer madness, but spent our time rebonding as a family after too long apart, entertaining guests who had travelled from afar and buzzing to and from the lakeside venue with checklists of things to be done for the marquee wedding. It was like constructing a small village in a bare paddock from scratch, bringing all the infrastructure onsite.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img width="500" height="NaN" src="https://travelmemo-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/wanaka-wedding-venue.jpg" alt="The Olive Grove wedding venue Lake Wanaka" class="size-full wp-image-14504 no-display appear lazyloaded"/></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>The Olive Grove wedding venue overlooking Lake Wanaka</em></p> <p>That’s when our friends at JUCY Rentals came to the party, literally. The vehicle rental agency had offered us a generous bulk deal so JUCYs were out in force, ferrying people and equipment to the venue. Our eight-seater JUCY wagon was invaluable as a people, drinks and flowers-mover.</p> <p>And at the end of a busy day, soaking in the spa pool under the stars at Te Ariki Nui, was a magical way to unwind. Lounging amid the bubbles with a glass of bubbles was sheer bliss.</p> <p>Te Ariki Nui certainly lived up to its name – translated from the Maori language, it means “Above all others”.</p> <p>MREC-TAG-HERE</p> <p>FACTBOX</p> <p>*Te Ariki Nui is an ideal base for pre- and post-wedding events and holidays at any time of the year. <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://www.tearikinui.nz/" target="_blank">www.tearikinui.nz/</a></strong></span></p> <p>*Pick up a JUCY Rental at Queenstown Airport and drive to Wanaka - 60 minutes over the Crown Range or 90 minutes via the Kawarau Gorge, both magnificent scenic experiences. The convenience of being able to pick up a vehicle at Queenstown Airport and drop it off in Christchurch, Wellington or Auckland makes JUCY a super-convenient choice for travellers arriving from overseas. <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://www.jucy.co.nz/" target="_blank">www.jucy.co.nz</a></strong></span></p> <p>* Air New Zealand flies daily to Queenstown from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch with connections available across the domestic network. <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://www.airnewzealand.co.nz/" target="_blank">www.airnewzealand.co.nz</a></strong></span></p> <p><em>Written by Justine Tyerman. Republished with the permission of <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://travelmemo.com/" target="_blank">Travelmemo.com</a></strong></span></em></p>

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Up, up and away: Experiencing the magic of the Wairarapa Balloon Festival

<p>Peter King is at his happiest when he’s flying high above the wide Wairarapa valley. Not only is the vista beautiful from 5000ft, but the region’s geography and drainage winds, which typically run from north to south, make it a popular place to fly hot air balloons.</p> <p>“Hot air ballooning is all about manipulating air currents over the landscape,” says Peter. “After taking off and getting airborne, it’s about planning where you want to go by identifying and feeling the breezes on the way up. It’s a science to get it right and when you do, the feeling is just terrific. It’s peaceful and the vistas, especially in the Wairarapa, are amazing.”</p> <p>Peter’s foray into hot air ballooning began in the seventies when he flew with James Greig in one of the first three hot air balloons imported into New Zealand. One of them was later flown by Roland ‘Roly’ Parsons, the first and only man to cross the Cook Strait in a hot air balloon and the first man to pilot a balloon directly over the top of Mt Cook, in the Southern Alps.</p> <p>“I had my PPL (private pilot’s license) but quickly became captivated by the balloon and excited by the sport. At the time Bernina was sponsoring the sport in Europe and things were starting to happen here. We ended up buying the Bernina balloon previously owned by Jim Greig. and I guess you could say, we’ve never looked back.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img width="500" height="333" src="/media/7816603/trust-house-night-glow_500x333.jpg" alt="Trust House Night Glow"/></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>The Trust House Night Glow sees tethered balloons lit up by colourful lights and against a musical backdrop.  </em></p> <p>Since then Peter, who runs Kings Woodworking Company in Carterton which makes bespoke timber benchtops for national distribution, has flown at locations all around New Zealand and also attended the famous Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. He thrives on the camaraderie amongst the balloonists.</p> <p>“Because the wind dictates which direction you go, there is no set landing place’ so the ground crew are a vital component of a successful flight. They make sure that the landowner’s requirements are met &amp; there is a safe pack-up,” he says.</p> <p>“The other side of the sport I enjoy is going into local primary schools and opening up the envelope for kids and blowing air into it. They are genuinely amazed and ask such wonderful, crazy questions like ‘how does a pilot go toilet’?”</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img width="499" height="665" src="/media/7816602/212_499x665.jpg" alt="212"/></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>The Resene Splash n Dash competition at Henley Lake in Masterton makes for a spectacular display. This Easter it is being held on Saturday, 31 March (7am – 9.30am weather conditions permitting).</em></p> <p>Peter is looking forward to flying his new 70000 cubic foot Boland balloon named “Snakeskin” at this year’s Wairarapa Balloon Festival being held over the long Easter Weekend. Amazingly, with American balloon maker, Brian Boland, who has operated Boland Balloons in Vermont since the 1980s, the whole balloon was sewed up in Pete’s lounge. The team, meticulously cut &amp; sewed the 170 panels that make up the envelope including the “snakeskin” panel the balloon is named for. The basket is made from plywood, aluminium and fabric upholstery. The whole aircraft has been fully checked by CAA and registered as a “homebuilt aircraft”. Pete will also wear his distinctive red and gold leather helmet with silver wings that was specially made for his 60th birthday by Carterton leather artist, Trevor Lamb.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img width="498" height="630" src="/media/7816601/image__498x630.jpg" alt="Image_ (56)"/></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>“Bud E Beaver” is one of three special shaped hot air balloons coming to the 2018 Wairarapa Balloon Festival, being held this Easter.</em></p> <p>Peter will join more than 20 other balloonists for the festival including his son Dan who will pilot a two person Boland with distinctive red and white stripes. In addition there will be three special-shaped balloons including “Bud E Beaver”, “Iwi the Kiwi” and “RAC Van” the latter which weighs in at 325kgs, is approximately 30m tall and has yellow flashing lights.</p> <p>“There will be five Boland hot air balloons flying in the Wairarapa Balloon Festival at Easter time. They are light balloons so the envelope does not have to be as big so it’s quick to inflate and pack up. We just enjoy the speed and it is as fast as the wind takes us.”</p> <p>MREC-TAG-HERE</p> <p><em><strong>The 2018 Wairarapa Balloon festival from Thursday, March 29 to Monday, April 2. Location details about morning balloon ascensions in Carterton, Greytown, Masterton and Martinborough; times for the burner parades and details on the Trust House Night Glow at Solway Showgrounds can be found on <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><a href="http://www.nzballoons.co.nz/" target="_blank">www.nzballoons.co.nz</a></span>.</strong></em></p> <p><em><strong>For more information on what to do in the Wairarapa over Easter, including accommodation options, please visit <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><a href="http://www.wairarapanz.com/" target="_blank">www.wairarapanz.com</a></span></strong></em></p>

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What to eat to stop mozzies from biting you

<p><em><strong>Cameron Webb, Clinical Lecturer and Principal Hospital Scientist at the University of Sydney, tells us what to eat to stop the mozzies from biting.</strong></em></p> <p>The warm weather is beckoning us into the backyard but pesky bloodsuckers are waiting. Insect repellents are <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="https://theconversation.com/the-best-and-worst-ways-to-beat-mosquito-bites-70274" target="_blank">safe and effective</a></strong></span> but many people are reluctant to rub what they perceive to be smelly or sticky on their skin. Wouldn’t it be great if there was something you could eat or drink to protect yourself from mosquito bites?</p> <p>There are plenty of “mozzie busting” gadgets and gimmicks marketed as alternatives to topical formulations. From <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="https://theconversation.com/health-check-do-wrist-bands-work-to-repel-mozzies-50186" target="_blank">wrist bands to smartphone apps</a></strong></span>, the range of products reflects the demand among the public for these products. Unfortunately, <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="https://academic.oup.com/jinsectscience/article/2996380/Efficacy" target="_blank">few of these provide effective protection</a></strong></span>.</p> <p>We know <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="https://theconversation.com/health-check-why-mosquitoes-seem-to-bite-some-people-more-36425" target="_blank">some people are more likely to be bitten by mosquitoes than others</a></strong></span>, with the <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0028991" target="_blank">bacteria on our skin</a></strong></span> playing a crucial role in our attractiveness to mosquitoes. Studies indicate <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0122716" target="_blank">our parents are mostly to blame</a></strong></span>, not our diets.</p> <p>Many myths surround the food and drink that may keep mosquitoes at bay but, when it comes to the science behind these theories, it all becomes a bit too hard to swallow.</p> <p><strong>Cheers to mosquito-borne disease</strong></p> <p>Love a <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/foreigners/2013/08/gin_and_tonic_kept_the_british_empire_healthy_the_drink_s_quinine_powder.html" target="_blank">gin and tonic</a></strong></span>? There was once a time you could sip your way out of a malaria-induced fever. It was more about the tonic than the gin. A key ingredient in tonic water is quinine. Derived from the bark of a cinchona tree, quinine had been identified as a <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0141076816681421" target="_blank">treatment for malaria</a></strong></span> in the 1960s and although it’s currently not recommended as a first-line treatment, historically it was critically important in battling the parasites that cause malaria.</p> <p>It’s important to note that while it’s thought to be toxic to the parasites, there was no evidence it actually stopped mosquito bites. Also, modern tonic water <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonic_water" target="_blank">hardly contains any quinine</a></strong></span>.</p> <p>Booze and mosquito bites may actually make a good match. Studies in Africa have demonstrated <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0009546" target="_blank">drinking beer can make you more attractive to mosquitoes</a></strong></span>. After downing a few glasses of beer, volunteers were found to attract more mosquitoes than those drinking just water.</p> <p>Why? It didn’t seem to be due to body temperature or the amount of carbon dioxide exhaled. Perhaps mosquitoes are evolving to bite drunk people less able to swat the bloodsuckers away?</p> <p><strong>Snacking your way to a bite-free summer?</strong></p> <p>One of the most commonly suggested foods to eat to avoid mosquito bites is the humble banana. Problem is, it seems as many people think eating bananas will make you more attractive to mosquitoes than not! There <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://www.mosquitoreviews.com/bananas.html" target="_blank">isn’t the science to support either claim,</a></strong></span> but it’s unlikely eating bananas would substantially change the way mosquitoes pick you out from a crowd.</p> <p>If garlic can keep mythic blood suckers away, what about those buzzing about in real life? Nope. Our breath may smell a bit after a garlic-rich meal but a <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.0269-283X.2005.00544.x/full" target="_blank">study has shown it does nothing</a></strong></span> to lessen our attractiveness to mosquitoes. It may actually make us <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7825135" target="_blank">more attractive to vampires, according to science</a></strong></span>!</p> <p><strong>Beating bloodsuckers with vitamin B?</strong></p> <p>Perhaps one of the most pervasive home remedies perceived to prevent mosquito bites is taking vitamin B. Anecdotal reports, and many personal testimonies, of the effectiveness of this approach abound, but there a few scientific investigations testing the claim.</p> <p>Studies dating back to the 1940s <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://science.sciencemag.org/content/100/2590/147.1" target="_blank">failed to provide proof</a></strong></span> of protection from mosquito bites after taking vitamin B. More recently, <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16033124" target="_blank">a 2005 study</a></strong></span> showed there was no evidence it influenced the attraction of mosquitoes to human skin-derived chemicals from volunteers taking vitamin B supplements. There is simply no evidence taking vitamin B will offer any significant protection from mosquito bites.</p> <p>In reality, if there was even moderate scientific evidence that taking a vitamin supplement could prevent mosquito bites, our supermarket shelves would be full of “mosquito repellent pills”. It would be wonderful to be able to pop a pill a day to stop mosquito bites but we’re unlikely to have that luxury any time soon.</p> <p>In fact, products marketed as oral insect repellents are not recognised by <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=310.529" target="_blank">some government agencies</a></strong></span> given the lack of any compelling evidence to support the claims.</p> <p>Don’t use mosquito bite prevention as an excuse to boost your intake of vegemite either. It may be a <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/06/08/vegemite-what-it-is-ways-to-eat-it-and-why-its-so-good_a_21392025/" target="_blank">staple in most Australian households</a></strong></span>, but it won’t make our summer backyard activities any less bite-prone, no matter how much vitamin B it contains (or how much you spread on your toast).</p> <p>The reality is, if there was great science supporting any of these mosquito bite-blocking claims associated with food and drink, countless companies would be cashing in on selling “mosquito repellent vitamins” and I have little doubt topical insect repellents would disappear from our supermarket shelves. I don’t see that happening anytime soon.</p> <p>Do you think you’ll take these tips?</p> <p><em>Written by Cameron Webb. Republished with permission of <a href="http://www.theconversation.com" target="_blank"><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">The Conversation</span></strong></a>.<img width="1" height="1" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/87178/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-advanced" alt="The Conversation"/> </em></p>

Domestic Travel