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Bali Adventure – April 2016

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Sunset watching at Lovina.

Bali wove it’s special magic over us us all with its stunning scenery, its beautiful temples, beaches, people, incense and flowers. We did lots of exploring, had lots of fun and laughter, enjoyed the beaches and swimming pools, the spa treatments shopping and adventures.  It worked out to be the perfect balance between doing “stuff” and just chilling out.

Read on to find out some of the highlights of what we did…….

Day 1:  Arrival Day

Ahhhh….the perfume of Bali, the smell of incense, of flowers, of clove cigarettes wafting by in the warm sultry air…..It’s always the same and it always fills me with a feeling of pleasure and happiness.  This feeling was soon to be tested though as 4 of us  arrived without our bags…..due to the short transit time they didn’t get loaded onto the plane from Sydney to Bali.  They arrived the next evening though so all was well and I’m happy to say it certainly didn’t detract from our excitement and pleasure at being in Bali.

Our arrival in Bali.
Our arrival in Bali.

Our drivers, Buda and Nyomen, met us at the airport. Full of smiles and warm polite greetings they efficiently helped us to their waiting vans. They were to prove to be excellent drivers and guides with lots of local information and with great senses of humour. Once we had sorted out our rooms in Sanur (a laid back beach town) we strolled down to the beach for dinner at one of the many little restaurants right on the beach, delighting in the warm evening air. Then it was a swim in the pool, so lovely and warm, before bed and a good night’s sleep.

Day 2:  Sanur

The first of many beautiful sunrises on this trip.
The first of many beautiful sunrises on this trip.

We all awoke early and met up for a stroll along the beach to watch the sunrise, (the first of many we were to watch) chatting, taking photos, delighting in being over here. Then it was back for another swim, breakfast at a gorgeous little restaurant with a lovely big lotus pool right next to our accommodation and then some cycling.

2016-04-14 10.18.34We hired bikes and rode along the long promenade that runs the length of the beach, stopping for cool drinks and checking out some of the many clothing stalls along the way .

Waiting for the sunset at Uluwatu.
Waiting for the sunset at Uluwatu.

The afternoon was spent resting before leaving at 3.30pm to watch the sunset at Uluwatu.  This is a not to be missed experience and we could certainly see that, as the road there was clogged with buses and cars all on their way out there.

Monkeys at Uluwatu.
Monkeys at Uluwatu.

 It is an amazing location high up on the towering cliffs with the sea crashing below.  Families of monkeys stalk the walls and while they are very interesting and amusing to watch you also have to be very careful around them and not wear or have anything they can snatch off you like sunglasses and water bottles.  We saw a number of tourists get their belongings taken and have to get the warden to divert the monkeys attention to get the stuff back.

At Jimbaran enjoying the local show.
At Jimbaran enjoying the local show.

From there we went out to Jimbaran, known for it’s seafood restaurants on the beach. We had a lovely evening eating and being entertained by a Balinese theater group and musicians singing at our table……

Day 3: From Sanur to Ubud.

After another sunrise, early morning swim in the pool and breakfast, our drivers picked us up and took us up to Ubud – the cultural capital of Bali where we were to stay for 4 nights. There is so much to see and do around the area of Ubud and we had a full and exciting itinerary to look forward to.

Our lovely pool in Ubud.
Our lovely pool in Ubud.

Our accommodation was right in the heart of Ubud on Monkey Forest Rd, yet was such a quiet, tranquil and pretty place to be.  We all took advantage of the Spa Treatments that were located there!

The Kecak performance in Ubud.
The Kecak performance in Ubud.

The afternoon was free time to explore, swim, rest, shop…..before meeting up for dinner and the Kecak performance at a local temple. This is a must see experience as it is very much part of Balinese culture.  Although we didn’t really understand a lot of what was being enacted (despite the notes that we were given) we were still mesmerized by the performance and the setting . We were sitting outside in a temple courtyard with a huge banyon tree lit up from below. The finale was the fire dance where a dancer scattered burning hot embers around the courtyard with his bare feet!  We were all off to bed relatively early as we needed to get a few hours sleep before getting up at 1.30am in time to be picked up for our sunrise walk up Mt Batur.

Day 4: Mt Batur Trek.

A foggy sunrise up Mt Batur.

Although the sunrise wasn’t that great, the whole experience was just awesome!  We joined literally hundreds of other trekkers in the dark with our headlamps and torches as we slowly made our way up the 2 hr climb to the top of Mt Batur.  Each group had their own guides who were very helpful.  Ours was a lovely young woman who just loved being our photographer and was forever wanting to take “just one more” photo of us in the various locations.  Our other guide had stayed behind with one of our group who was not able to make it to the top. We definitely had our heads in the clouds once we got up there, it was quite foggy and cold.

Sipping our hot coffees watching the sunrise.
Sipping our hot coffees watching the sunrise.

Our guide looked after us though and brought us hot coffees and our breakfast of bananas, bread and hard boiled eggs, (boiled in the steam from under the ground – it is an active volcano.) We had to be quick though as the monkeys up there were pretty adept at stealing food!  Once the sun came out it soon warmed up and we were shedding our layers. We then had a lovely trek around the top of the craters and down to a big cave before heading back down.   From there we visited a lake temple and had another breakfast snack at a coffee plantation. By the time we got back to our accommodation it was almost lunchtime, it had been a long morning, so it was free time till the evening when we met up for dinner.

Day 5: Cooking Class

Morning walk through the rice fields.
Morning walk through the rice fields.

Today was a “free day” until our cooking class that was booked in for 4pm.  So a group of us headed off exploring on a walk through the rice fields.  We followed the Camphuan walk up onto the ridge.  This is a lovely walk and very easy to follow. There is also a beautiful lotus pond cafe up there that makes delicious banana bread and smoothies.  It pays to go early though as it gets very hot and sweaty. We then explored another pathway and though we did get slightly lost it is never difficult to find someone to ask.  The area around Ubud is absolutely lovely with stunning views and homes set among the rice paddies.

Busily preparing our wonderful meal.
Busily preparing our wonderful meal.

Once we got back, had a swim and some lunch and a rest, we met the others (who had been busy shopping) and headed off to our cooking class.  We had 3 chefs for our group of 10 (3 others were on the course) and we had a lot of fun making our way through creating a delicious 5 course meal.  We then enjoyed the meal with a few glasses of wine.  I finished the day off with a lovely massage before rolling into bed…..ahhhh……..

Day 6: Cycling Tour

Sampling all the different teas and coffees.
Sampling all the different teas and coffees.

Today we were picked up at 8.30am and taken by van up to Kintamani to the start of our downhill cycling trip.  Before we got there though, we visited a coffee plantation and learnt all about the famous Luwak coffee and sampled all sorts of different coffees and teas.

Cycling through the many villages on our way.
Cycling through the many villages on our way.

We then set off riding gently downhill all the way through little villages, alongside rice fields and under tall towering palms that lined the roads.  Children called out “hello, hello” as we cycled past.  We watched a line of women each with a 50kg sack of rice of her head, gracefully making their way through the rice fields to the waiting truck.  Our guide took us into a family compound and told us heaps of information on Balinese religion and culture. We were taken to a beautiful house for a really delicious lunch. Having done the cooking course the day before we were able to recognise the different foods and know how they were made. We all thoroughly enjoyed our easy cycling and very informative day.

A warm monkey crotch right next to my ear....ewwww!
A warm monkey crotch right next to my ear….ewwww!

Once we got back some of us went and visited the Monkey Forest and were even brave enough to have the monkeys climb on us.

Day 7: Ubud to Lovina

Our fantastic 4 days in Ubud had come to end and so we headed off to for our overnight trip to Lovina at the top of Bali, stopping off to explore historical sites along the way.

 

Walking through the famous rice fields at Jatiluwih.
Walking through the famous rice fields at Jatiluwih.

Our first stop was the World Heritage site of the Jatiluwih Rice Fields and they are pretty impressive. Layers upon layers of rice paddies that gently wind their way around the hills and up and  down into the valleys. We had a stroll through, marvelling at it all.

From there we drove to the Bedugul Water Temple, a popular tourist spot and very beautiful, where we were enthusiastically interviewed by English students from Java.  From here we continued up to the lookout for the 2 lakes before cruising downhill through many villages to the coast and Lovina. It definitely looked poorer over this side of the island with lots of rubbish in the villages and poorer looking dwellings.

Sunset watching at Lovina.
Sunset watching at Lovina.

We were just in time to see the sunset (Lovina is a great spot for sunsets) and we sat with our drinks  listening to a group of local young men singing with their guitars…… (unfortunately they sounded pretty bad!) It was then a nice long swim in the pool then out for dinner at a beachside restaurant before turning in for the night. It had been a long day.

Day 8:  Lovina to Sideman (snorkelling on the way.)

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Snorkelling at Tulamben.

Today we headed off from Lovina down the East Coast road stopping off at a couple of snorkelling spots before we got to our accommodation at Sideman. The first snorkelling location was at Tulamben which is the where the WW2 Japanese boat went down.  It is not far out from the shore and there are lots of fish to see here though the water is a little bit murky.  Unfortunately the Balinese don’t seem to have the same concern for the environment that we are used to in NZ and there is a lot of rubbish on the beaches and in the sea. Things are slowly changing but I think it will take a long time to change the “chuck away” attitude.

Snorkelling at Blue Lagoon.
Snorkelling at Blue Lagoon.

From here we then stopped off at the lovely  Ujung Water Palace and had lunch before heading off to the Blue Lagoon just over the hill from Padang Bai.  This is a lovely snorkelling location.  It’s just like snorkelling in a huge fish bowl.  There are heaps of fish and the water is pretty clear.

By now it was late afternoon and we still had an hour or so to get to our accommodation at Sideman.  The road there was pretty rough but it was well worth it.

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Our cute little pink cottage at Sideman.

Our accommodation and the location of Sideman is just lovely. We are staying in cute little pink and blue cottages with lovely open air bathrooms and little back porches with hammocks overlooking a babbling little stream all set in a beautiful forest.

 Day 9: Rest day in Sideman

Even though it was actually a “rest day” we were all keen to explore this lovely area. We headed off straight after breakfast and soon found a little track beside the road that we decided to follow.

Morning walk in Sideman.
Morning walk in Sideman.

The track wound its way up and down through lots of little garden sites with narrow little waterways running through.  It was a pretty rough track though, not as easy as we had first thought. We did manage to find our way out to the road and gratefully stopped at a roadside shop for a cold drink. A couple of the women continued on and found a temple at the top of a hill which they said was well worth seeing……it’ll have to wait till next time.  The rest of us went back and lazed by the pool and waited for our massages we had booked.  It was a lovely day and we all enjoyed the peacefulness and beauty of Sideman.

Day 10: From Sideman to Nusa Lembongan

I was awake early this morning and I set off with another one of the women, Ingrid, for an exploring walk.

Part of a lovely walkway in Sideman.
Part of a lovely walkway in Sideman.

We found a delightful little track that led up through the rice paddies along side a concreted water course.

Unfortunately we couldn’t keep going as we had to be back in time for breakfast and to leave Sideman. I’ll just have to check it out next time.  It was definitely easier than the one we had done the day before!

Waiting at Sanur for the boat to Nusa Lembongan.
Waiting at Sanur for the boat to Nusa Lembongan.

Today we were off to Nusa Lembongan for 2 days. First we had to catch a fast boat from Sanur which was a 2hr drive from Sideman. The boat trip only took 30 min so we were there by lunchtime.

Once we had settled in, had the obligatory swim in the pool and something to eat, we were then ready to go off exploring. So we hired some bicycles and off we went.  We cycled along the coast road, through sparse areas that had lots of rubbish, along pot holed roads and past little roadside stalls.

Cycling over the bridge to Ceningan.
Cycling over the bridge to Ceningan.

It doesn’t take long to cycle around the island so some of us headed over the bridge to the next island, Ceningan.  Once over there we ended up on a road that took us up and over a very steep winding hill to the other side. It was hard work and pretty rough and tough going. Coming down the other side was almost just as bad!  The road was so bumpy and pot holey with lots of loose stones and very steep.  We were dripping with sweat and my hands were sore and cramped from gripping the brakes! We were pleased to get back to our accommodation, have a swim and head out for dinner.

Enjoying the band at Lemongrass restaurant.
Enjoying the band at Lemongrass restaurant.

We ended the day at a lovely little restaurant called Lemongrass, listening to and singing along with a band, sipping on our cocktails…..

Day 11: Nusa Lembongan – Snorkelling Trip

Beautiful sunrise walk on Nusa Lembongan.
Beautiful sunrise walk on Nusa Lembongan.

After a lovely warm early morning walk along the beach in the soft dusky pink haze, it was time to get ready for our day’s snorkelling trip.

Check out the guy fishing off the cliff....not a marine reserve then....
Check out the guy fishing off the cliff….not a marine reserve then….

We boarded the boat at 8am and headed off with a few others to 4 different snorkelling spots.  The first spot really wowed us with this huge mantaray gently gliding beneath us as we snorkelled all around it.  The other spots were amazing too, with lots of fish and coral (though the coral wasn’t that great.) One location even had this massive Buddha head and “attendants” around it and big bell shapes.  It was amazing! All sitting on the ocean floor like part of the lost city of Atlantis.

At our favourite Bali Eco Deli cafe.
At our favourite Bali Eco Deli cafe.

Once we got back we headed out for lunch at one of the best cafes we’ve been to. It was the Bali Eco Deli and not only did it have amazing food but it is dedicated to ridding Bali of all the plastic rubbish, (which usually bugs every tourist to Bali) and has a great recycling project in place plus they will fill up your water bottles for free.  Tick, tick, tick!

Our day finished with 2 for 1 cocktails on the beach watching the sunset, dinner at Lemongrass, a swim in the pool and bed.

Day 12: From Nusa Lembongan to Seminyak – Final full day

We caught the 9.30am boat back to Sanur where our drivers picked us up and took us to Seminyak for our last night in Bali. Seminyak is a busy, bustling place with lots of high end shops, restaurants and accommodation.  Our accommodation was at the quieter end and only a short walk from the beach so we headed down there for lunch while we waited for our rooms to be ready.  During the afternoon we either explored, shopped, swam in the pool or rested.

Ordering our drinks, waiting for the sunset.
Ordering our drinks, waiting for the sunset.

We met in the evening for our cocktails on the beach watching the sunset along with hordes of other locals who clogged up the road on our way there.  It was a lovely way to spend our last night. The music was playing, the sun was setting, we were all feeling very relaxed and happy plus a little bit sad that it was all over.

Day 13: Going home day

Early morning walk along the beach at Seminyak.
Early morning walk along the beach at Seminyak.

Today started with my final sunrise walk along the beach I was feeling very happy and pleased with how this trip has been and giving myself a little mental pat on the back.  Some of the others had gone for a long run, it’s a great beach for long walks and runs! Due to a muck up with our flights, some were leaving at 10pm and the rest of us were leaving at 3pm.  Those who had longer time headed off with one of our drivers to Nusa Dua for the day.  A couple of us headed off for a cycle ride all the way along the pathway almost to the airport.  After a thoroughly invigorating swim in the pounding surf at Seminyak we sat and enjoyed our drinks on the beach.  Then all too soon it was time to get a taxi to the airport for our flights home.  If you missed out on this trip this time round, don’t worry, I’ll definitely be doing it again next year!

 

 

E-Cycling and Eco-Ziplining on Waiheke Island – Nov 2015

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Yep, gonna get me one of these bikes!

Wow! What a fun day out we had over on Waiheke Island!  We hired electric bikes and off we went!  This has got to be THE way to get around on hilly Waiheke. You get to see so much more, to explore all the beautiful beaches and hidden away little bays and yet you are still cycling….just with a bit more ooomph!

Eco-ziplining was fast, exciting but unfortunately over all too soon!

Wine tasting at Peacock Sky winery, with delicious tasty little food matches that really brought out the flavours of the different wines, was absolutely divine.

Then it was off on our bikes again, exploring more of the island before heading back on the 6pm ferry.  What an awesome day!

(Check us out ziplining on the video clip at the end of this post.)

Hawkes Bay Cycling Weekend – Oct 2015

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Heading out around the back of the airport.

Take 8 lively women, add in a huge dose of laughter, fun and humour, some fine wining and dining, a bit of sausage making and a bonfire on the beach and of course, some cycling through the sunny Hawkes Bay and you have the recipe for a deliciously wonderful weekend!

Enjoying tapas at Deliciousa.
Enjoying tapas at Deliciousa.

We drove down from Auckland on the Friday picking up women along the way and soon the van was full of excited and animated chatter as the women got to know each other. On arrival in Napier we got fitted out for our bikes, sorted ourselves out in the motel and then went off into Havelock North to Deliciousa Tapas. We can highly recommend their gorgeous tasting tapas.

Bleak but beautiful!
Bleak but beautiful!

The next morning we woke up to a rather gray and dismal looking day with light rain spitting down. We had some time before going on our guided Art Deco walk so we hopped in the van and drove up to the top of Te Mata peak which still had an absolutely beautiful view despite the weather. Then it was back into Napier to find out more about the Napier earthquake and how they rebuilt the Napier CBD in the art deco style.

Biking along the coastal cycle-path to Bay View.
Biking along the coastal cycle-path to Bay View.

By the end of the tour the rain had eased off a bit and we headed off along the coastal cycle track right out to Bay View and to the Snapper café for lunch.

This all used to be under water!
This all used to be under water!

The rest of the day’s cycling was through the wetlands area around the Napier airport and back to our motel.

Loving the hot pool soak!
Loving the hot pool soak!

A lovely long soak in the Ocean Spa pools nicely relaxed all those cycling muscles before we headed out to dinner at Milk and Honey, a very nice top quality restaurant.

 

Going through one of the many gates on the cycle-path.
Going through one of the many gates on the cycle-path.

Cycling day two dawned bright and sunny as we cycled off for our pub lunch at Puketapu Pub, exploring and enjoying all the different areas along the way. There were wide smooth paths through suburb back streets, crushed limestone paths through fields, under pine trees, beside rivers and little lakes with so much to see and enjoy.

Making sausages.....
Making sausages…..

Once back from our cycling, we then went on to our sausage making course which was a lot of fun. We made two different types of gourmet sausages and they were sooo nice!

Cooking our sausages on the beach.
Cooking our sausages on the beach.

That evening we had a fire on the beach with bubbly, wine, nibbles and hot chips and cooked some of the sausages over the fire. We finished off with roasting marshmallows over the fire….divine!

 

Cycling along Oak Avenue.
Cycling along Oak Avenue.

Our last day’s cycling was out to Te Awa winery where we once again enjoyed amazing food in a beautiful setting before cycling back to Clive to drop off our bikes, hop into the van and head off back to Auckland. It had all been a simply perfect long weekend. I’ll definitely use that ‘recipe’ again!

Bay of Islands Tramping Weekend – Sept 2015

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We walked on coastal pathways....

The forecast wasn’t looking that great for the weekend but we headed off anyway, feeling positive and optimistic that we’d cope anyway (and think of a Plan B just in case!)

We did a bit of a “tiki tour” on the way stopping at Kaiwaka to check out the huge kauri carvings at The Art Factory (well worth a look.)

From there we travelled up to Whangarei stopping for a delicious coffee break at the i site. They do these wonderful coffees with coconut milk and oil added to them….The tourist shop right next door proved to be a great little shopping spot and we all got some excellent bargains.

Whangarei Falls.
Whangarei Falls.

The next stop was the Whangarei falls just out of Whangarei and a very easy 10 min loop to check them out, (worth a look.)

 

 

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The Hundertwasser toilet block in Kawakawa.

Our last stop was at Kawakawa to have a look at the famous Hundertwasser toilet block (again, well worth a look.)

 

 

From there it was just a short distance to Paihia.

Haruru Falls.
Haruru Falls.

Lunch, (according to my itinerary), was to have been on the beach but with the rain spitting down we decided maybe not, and went to a cafe instead.  From there we caught a taxi up to Te Haruru Falls and followed the track out to Waitangi and back into Paihia, walking in the pouring rain!

Dinner out in Paihia.
Dinner out in Paihia.

Showered and warm and dry, we headed out for dinner in Paihia and then back to our motel for a good night’s sleep before our big walk the next day.

 

We walked on coastal pathways….

The morning dawned bright and blue skyed but with big black clouds on the horizon. By 9am we were breakfasted and on the coastal track from Paihia to Opua.

The full circle day walk is a delightful mixture of coastal pathways, beach walking across little bays, bush tracks, boardwalks and through the streets of Russell.

                                             across pretty little bays…..

through beautiful bush.....
through beautiful bush…..

 

 

 

 

 

From Opua we caught the 5 min ferry over to Okiato and on to Russell.

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along boardwalks in the rain……

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were on again, off again with our rain gear as rain clouds came and quickly went.

Happy little trampers!
Happy little trampers!

In Russell we only had 2 minutes to spare to catch the ferry (or wait for another 40 min).  Big ice-creams finished the day off nicely and we clambered back into the van for the trip back to Auckland (no tiki touring this time.) It had been an excellent weekend, spitty, showery rain and all!

 

 

 

 

Rotorua Adventure Weekend – May 2015

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It doesn't get much better than this. Relaxing at Kerosene Creek.

I don’t think we could have fit more into this weekend if we tried! We covered all the bases from screaming exhilarated excitement to blissful sighs of relaxation.

We arrived at our motel – Malones (that had these awesome huge spa pool bath tubs) and then set off for a cultural tour of Whakarewarewa Village.

At Whakarewarewa Village.
At Whakarewarewa Village.

 

This place is well worth a visit and is a fascinating insight into how the Maori people used and still use this geo thermal area. An enthusiastic singing, dancing and poi demonstration finished off the tour.

 

 

Ahhhh........Bliss....
Ahhhh……..Bliss….

 

From there it was off to relax in the famous Polynesian Pools.  Soaking in these natural hot springs while gazing at the lake beyond as the day slowly turned to dusk, was utterly wonderful!

 

 

 

 

Dinner at Ephesus Cafe.  Yum!
Dinner at Ephesus Cafe. Yum!

Feeling very relaxed but hungry we went into town to find somewhere for dinner. Well, it seems we were the only ones who hadn’t booked a table in Eat Street.  Everywhere was booked out solid! It was the Blues Music Festival weekend and there were people everywhere and the cruisy, body swaying beat of blues music drifting out of the bars and cafes.  We eventually found a table at the yummy Ephesus cafe, settled back with wine and food and enjoyed the evening.

Setting off into the Redwood Forest.
Setting off into the Redwood Forest.

 

Day 2 was our “adventure day’ starting with mountain biking in the Redwood Forest.  Half of the group were novices so we started on the Kids Loop which certainly still gave us plenty of oomph!  We then split up into 2 groups and did the trails that best suited our abilities.  There are so many trails (and so many people) everywhere.  You could easily spend a day exploring and having lots of fun.

 

Walking around the Blue Lake.
Walking around the Blue Lake.

 

From there we headed off to walk around the Blue Lake – a very pretty little lake that supposedly takes one and a half hours to walk around but ended up taking us a bit longer due to taking a couple of wrong turns.  Signage is not the best!

 

 

On the gondola going up to the Luge.
On the gondola going up to the Luge.

By then it was getting on for 4pm and we still had the Luge rides to go (as did hordes of other people as it turned out!)  We managed to get 2 rides in before they closed for the evening and we LOVED it! We ‘warmed’ up on the beginners track where we each seemed to get in touch with our inner racing woman before setting off confidently down the intermediate track daring anyone to try to overtake us!

Feeling exhilarated but also pretty ‘had it’, we headed into town for a lovely tapas meal and a wine (still in our adventure gear) before going back to our big spa bath pools and soaking the rest of the evening away.  Bliss……..

It doesn't get much better than this. Relaxing at Kerosene Creek.
It doesn’t get much better than this. Relaxing at Kerosene Creek.

We woke to spitty rain the next morning which was off and on for the rest of the day.  We breakfasted at Fat Dog Cafe and then headed off towards Taupo to Kerosene Creek, a natural hot pool, down a dirt road in the NZ bush. I can highly recommend this!  Just 2km off the road, a little shed and toilet, a 3min walk along the river to a steamy big pool with a forceful waterfall that was great to stand under!

Rolling down the hill. That's us, the little black dots inside the ball.
Rolling down the hill. That’s us, the little black dots inside the ball.

Today was going home day but not before a zorb ball ride on the way!  We stopped at OGO, stood waiting, shivering in our togs and thermals before being taken up to the top of a big hill.  Pamela and I were doing the Sidewinder, a longer and supposedly more gentle ride, Carisa was doing the straight ride – faster but shorter.  40 litres of hot water inside our zorb ball made it nice and comfortable …..until the ball started rolling down the hill!

Pamela and me at the end of our exhilarating ride!
Pamela and me at the end of our exhilarating ride!

It was definitely a lot of fun, very exciting, verging on hysteria and a not to be missed experience! As an aside, Pamela is a pensioner in her 60’s, an intrepid explorer from way back but still very nervous about doing this adventure and she did it!  Very inspiring!

So that was our 3 day, jam packed weekend of adventure, (with some relaxing stuff) in the tourist mecca of Rotorua.  I’ll definitely be doing this adventure again!

Beautiful Bali! – April 2016

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Beautiful Balinese dancers on Kuta Beach.

Bali…..just the mere word conjures up a mosaic of unique, exotic, colourful, cultural experience like no other. From its mountainous interior, through villages full of temples and sweet wafting incense past its vibrant green, rice paddies to its long coastal beaches of frothing white surf, Bali delights the eye and totally wows the senses.

Cycling through rice fields.
Cycling through rice fields.

The first time I had been to Bali was 20 years ago, then 15 years ago and while it has definitely gotten busier with lots more tourists, shops and motor scooters, the essence of what makes Bali special remains the same.

 

My husband Derek and I had gone over to Bali this time not just for our own holiday but also to check out and put together an adventure/cultural/relaxing type holiday for my Women’s Adventures NZ to do Bali next year in 2016. And I believe we’ve done just that.

The pool at Little Pond in Sanur.
The pool at Little Pond in Sanur.

Here’s a brief updated overview of what this holiday would look like. The dates are Wed 13th to Tue 26th April 2016. April is a good time of year to go as it’s the end of the wet season and it’s not the peak busy season (June, July and August.) The cost is $2000.00.  The cost includes pretty much everything except your airfares and most of your meals (except for breakfast). It includes  stunning  twin share accommodation at at 6 different locations, transport with our own driver, cycle tour, sunrise tour, cooking class, ferry trip to Nusa Lembongan, entrance fees to the various places we will visit and cultural performances.

 

Day 1 and 2 – Sanur

The first couple of days would be spent at the lovely, relatively peaceful Sanur on the East Coast. This would give everyone a chance to ‘arrive’ and acclimatise themselves. There is a lovely long cycle-path along the beachfront and lots of little lanes and streets to explore by bike. A sunset excursion to Uluwatu is included on Day 2. Accommodation is at Little Pond, a little oasis in the heart of Sanur.

The cycle-path along the beach front at Sanur.
The cycle-path along the beach front at Sanur.

Day 3 to 6 – Ubud

On Day 3 we leave for Ubud and spend our first day in Ubud exploring with free time to go shopping, check out Monkey Forest, get a spa treatment, hire a bike and go cycling in the nearby villages or head off for a walk in the rice paddies. In the evening we’ll go to a Kecak Performance at one of the local temples. This performance features a group of up to 80 men sitting chanting in a circle and accompanies the dance re-enactment from the Hindu epic Ramayana. It is a not to be forgotten performance! Accommodation during our time in Ubud is twin share in a stunning hotel right in the heart of Ubud.

Cycling through the villages.
Cycling through the villages.

 

Day 4 – Cycling Tour – Kintamani

We head off at about 8.30am in a shuttle van up to the village of Kintamani stopping off at a coffee plantation on the way to sample the many different varieties of locally grown coffee. A breakfast stop at Kintamani then we’re off cycling for 3 hrs mostly downhill through many villages and rice fields. This is a wonderful experience and a great way to see so many lovely little villages. We arrive back at about 3pm and have the rest of the afternoon to relax, swim in the pool, have a spa……

Our cooking class.
Our cooking class.

 

Day 5 – Local hiking and Cooking Class

We spend the morning going for a 3 hr hike just out of Ubud up into the rice paddies, through villages and back along the river. At 3.30pm we are taken to our cooking class run by the famous Café Wayan.

 

Sunrise at the top of Mt Batur.
Sunrise at the top of Mt Batur.

Day 6 – Mt Batur Sunrise Trip

We are picked up at around 2.30am and taken to the start of our 2 hr climb up Mt Batur to see the sunrise. We then walk around the top of the crater before returning back to Ubud by about 11am. The rest of the day is your free time.

 

Snorkelling at the Blue Lagoon.
Snorkelling at the Blue Lagoon.

Day 7 – Ubud to Lovina via East Coast

We leave Ubud early and drive to Padang Bai to go snorkelling at Blue Lagoon Beach. After a couple of hours spent snorkelling we then head for the East Coast and Tulumben to go snorkelling at the site of the WW2 Japanese wreck. From here we travel up the coast to Lovina in time to see the lovely sunset over the beach. We stay the night at Lovina in beautiful accommodation with a huge big pool.

 

Day 8 – Lovina to Sideman

Unesco World Heritage site Jatiluwih.
Unesco World Heritage site Jatiluwih.

We travel from Lovina down through the centre of the island stopping at the 2 lakes, the lake temple and at the Unesco World Heritage Jatiluwih Rice Fields before continuing on down to Sideman, one of Bali’s most beautiful river valleys and our accommodation for the night.

Day 9 – Hiking in Sideman

We spend the morning on a guided walk through the many beautiful rice fields and valleys in this area and the afternoon relaxing at our gorgeous accommodation.

 

Cycling on Nusa Lembongan.
Cycling on Nusa Lembongan.

Day 10 – Nusa Lembongan

We leave Sideman early to drive to Sanur and catch the 10.30am ferry to Nusa Lembongan.

Once there we have free time to explore the island by bike, to go kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, learn to surf or just relax by the pool or on the beach. Beautiful accommodation right on the beach in twin share rooms.

 

Day 11 – Snorkelling Trip – Nusa Lembongan

We go on an organised snorkelling trip in the morning and spend the afternoon having free time to do all the things you didn’t get to do the day before!

Day 12 – Nusa Lembongan to Sanur to Seminyak

We catch the 8.30am ferry back over to Sanur and then get transport over to Seminyak where we enjoy the day swimming, learning to surf or just relaxing under the trees. Our final sunset and dinner is spent on the beach enjoying the chilled out music whilst relaxing on giant bean bags. Once again I have lovely accommodation organised that is just a short walk to the beach.

Cafe stop on our walk at Ubud.
Cafe stop on our walk at Ubud.

 

Day 13 – Shopping at Seminyak

Our last day is spent doing that last minute shopping or getting in the last bit of R n R before we head out to the airport for our evening flight.

 

Day 14 – Arrive back in NZ.

Queen Charlotte Track – April 2015

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One of the many pretty coves in the Endeavour Inlet.

This was a real mixed bag of an adventure! We had some lovely weather and some really foul weather. We had days of easy tramping and days where we really struggled. We missed our final ferry but ended up quite pleased that we had. Yes, it was a real mixed bag but throughout it all the stunning beauty of the Queen Charlotte Sound shone through and captivated each of us.

Arriving at Ship's Cove.
Arriving at Ship’s Cove.

The day before we left, unbeknown to me, I had picked up a very nasty virus. Thinking I was just feeling a bit crook and would get better as the days went by, I carried on with the trip. I didn’t get better, I got worse. Although this meant that the trip was quite a struggle for me, I was determined to not let it spoil it for the rest of the group.

Lost in the tranquility.....
Lost in the tranquility…..

We left on an overcast morning with the sun struggling to shine through the clouds. The forecast was good though and we were all feeling optimistic. We were mentally prepared for the steep 50 min climb up out of Ship’s Cove. I slowly plodded my way at the back which was to end up being my spot for pretty much the whole trip.

 

Enjoying the view at our lunch stop.
Enjoying the view at our lunch stop.

Our lunch break at the lovely half way lookout point was a very welcome stop and we silently drank in the views around us. The meandering walk down into Endeavour Inlet was so lovely as we passed pretty little coves and homes tucked away amongst the trees with steep little pathways leading up to them. We envied the families their privileged hideaway retreats in such serene surroundings.

Cosy fireside meal at Furneaux Lodge.
Cosy fireside meal at Furneaux Lodge.

 

Our first night was spent in a chalet at the very beautiful Furneaux Lodge. We joined the other trampers for dinner in the cosy bar with its roaring fire.

 

 

Setting off on Day 2 with coffee's to go!
Setting off on Day 2 with coffee’s to go!

A leisurely start to our morning saw us up making our breakfast and our lunches for the relatively easy day’s walk ahead of us. The breakfast and lunch food boxes had arrived the day before and even though they hadn’t been put into the fridge they were still fine. We left our stack of bags and boxes on our front porch, got coffee’s to go and off we ambled through the cool morning shade.

 

Shopping at the local stall!
Shopping at the local stall!

You don’t imagine you’ll get a chance to go shopping while out tramping but that’s just what happened. We stopped at this cute little stall that sold hats, scarves, eggs, fruit and honey and one of the women bought a lovely hat, popping the money in the Honesty Box as we left.

 

It was a beautiful clear, sunny Autumn day and the absolute stillness and tranquillity worked its way into our souls, each of us walking for long quiet moments by ourselves, just soaking it all in.

Coming into Punga Cove.
Coming into Punga Cove.

Our peace and tranquillity was rudely broken when we reached lovely little Punga Cove and the raucous group of party goers who thankfully were just about to leave. We rested, we strolled around, we sat in the spa pool overlooking the water, we wined and we dined and thoroughly enjoyed this pretty little cove. It was off to bed pretty early as it was to be our biggest walk the next day, from Punga Cove to Portage Bay.

 

Leaving Punga Cove for our long walk to Portage Bay.
Leaving Punga Cove for our long walk to Portage Bay.

An overcast morning greeted us, which was probably just as well as it meant it wouldn’t be too hot. One of the group had decided to catch the ferry around to Portage Bay as she was having difficulty with her hip. This turned out to be a good call as it ended up being a nine and half hour walk (that pretty much did me in!)

 

The ANZAC crosses.
The ANZAC crosses.

Once again we climbed our way up out of the bay and then it was a series of ups and downs along the ridgeline with amazing views into Kenepuru Sound, before making it out to the road at the top of Portage Bay. A moving tribute of ANZAC white crosses greeted us at the top of the road next to the tall memorial covered in wreaths to the 29 “Sounds” men who had lost their lives in the war. It was ANZAC Day, the 100 year memorial.

Andrea greeted us as we limped up the driveway to our accommodation at Treetops. The heater was on, the wine was cooling and the table was covered in nibbles. We gratefully collapsed as the weather closed in around us. I had planned for us to go kayaking in the bay the next morning but cancelled it instead. The forecast was pretty bad and going to get worse. We had the next day free to rest and recuperate and we all took full advantage of it. I crashed in bed for the whole day, just emerging to eat a bit of food before hibernating again. The others explored the bay, played scrabble, read and rested (and wined and dined!)

Even in the rain, it's still so pretty.
Even in the rain, it’s still so pretty.

Our last day’s walk was hard! A long, slow climb (about 2 hrs) up and out along the ridge in torrential rain and strong winds. The rain didn’t let up all day till we got to Anakiwa. Often we were trekking through streams of water as they flowed along the path, creating little waterfalls that tumbled into the bush below. Little stops here and there for water and soggy bits of food, constant slipping over on the slippery clay track, keeping an eye out for each other, making sure we were all hanging in there.

The very welcome sight of Anakiwa!
The very welcome sight of Anakiwa!

Anakiwa Bay was such a welcome sight! Even though we had missed our ferry we knew another one was on the way to get us and it gave us time to get out of our wet clothes, put some dry ones on and have a bite to eat. Our ferry arrived and we all sank into the warmth congratulating ourselves on such a mammoth effort as it sped us over the water and into Picton. Yes, it was a mixed bag of an adventure (and I’m still recuperating in bed as I write this) but I wouldn’t have missed it! Queen Charlotte Track is still right up there as one of my most favourite walks!

Yaay! We did it!
Yaay! We did it!

Great Barrier Island Adventure – Feb 2015

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There I was sitting up the front of the little 6 seater plane, (we’re talking ‘front’ as in right next to the pilot with my own little steering wheel and foot pedals wiggling away in front of me) zooming down the runway and lifting off into the bright blue sunshiney sky! I couldn’t wipe the big grin off my face but managed to stop myself whooping out loud! What a thrill – I can see why people get into learning to fly!

Climbing into our little plane.
Climbing into our little plane.

Due to some unfortunate last minute cancellations there was just the 3 of us heading over to Great Barrier Island for 4 days tramping. And what glorious 4 days they were! Perfect weather conditions, absolutely stunning scenery, awesome tracks, lovely friendly locals, quirky accommodation, beautiful swimming, kayaking, wining, dining……we had it all!

 

Coming in to land at Claris
Coming in to land at Claris

 

Flying out over the Hauraki Gulf was amazing…seeing and identifying all the different islands below us then watching as Great Barrier Island came closer and closer. Before we knew it we were bumping over the grassy runway at Claris. It seems the tar sealed runway is for take-offs and the grass is for the landings….

 

The cute little art gallery with the honesty box.
The cute little art gallery with the honesty box.

 

We were picked up by the very friendly and informative Lianne from Go Great Barrier Island shuttle service and taken over to Medlands Beach where we started our first track, the Kowhai Valley Track, over to Tryphena where we were to stay the night. We had a steep climb up and then over the ridge and down the gravelly road into Tryphena. At the top of the climb there was this cute little art gallery “Top of the Rock” with some lovely art pieces and photography and an honesty box for you to pay for what you bought. Not often you see that these days….especially in an art gallery!

 

Our accommodation at The Irish Pub
Our accommodation at The Irish Pub

We stayed at one of the oldest establishments on the island, The Innkeepers Lodge at the Irish Pub which as far as accommodation goes, has seen better days, though the pub was great and had a few locals sitting there strumming and singing with their guitars.

 

 

Watching the surfers at Whangapoua.
Watching the surfers at Whangapoua.

The next morning we were picked up and taken up near the top of the island to do the Harataonga Coastal Track and it was absolutely stunning! Beautiful bay after beautiful bay…..it was almost a case of, what, another stunning bay! The track was easy and meandered gently up and down overlooking the bright turquoise sparkling blue ocean.

 

Wiltshire Manor with the memorable museum at the front.
Wiltshire Manor with the memorable museum at the front.

Lianne was waiting for us at Harataonga bay, (another gorgeous bay) and took us to Claris and our accommodation at Wiltshire Manor (a rather pretentious name) but still very comfortable and cosy accommodation. We can highly recommend the museum there that the owner, David, has built and put together. You could easily spend a couple of hours just reading and looking at all the stuff he has there.

 

That evening as we strolled along the road to ‘The Club’ for dinner, a local woman picked us up and gave us a lift and then on the way home we got another ride in the back of a ute (and we weren’t even hitching. :))

We climbed up and over this - Te Ahumata.
We climbed up and over this – Te Ahumata.

We were up bright and early the next morning for the Te Ahumata Track which would take us over to Whangaparapara. We ended up getting a lift to the start of the track with Lianne and a van load of other trampers. Apart from this group, we saw no-one on the tracks the whole time we were over there. This track took us right up to the top of a flat topped rocky precipice which looked way harder than what it actually was, and the views……..INCREDIBLE!

 

The view out the front of Great Barrier Lodge - so tranquil...
The view out the front of Great Barrier Lodge – so tranquil…

We sauntered down the road into Whangaparapara; tui’s whistling, cicada’s singing, sun sparkling on the water, the gentle lapping of the sea….paradise…. We sat on the rolling green lawn in front of the Gulf Harbour Lodge and basked in the beauty, letting the calm tranquility soak into our souls. After a leisurely picnic lunch and a good rest under the big pine tree, we took the kayaks out for an exploratory paddle around the bay and into the inlet. A lovely refreshing swim later, a shower and a fresh change of clothes and a cold, crisp bottle of Sauvignon Blanc while sitting on our deck in the late afternoon sun, completed a beautiful day.

 

Soaking in the Kaitoke Hot Springs - bliss!
Soaking in the Kaitoke Hot Springs – bliss!

Our last track, before we flew out at lunchtime the next day, was along the Tramline Track to the Kaitoke Hot Springs. We set off just before 8am in the soft early morning light along the wide easy old tramline track, up some steeper hills and across some trickling streams. The hot springs were just heavenly and we were so glad that it was a cloudy day as it would have been too hot if the sun had been shining! We wallowed and totally relaxed in the hot mineral water, no-one else there, just us. A very easy, almost wheel chair friendly track, took us out to the road where Steve, Lianne’s other half, met us and dropped us off at the Claris airport.

Great Barrier Island had worked its magic on us and we were three very chilled out, happy and relaxed women as we boarded the plane back to Auckland. Don’t worry if you missed out on this trip, I’ll definitely be doing it again!  Check out the photo gallery for more photos.

Tongariro Crossing – Jan 2015

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As the day heated up we were soon peeling off the layers.

Heading off in the shuttle van to the start of the Tongariro crossing on a mild, sunny, blue sky morning, we were quite sure the met service had got the weather report wrong. It wasn’t going to rain, even our driver said we had more chance of getting sunburnt than wet…….. how wrong we all were!

Heading towards Soda Springs.
Heading towards Soda Springs.

 

We strolled along the easy pathway and board walks, enjoying the tussocky landscape, stopping to peel of layers as the day heated up and being overtaken by literally hoards of other trampers.  Luckily the track is long enough to sort of disperse them, until you get to the toilet sheds and the steep rocky bits! People were dressed in all manner of clothing….some wearing and carrying very little which was quite worrying to see especially later on when the weather turned.

 

The cloud closed in and down came the rain.
The cloud closed in and down came the rain.

We took it slowly up the steep, many staired Devil’s Staircase, pausing to admire the views, have something to eat and marvel at all the people dotted here and there…..  We stopped long enough at the top at Red Crater to oooh and ahhh at the crater, take photos and then get a move on as it was pretty darn cold and windy.  The layers were back on and we were all very pleased to have all the thermals and rain gear ready in our packs.  The cloud closed in and a persistent  drizzle started up that kept going pretty much all the way to the end. Eating sandwiches in the rain isn’t much fun and can make for a soggy lunch!

Enjoying the Ketetahi Track through the forest.
Enjoying the Ketetahi Track through the forest.

We stopped at the Ketetahi Hut, as did scores of others, and quickly backed out of the warm, damp smelling fug of wet bodies huddled in there out of the rain.  We continued on down the never ending zig zag track through the tussock dotted with alpine daisies, through the stunted ti trees and down into the leafy green forest.  We were hurrying now, on a mission to get to the car park before our shuttle left at 3.30pm.  We got there just in time….well 5 min late and it was a relief to finally sit down and rest our sore feet.

 

All showered, relaxing before going out to dinner.
All showered, relaxing before going out to dinner.

 

 

 

Back at our ‘Book a Batch’ accommodation we got showered and cleaned up and enjoying a wine or two before we headed out to dinner.  It had been a thoroughly enjoyable day despite the weather.  In fact, I think the weather kind of added to the enjoyment of the day.

7am, Ngauruhoe on the right, Tongariro on the left. We walked through the dip between them.
Ngauruhoe on the right, Tongariro on the left. We walked through the dip between them. Looks quite easy from here!

 

Sunset Kayak to Rangitoto Island – Dec 2014

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Anne Marie and Rebecca kayaking with ease.

10pm on a Saturday night…..I could be out at a noisy, lively bar celebrating with Christmas cheer.  I could be snuggled up on the couch watching a DVD with my hubby.  I could be early to bed reading a good book…….but here I am, smoothly, silently, slicing through the black waters with my paddle, full moon at my back, city lights sparkling way ahead, all around me quiet, peaceful darkness with just the “tail lights” of the other kayaks gliding through the darkness with me.

We are on our back to St Heliers having kayaked over in the late afternoon to walk to the top of Rangitoto Island and watch the sunset.

It was pretty choppy out there...
It was pretty choppy out there…

 

Setting off in choppy seas, (no white caps though) our kayaks felt very stable as we rocked and rolled our way over to the island.

 

 

 

 

Tea, coffee and muffins before we head up to the top of Rangitoto.
Tea, coffee and muffins before we head up to the top of Rangitoto.

 

 

Once we got there we pulled our kayaks right up out of the water and had a very welcome hot drink with muffins, muesli bars and apples.

 

 

 

On the trail to the top.
On the trail to the top.

 

 

Then it was off for a very nice chatty walk up to the top of the island.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silvery light over Auckland.
Silvery light over Auckland.

The view from the top of Rangitoto island never fails to disappoint, it is always spectacular.  This time there was a lovely silvery light as the sun shone through the heavy clouds.  There was no real fiery sunset but that didn’t matter at all.

 

And the moon comes up....
And the moon comes up….

 

We walked back down, enjoying the evening light and as we arrived back to the wharf, the moon slowly rose up in front of us.  She was beautiful!  With our backs to the setting sun, we all excitedly took photos and marveled at the beauty of the moon!

 

 

Enjoying our BBQ dinner before we headed back.
Enjoying our BBQ dinner before we headed back.

We sat, eating out BBQ steak with couscous and pasta salads, watching the moon and feeling very happy and satisfied.

 

By now it was 9pm, time to pack up the kayaks, turn on our little tail lights and paddle back.

The first time I kayaked in the dark I remember feeling rather nervous, this time though, I relaxed and thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of being cocooned in the near darkness, the friendly full moon at my back giving just enough light.  The peaceful feeling of gliding through the dark water was euphoric.  10pm on a Saturday night……I know exactly where I’d rather be!

So pretty.  This kayak adventure was more about the moonrise than the sunset!
So pretty. This kayak adventure was more about the moonrise than the sunset!