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23 2017 Mar

Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail – Mar 2017

The Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail has got to be one of THE most stunning cycle trails around. Superlatives abound when describing the trail and they are well justified.  With its snowy mountain ranges, wide open grassy plains, shady tree lined streams, intensely blue canals and lakes……its beauty is all around everywhere, every day you cycle.  Needless to say, we all LOVED it.

The Wall of Remembrance in Christchurch.

Our adventure started in Christchurch.  We all arrived at our YHA accommodation at different times of the day depending on flights.  Some of us went off for a bus tour and then a walk around the CBD to see the effect of the earthquakes.  I was actually really shocked.  I hadn’t been to Christchurch since before the earthquakes and I didn’t expect it to still look so bad.  There seems to be endless road cones everywhere, crushed buildings with sheets of plastic and “keep out” tape flapping in the breeze.  Yes, there has been some building going on and there are some lovely little areas and lots of beautiful artistic ‘graffiti’ and the Botanic Gardens are looking great….but…..I really thought there would have been a lot more done in the CBD area.

Our arrival day ended with dinner out where we all officially met each other.  We were all feeling excited and really looking forward to the next 6 days together on the A2O.

Day One – Tekapo to Twizel – 54km (5.5 hrs)

We were all up and organised early for breakfast at the YHA then a short walk down the road to catch the 8am bus to Tekapo where our bikes were being delivered.  It was a lovely bus ride, the beautiful scenery all around us was certainly an indicator of what was to come.

Our bus dropped us off at the busy car parking space on the shores of the lake.  Camper vans and tourists were everywhere.  We had time to head to the local pub for some lunch before our bikes arrived.

And we’re off!

It takes a wee while to get 12 women all fitted out properly on their bikes, little adjustments here and there but soon enough after the obligatory “at the start” photos were taken we headed off…..only to find that it was a bit confusing actually getting out of Tekapo.  Finally we were on the right path and we just breezed along beside the incredible turquoise blue canal waters of the Tekapo Canal.

However, our ‘breezing’ along soon changed to ‘battling’ along against a vicious side wind that threatened to topple us off our bikes, some even had to get off and walk. It didn’t last too long though but it certainly tired us out.

Me, in my happy place.

Whizzing along the Pukaki Flats into Twizel was one of the main highlights of this whole adventure for me. I loved the huge wide open space, the purple shadows on the rolling hills, the vast blue sky with surreal cloud formations.  My soul soared, my heart sang, I was in heaven!

After a quick supermarket visit we biked around to our accommodation in 2 separate houses and settled in for the night, feeling like we’d biked 80 odd k’s instead of 54!

Day Two – Twizel to Lake Ohau – 38km (4 hrs)

This morning a few of our bikes needing “tweaking” so we stopped off at the bike depot and had adjustments made before heading off following the river trail out of Twizel.  There were a few big gusts as we cycled along the Ohau Canal but nothing like we had had the day before.  Lunch was at the Ohau Dam and then we were off again cycling a lovely trail around the edges of Lake Ohau.  Lots of twisting, turning, little ups and downs, through scrubby growth full of bright red rose-hip bushes and surrounded by massive hills and mountains, most of them with pockets of snow at the top.

Lake Ohau Lodge.

As beautiful as it was, by the time we reached the road into the little settlement of Lake Ohau we were ready to stop, though we had another 5km to go to go our accommodation at Lake Ohau Lodge.  And what a relief it was to get to such a stunning place.  We had very nice twin share rooms and soon we were showered, rested and enjoying our pre dinner drinks in the lounge overlooking the lake.  After an absolutely sumptuous dinner and lots of laughter and stories we each retired for a well earned sleep.  We were definitely going to need it for the day ahead!

Day Three – Lake Ohau to Omarama – 45km (6hrs)

Climbing up to the pass.

Today we were in for a long steady climb up to the pass and then pretty much downhill all the way to Omarama.  Sounds relatively easy…….  On our way up to the pass it started spitting with rain and getting bitterly cold.  At times the path was steep and rocky and right on the edge of a long drop down to the hills below.  Some of the group needed to get off and walk and we ended up in two separate groups.  There was no time to stop and regroup at the top of the pass as it was just too cold.  Despite the cold we all marvelled at the beauty that surrounded us and there were still lots of quick photo stops!

No, it’s not a mirage, it really is a coffee van!

It was a fast and furious ride down from the top on a stoney trail that wound its way down to the plains below.  We had heard that there was a coffee van at the old historic wool-shed but didn’t want to get our hopes up just in case it wasn’t there…..We still could hardly believe our eyes when there in the absolute middle of no-where, like a surreal mirage,  was the coffee van with lattes, flat whites, hot chocolates, the works!  We practically swooned with delight.

Enjoying our hot chocolates!

Sitting in a sheltered spot in the sun with our hot chocolate, eating our lunch was just heavenly.

And on we went….. Unfortunately there was no time for the side trip up to the Clay Cliffs but we managed to meet up with some of the first group who had made the one and a half hour detour to view this amazing sight.

Heavenly hot tub spa!

Our motel accommodation in Omarama was a very welcome sight and the long soak in hot tub spa over the road was absolutely divine!   Dinner was at the local pub just down the road and then it was off to bed for an early night.

 

Day Four – Omarama to Kurow – 80km (8hrs)

Today was an incredibly beautiful ride but just a bit too long as we had extra mileage added on to get to our farm stay accommodation out of Kurow.  It was a very chilly start to the day with frost on our bike seats and we were all bundled up in our thermals and gloves as we headed off on what was to be one of the most beautiful days on the cycle trail.

We sped along beside Lake Benmore, it’s deep blue waters sparkling in the sun, then up onto State Highway 83 where we carefully rode in single file as we climbed up to the Otematata saddle with big trucks roaring past.

Cafe stop at Otematata.

Our morning tea stop was at the Otematata café.  We stocked up on food for our lunch at the local Four Square before heading off on the next section.  It was a short but pretty steep climb up to the top of the Benmore Dam and what a stunning view from the top.

Our blissful lunch stop on the shores of Lake Aviemore.

We couldn’t have asked for better conditions as we cycled around Lake Aviemore, it was so sunny, still and calm that you could clearly see the reflection of the surrounding hills in the lake.  Golden leaves on the trees that fringed the lake, a flock of sheep being herded ahead of us, crab apples ripe (but still sour) for the picking, the warm sun on our back, our lunch stop sitting gazing at the lake, were just some of the delights.

A lovely flat riverside ride took us into the small town of Kurow where Richie McCaw stands proudly in his All Black splendour.  We rode on through and stopped at the Kurow Winery for much needed refreshments as we were all starting to feel the effects of our long day.    In hindsight, we should have all been picked up from the Kurow Winery and taken to our farm-stay accommodation as the extra k’s were just a bit too far for most.

After showers and a rest we gathered together for pre dinner drinks and then a wonderful huge home cooked meal before retiring.  All up, it had been a beautiful but huge day’s ride!

Day Five –  Kurow to Burnside Road – 55km (6hrs)

After a lovely big breakfast we were all packed and ready to go.  4 of us were taken to where we had stashed our bikes under some trees beside the road when we got a lift up to the farm the day before.  The rest (who had bravely rode their bikes) all the way, headed off from the farm to meet us at the crossroads…..except it didn’t quite happen that way.  Due to a misunderstanding we all missed each other but we eventually all met up together when a local stopped was able to courier the message to those of us who were waiting, (phone coverage wasn’t that good there.)

It was a lovely easy start to what was to be quite a hilly day.  We sped along the highway before getting back onto the trail, wending and weaving our way through pockets of shady trees, through paddocks and alongside the river and eventually into Duntroon.  We were looking forward to a coffee stop but there was no café.  However we found out there was a coffee machine at the Vanished World Museum so we a happy bunch of women sitting in the sun outside the museum sipping our coffees and eating our huge morning tea that was part of our farm stay packed lunch.

Elephant rocks.

There were a couple of historic sights for us to visit on our way.  We stopped at the Takiroa Maori rock art drawings and then started on one of the many climbs we were to do that day.  We stopped and admired the Elephant Rocks, and then it was another long and winding climb up to Island View, with fast and fun down-hills!  An abrupt turn took us off the road and onto the trail that goes through Rakis Tunnel.  Out came the torches as we walked our bikes through and out the other side where we cycled through lovely little pine forest glades carpeted with pine needles and then another long hot hill, cycling in the sun to the top of Peaks Rd.  Most of us found our way up to Burnside Rd but unfortunately a couple of the front riders continued on the cycle trail and ended up cycling into Enfield before being redirected back to our accommodation at Burnside Historic Homestead.

Burnside Homestead.

Our last night on the A2O was spent in THE most beautiful accommodation.  Practically all the women had their own rooms, all decorated in the old period style.  There were 4 poster beds, free standing claw foot baths; it was like we had stepped back in time. Even the couple that run the place are dressed in period costume.  We wined, dined and slept in absolute luxury and loved every minute of it.

Day Six – Burnside Rd to Oamaru – 20km (2hrs)

We all slept so well and woke feeling refreshed, most of us wanting to stay an extra day and just enjoy the place a bit more.  We had a beautiful big breakfast before we cycled off to Oamaru, literally just down the road, and the end of the trail.  Once again the sun was shining and the conditions were perfect as we sped along what used to be an old railway line.  I cycled along thinking of all the beautiful places we had seen on the last 6 days, it was almost overwhelming and I felt quite emotional as I cycled into Oamaru.  What a lovely way to end the trail, riding through the Oamaru Botanical Gardens and on through the Victorian Historic Precinct with its alleyway type streets leading to the Oamaru Harbour.

We made it!

We gathered together for the obligatory “end of the trail” photos, all feeling immensely happy and proud of what we’d achieved.

 

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14 2015 Nov

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

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.)

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29 2015 Oct

Hawkes Bay Cycling Weekend – Oct 2015

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!

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3 2015 Jun

Rotorua Adventure Weekend – May 2015

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!

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4 2015 May

Beautiful Bali! – April 2016

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.

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1 2014 Nov

Timber Trail – Pureora Forest – Oct 2014

Speeding flat tack down the bumpy forest trail, cold wind whipping past, eyes watering, intensely focused on the rutted, pot-holed, muddy, branch strewn track. Standing, crouched low on my pedals, body leaning forwards over the handlebars, fingers splayed lightly over the brakes, alert to all the possible dangers…..this was totally exciting, exhilarating and scary!

This was The Timber Trail.

Four of us were in the heart of the Pureora Forest to do the 85km mountain bike trail with little idea of what to really expect. We knew it would be a challenge, but just how challenging, how tough, how physically and mentally demanding it would turn out to be, we didn’t yet know. By the end of Day One we knew and our numbers reduced to half.

Our two injured and very knackered women get a lift back on the quad bike.

Our two injured and very knackered women get a lift back on the quad bike.

 

Two of the group ended up having to be picked up by quad bike near the halfway mark as both were exhausted. One had a nasty deep gash in her leg where the pedal had gouged her when she came off, the other had come off over the front of her handle bars and was pretty sore as well. Both decided to flag Day Two and rest, re-coop and explore the many different walks around our accommodation art Blackfern Lodge.

 

Sandy and I soldiered on. And we were glad we did, though it took everything we had and we’re both pretty fit women! We cycled over huge suspension bridges that swayed in the strong breeze, we cycled through dark, natural tunnels made of over arching trees and ferns and through a ‘real tunnel’, through regenerating forest, through old mossy lined forest and up steep forest tracks. It was beautiful with stunning views across the valleys. Best of all was the 30km fast ride down hill pretty much all the way to Ongarue.

It gets pretty windy being up so high!

It gets pretty windy being up so high!

Riding through the forest tunnels.

Riding through the forest tunnels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, it was challenging, demanding, tough but if you’re fit and into mountain biking, you’ll love it!

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28 2014 Oct

Samoan Cycling Adventure- Oct 2014

Day One: Arrival Day

Ahh Samoa……soft warm sunshine embracing us as we step off the plane, guitars strumming, melodic voices harmonising as we go through customs, flowery shirts, lava lava’s, jandals and smiling brown faces…..We have arrived and are feeling fine, just fine!

Our van driver awaits us, we are taken just up the road to Airport Lodge where we pick up our bikes and are given a thorough briefing and then we’re off….our first stop is Aggie Grey’s only 4km up the road where we stop for lunch and a swim before catching the ferry over to Savaii.

Biking off the ferry and off to our accommodation just 2km away at Lusia's Lagoon Chalets.

Biking off the ferry and off to our accommodation just 2km away at Lusia’s Lagoon Chalets.

 

The thrum of the engines, the soporific warmth and our general tiredness after such an early start to our day, means that one by one we succumb and start nodding off. It’s been a long day.

An hour later we arrive on the island of Savaii and excitedly ride off the ferry and a short 1km later we are at Lusia’s, our upmarket accommodation for the night. Ahh, what bliss! We shower, we rest, take a look around, have a lovely meal and with not much else to do and feeling very much in need of it, we head off to our rooms for an early night.

Day Two: Lusia’s to Lano – 20km

First stop today is the big market place a couple of km’s up the road to buy what we need for lunches and snacks for the next few days. I have my shopping list and together we choose delicious tropical fruits, tomatoes, cucumbers, bread, tuna, spreads etc and load it all into our support van.

Doing the groceries shopping at the market.

Doing the groceries shopping at the market.

 

By this time it was mid morning and getting pretty hot. Even though it was only a short ride today, we needed to get going before the midday heat hit us. We were certainly looking forward to our fresh water swim stop at the John Williams memorial pool and it was divine!

So cool and so refreshing!

So cool and so refreshing!

 

 

 

 

A deep, cool, natural spring water pool by the side of the road where we wallowed, feeling totally refreshed and energised. Fresh juicy mangoes and paw paw followed and 5 happy women then cycled off for a further 30 min to our accommodation at Lano.

 

 

 

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Our fales at Lano, right on the beach.

Our fales were right on the beach and at high tide the water went right under us! We put our bags that were waiting for us into our fales, had a lovely picnic lunch with our ‘market food’, rested, went swimming and snorkelling, sat on the beach sipping mojito’s and eating potato chips……….Bliss !!!

Dinner was meant to be an umu (traditional Samoan meal cooked in hot coals) but a breakdown in communication meant that the staff were not told and so we missed out. We were disappointed but I knew we’d more than likely get an umu meal further on in the trip, which we did.

Day 3: Lano to Manase – 33km

Up and organised, our breakfast was Samoan cocoa porridge which was like a chocolate tasting runny sago (not too bad once I mixed our muesli into it) fresh tropical fruit and an omelette.

We were away by 8:30am with the warm wind at our back, skimming along the deserted road, through villages full of the children’s cheerful cries of “bye bye, bye bye!” We were to hear “bye bye’s” throughout our trip and no matter how many times you cheerfully called “bye bye” back to them they just kept on calling it. There were definitely times when we were puffing and panting up hills, dripping with sweat, sandwiched between the sun beating down and the heat of the road ‘beating up’ (if there’s such a thing) when the last thing you had any energy for was to cheerfully call out a returned “bye bye!”

Cycling up hot jungle roads.

Cycling through hot jungle roads.

 

Through the hot jungle roads we cycled with the trees completely covered in jungle weed, through villages with piglets scuttling, chickens scratching, roosters crowing, fires smoking and everywhere friendly faces waving, smiling and calling out hello or bye bye!

 

 

 

 

A view of the lava inside the church.

A view of the lava inside the church.

 

Stopping at the Mauga lava fields we guzzle down fresh, cold coconut juice straight from the coconut (so pleased we put them in the fridge the night before) and feast on sweet, juicy paw paws before we take a tour through the ruins of the church that was destroyed when a meter of lava flowed through it during the volcano eruptions that happened between 1906 and 1911. What is fascinating is that the lava flowed everywhere except over the burial site of the chief’s daughter.

20 min of cycling later and we were at our accommodation at Jne’s Beach Fales in Manase. We are shown to our lovely open fales and I’m back in the same fale that I’ve had 3 times now. It’s looking a bit in need of repair and the deck out the front has a definite lean on it but it still brings back fond memories of my first stay in Samoa with my husband and 5 years later when we brought 2 of our grandkids over. I admit I felt a little bit homesick and teary eyed…..

My familiar fale.

My familiar fale.

A lovely picnic lunch, a nice long rest, a swim and a snorkel and pre dinner cocktails at the beach bar rounded off the afternoon nicely. A large group of Samoan high school teachers were having a Professional Development weekend and were sitting in groups out on the grass singing, laughing and supposedly practising their skits for that night’s performance. All we seemed to hear was them cracking up laughing all the time. I wish my PD weekends when I was a teacher had been as much fun!

After dinner and chatting to the other guests we ended up with drinks on the (sloping) deck of my fale before heading off to bed for what was to be a very stormy night. I awoke during the night to flashes of sheet lightning far out at sea, the sound of the waves crashing and then surging under my fale and horizontal rain lashing in through the open door. Luckily my bed was behind a wall so I didn’t get wet but the matting on the floor was pretty soggy in the morning…..

 Day 4: Manase to Vaisala – 42km

What a long hot day’s ride this was and yet it started so beautifully! We left later than what we had planned and were on the road by 8am. Cycling along in the cool, fresh, clean morning air was so uplifting. Everything smelt and looked like it had been washed clean from last night’s storm. The colours were all so vivid and bright. The greens of the jungle, the turquoise blues of the ocean, the reds and pinks of the flowers and the yellow and orange of the village fales were a feast for the eyes. We sped along through the quiet and peaceful coastal villages delighting in it all, big smiles on our faces.

Getting a bit of Samoan manpower to push us up those hills!

Getting a bit of Samoan manpower to push us up those hills!

 

Then the road headed up and inland, through the jungle area and it got hotter. Gone were the gentle sea breezes, gone was the flat easy cycling road as with faces flushed and sweat dripping we cycled up the long hills panting in the heat.

Stopping in the shade by the side of the road for our fresh tropical fruit morning tea totally revived us and on we went up and down the undulating road that gradually headed over to the coast.

 

Before getting there though we stopped at the Aopo Lava Tubes, an amazing network of tunnels or tubes that goes for miles, where the lava flowed underground and out to sea creating these huge lava tubes where little swiftlets birds live. With our torches and headlamps we were led through some of these tunnels while swiftlets fluttered like bats around our heads.

A very welcome coconut and pawpaw stop.....it was very hot biking!

A very welcome coconut and pawpaw stop…..it was very hot biking!

 

 

By this time it was lunchtime and we were starving. Cycling uses up a lot of energy! Another big picnic lunch with loads of fresh juicy pineapple and then we were on our way again. What’s that they say about ‘mad dogs and Englishmen…..”

 

 

Our next and ‘bestest’ stop was the big fresh water swimming pool at Agua Asau.

A very welcome swim after a long, hot and hilly ride to Vaisala.

A very welcome swim after a long, hot and hilly ride to Vaisala.

We sped down the long jungle hill road knowing that this pool was waiting for us and what a welcome relief it was!! Slipping our hot sweaty bodies, fully clothed into the cool, crystal clear water was pure bliss! We frolicked, we dunked, we did handstands, we lay on our backs and floated enjoying every energy reviving minute!

Another 4km and we had made it to Vaisala Hotel – a large, sprawling, ‘seen better days’ old fashioned hotel right on the beach and what a welcome sight it was. This was definitely our hardest day on the trip and we were all glad it was over and we had a full rest day to look forward to the next day.

Our bikes were stashed in a large empty room and we were shown our rooms with big heavy double and single beds, ceiling fans, air con and fridges……SORTED!

View from the water of our accommodation at Vaisala where we stayed for 2 nights.

View from the water of our accommodation at Vaisala where we stayed for 2 nights.

 

We spent the next few hours refreshing and reviving ourselves with showers, rests, swims and the obligatory pre dinner drinks. We ended up having our first late night (we’re talking just after 10pm!) The other guests were from William Colenso College in Napier and we were treated to an impromptu performance as well as a bit of a fia fia from the Vaisala staff. You can bet we all slept well that night!

 

Day Five: Rest Day

How timely that our day of rest ended up being on a Sunday. Three of us were taken to the local village church, a lovely light, airy, open, cool and breezy church. About 150 villagers all in white, solemnly sat all around us. It turned out to be the yearly christening service and there were lots of babies looking like little dolls in their lacy, pretty, frilly little dresses being proudly taken, usually by their grandmothers, up to the minister to be christened with a sprinkling of water on their foreheads.

Inside the beautiful church.  We LOVED the singing!

Inside the beautiful church. We LOVED the singing!

 

Though we didn’t understand a word of the prayers, the sermon or the songs we still enjoyed the whole experience, especially the singing.

Oh my, the singing!! The men’s deep voices surging and swelling like a Welsh choir, the rich and harmonising women’s voices together creating such a worshipful sound, it was well worth going for the singing alone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was actually quite a rough ride round to Vaimoana!

It was actually quite a rough ride round to Vaimoana!

For lunch we decided to get a ride on the pontoon around to Vaimoana, a lovely resort and spend some time there. It turned out to be a rather choppy sea and we were pretty much drenched by the time we got there. Luckily the trip back wasn’t quite so choppy.

We enjoyed a lovely lunch, a bit of a snorkel (not nearly as good as the snorkelling at Vaisala) and two of the group treated themselves to a massage.

It had been a lovely, much needed, relaxing day and we were all ready after some more snorkelling when we got back, drinks and then dinner, for an early night.

Day 6: Vaisala to Falealupo – 19km

It’s amazing what a day’s rest can do. We were up and on the road by 8am and all feeling keen and looking forward to our short ride to Falealupo at the very top and most remote part of the island. Yes, it was a short ride but she had a killer hill in the middle of it!

We started out cycling through these lovely little coastal villages and then the road turned inland with a short sharp climb that then continued on still climbing till we reached the loop road turnoff. It felt like it was never ending and even though it was only mid morning it was very hot and humid. At the top of the long hill was a little shop that sold these delicious milky vanilla iceblocks, sold in little plastic tubes. They were absolutely delicious and just what we needed!

Ice-blocks were such a welcome treat for us hot sweaty cyclists.

Ice-blocks were such a welcome treat for us hot sweaty cyclists.

 

Within minutes we were off again and turning on to the loop road we continued on a sandy, pot-holed, rugged road that had virtually no traffic. We sped along, up and down the easy undulating hills, enjoying the coastal breeze. We even saw a huge pod of dolphins frolicking and leaping and splashing about.

 

Only a few more kms and we arrived at what is my favourite place to stay, Falealupo. The accommodation is so basic and so simple and the location is just stunning. I think the remoteness adds to the beauty of the place. We stayed in little beach fales only meters from the sea with gently waving palms dotted here and there. There is a toilet/shower block and an eating fale and that’s it. There seems to be an atmosphere to the place that just invites and allows you to just stop, relax and quietly enjoy. And so we did.

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Lovely remote Falealupo.

 

We slept, we read, we wallowed in the shallows and when the tide came all the way in, we snorkelled. Dinner was cooked for us and served to us at a table on the beach. That night I lay in my open fale watching the full moon slip across the night sky, listening to the waves crashing far out on the reef, feeling the warm soft breeze gently billowing out my mosquito net…………

 

Day 7: Falealupo to Satuiatua – 38km

The relaxed atmosphere of the place meant we got away later than what we should have if we wanted to avoid the heat that would hit us from mid morning on. At 8:15am we headed off down gorgeous coconut palm tree avenues, beside rocky shorelines of pounding frothy surf and then once again the road turned inland and up we started to climb. We climbed pretty much all the way out to the main road. From there on it was easy going and we just loved speeding along with the breeze cooling us down. One more big long hill before we stopped at Lovers Leap for a break and some coconuts.

Lots more undulating hills in the hot sun through villages with carefully swept and manicured gardens, children calling out their “bye bye’s”, skinny, tired looking horses tied by the side of the road, groups of people just sitting under trees, in fales, outside shops and lots of pigs, chickens and dogs. (We had no trouble from dogs chasing us or barking at us. If any looked like they might chase or bark at us we’d just shout, “Ah loo!” and they’d leave us alone.)

What a welcome sight our accommodation was at Satuiatua Beach Fales. Our fales, once again, were right on the beach but with a difference. They were all under this HUGE banyan tree. Our support van had gone ahead, as per usual, and dropped our bags off so we trundled and lugged our bags down to our fales before ordering our lunch.

Our fales on the beach under the HUGE banyan tree.

Our fales on the beach under the HUGE banyan tree.

 

While we waited we sat, relaxed and enjoyed some fresh banana bread still warm from being baked in the umu. Yum!! Along the way, we have met up with a few other kiwi’s and aussie’s and all are suitably impressed and envious of our cycling adventure. It really is the perfect way to explore a place.

 

We enjoyed an afternoon sleep after our lunch while we waited for the tide to come in and then we were all off snorkelling in one of the best snorkelling places on Savaii. We walked down to the far end of the beach and then swam out into the channel where the gentle current carried us along over all the coral just teeming with fish. No sooner had we finished snorkelling and got back to our fales than it poured down with rain which looked really weird as the sun was still shining. Warm, dry and sheltered, we watched the rain from under the banyan tree fales.

Grating the coconut before squeezing it in this fibrous stuff to make coconut milk.

Grating the coconut before squeezing it in this fibrous stuff to make coconut milk.

Just before dinner some of us went and took part in a coconut cream making demonstration. We sat and grated the coconut, then squeezed it through this fibrous loofa type material, till eventually there was only the milky creamy liquid left.

Pre-dinner drinks sitting and chatting together, a delicious fish curry for dinner, finishing off with kahlua over ice-cream for dessert and we were very happy little campers. Off to bed early as we had an early start the next morning.

 

Day 8: Satuiatua to Sili – 40km

We loved having an early start this morning. We were on the road by 7.30am and it’s definitely the best part of the day. There’s such a beautiful, clean, fresh smell in the early morning. The road was easy with undulating hills and we happily cycled along, stopping to take photos, buy fruit, or chat to the kids along the way. We came across a very welcome mini geyser leak in the water pipe beside the road and all jumped off our bikes and stood fully clothed in the sprinkler, an instant refresher!

Thar she blows! Coconuts were dropped in to the blowhole and blown sky high!

Thar she blows! Coconuts were dropped in to the blowhole and blown sky high!

 

 

Next stop was Taga and the Alofaaga Blowholes. These are amazing! The hiss and the roar and the sheer power of the sea as it literally ROARS through the holes in the rocks and shoots up into the sky is incredible! We shouted and clapped with glee!!

 

 

 

 

Enjoying a pounding good wash!

Enjoying a pounding good wash!

 

Then we were off again, next stop one of 8 waterfalls in the world that fall into the sea. We stood under the falls, pummelled by the force of the water as it tumbled over the rocky ledge and onto the beach below. Feeling energised and revitalised we hopped back onto our bikes and 10 min later we were at our home-stay accommodation in Sili, a little village a few km inland off the main road.

 

We stayed with the family of the local chief and it is definitely one of the highlights of this trip. They are such a lovely, friendly, family who treated us so well. After lunch and a rest in our fale we went for a walk through the village and stopped off at the fale next door where the local women’s committee were busy weaving huge mats. Within minutes they had us joining in not only the weaving but also up dancing with them as they sang and danced around us. It was such a happy, joyful and impromptu time together.

We were shown how to weave the flax ....

We were shown how to weave the flax .

 

Then it was off to the river for a lovely refreshing swim with the local children before we wandered back and rested in our fale, waiting for the umu to cook our dinner.

 

And what a lovely dinner it was! Huge amounts of coconut cream wrapped in taro leaves, chicken and noodles in the rich soupy broth, eggplant, tomato and onion mixture fried together. It was all so tasty and delicious. Our hostess Kisa, chatted with us throughout the meal while the rest of the family chatted and waited in the adjoining “kitchen fale”. Once we had finished they came in, cleared away what we hadn’t eaten and ate that themselves.

The start of our evening of singing and dancing was a lovely hymn from Kisa's niece.

The start of our evening of singing and dancing was a lovely hymn from Kisa’s niece.

 

After dinner we all came together and had a very entertaining and lively evening with lots of reciprocal singing, finishing off with a special request for the Hokey Tokey. (They remembered it from last year’s group.)

 

It had been a full on day and we were all ready for a good night’s sleep…..unfortunately though, this was not to be! Dogs barked and fought, roosters crowed at hours when roosters are not supposed to crow and one by one we crunched our way over the volcanic gravel, past the 9 sleeping dogs, who didn’t even blink at us, to use the outhouse. At about 5am the eldest son was up and in the kitchen busily making 150 steamed chicken buns, one each for the stream of local children who later passed by on their way to school.

 

Leaving Sili amid the "peak hour traffic!"

Leaving Sili amid the “peak hour traffic!”

Breakfast for us was a real treat; hot pancakes, steamed chicken buns, cocoa porridge and fruit. Feeling very full, satisfied and happy with our stay with this lovely family, (despite our sleepless night) we headed off on our bikes at “peak hour” traffic time….which meant biking into hordes of school children as they walked in large groups down the road, all happily waving and shouting “bye bye, bye bye” as we weaved and waved amongst them.

 

Day 9: Sili to Salelologa 25km

Leaving the village of Sili behind we rode about 10km along the inland road before coming out onto the main road and stopping off at Afu Ahau waterfalls for a lovely refreshing swim. A short 5 min ride after our swim we stopped to watch the tapa cloth making demonstration.

Having a go at making our own tapa cloth bookmarks.

Having a go at making our own tapa cloth bookmarks.

 

This is a fascinating, interactive demonstration. We were all amazed to see the bark of a spindly tree transformed into a beautifully patterned, soft piece of tapa cloth and enjoyed being part of the process.

Back on our bikes again and into the heat but only for about 9km before we were at the market place. It seemed incredible that 8 days had passed since we were last there buying up our stores to take with us. We had come almost full circle and none of us wanted it to end. We had seen and done so much in those 8 days. First stop in the market was buying our much looked forward to ice creams, then we roamed around buying this and that, chatting with the stall holders (who were always amazed to hear that we had just biked around their island) and had some lunch.

Next stop was the ferry 3 km down the road. While waiting on the ferry we watched a large turtle lazily swimming beside us before disappearing in the depths below. Only one of us had managed to see a turtle when we were out snorkelling so it was a real treat to all get to see one now, even we were weren’t actually in the water with it. Back on Upolo and on our bikes for the last time, we rode the final 3km to Airport Lodge to drop off our bikes, all looking a lot healthier, tanned and more relaxed than when we had arrived.

After a chatty de-brief with Ross and Frances from Outdoor Samoa, we climbed into the van and headed off to Lefaga Bay and our lovely, comfortable accommodation at Valasis Fales. Although we were all feeling rather tired from our long day and sleepless night the night before, we all wanted to see the giant clams for which this bay is famous for and the tide was right for us to snorkel out to see them.

We were so glad that we did! They were HUGE! About 1 metre long and half a metre wide with big open “lips” that would slowly close if you hovered your flipper over them. There were about 30 of the big ones and about 20 that were about half that size.

A quick shower and a fresh change of clothes before we sat down to a beautiful 3 course dinner of Thai coconut curry fish chowder, stir fry chicken and veges and banana cake for dessert. Delicious! Our beds were a very welcome sight that night. We all crashed!

Day 10: Upolo Island Tour Day

We had an awesome day today exploring some of the most beautiful places on Upolo. Our first stop was checking out the upmarket beach resort just along from Lefaga Bay called Return to Paradise. It’s not quite the place I’d want to stay at and there are definitely nicer beaches to swim at but it would definitely suit some people.

Climbing down the long ladder to the pool.

Climbing down the long ladder to the pool.

 

From there we went to see Togitogiga Waterfalls which had a lovely big swimming hole and then on to my favourite place, To Sua Trench with it’s big long ladder into the huge deep sinkhole below. We stayed and swam and enjoyed this incredible place.

We had a lovely lunch at Taufua on the bottom of the south coast where most of the damage was done during the cyclone. It was amazing to see how much growth and vegetation there was there now. If it wasn’t for a few derelict, roofless buildings you’d never know of the devastation that was only a few years ago. We continued on to the Sopoaga Waterfalls with its gardens full of named plants.

Our van driver, Alacosi, plays the Samoan drums for us.

Our van driver, Alacosi, plays the Samoan drums for us.

 

Our van driver, Alacosi, entertained us on the Samoan drums and then with a coconut cream making demonstration.

From there we drove on over the island to the other side and swam in the Piula Cave Pool that goes right underneath the theological college that sits on the cliff above. We had time for a quick visit to the Mailelani Soap Factory, a small but very prosperous cottage industry where we all bought soaps and lotions to take home.

By now we were all ready to stop, have a bit of a rest and get freshened up for dinner. Our accommodation at Amanaki was ideal. We retired to our hotel style rooms and luxuriated before meeting up for dinner and cocktails at the hotel restaurant. After a gorgeous meal and a few drinks, bed beckoned but 3 of us decided to have a little wander into Apia and see what the Friday night life was like…… 3 hours later, hot and sweaty from non stop dancing to a great band at Cocktails on the Rocks, we arrived back, happily tired, ready for a shower and bed.

Our lovely upmarket accommodation, Amanaki, in Apia where we stayed for 2 nights.

Our lovely upmarket accommodation, Amanaki, in Apia where we stayed for 2 nights.

Day 11: Apia and our final day.

What a lovely relaxing day this turned out to be. After our totally western style breakfast complete with “flat whites and cappuccino’s” we ambled off down the road to the huge market place.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1042It was a busy, bustling noisy place with colourful arrays of lava lava’s, clothing, tapa cloths, carvings and ornaments. We arranged to meet up an hour later and get a taxi to the home, now a museum, of Robert Louis Stevenson. This is a stunning huge colonial style house set on a huge lawn that was a pineapple plantation when he lived there. It is well worth a visit and the guided tour is very informative.

 

Such cool buses!

Such cool buses!

Our taxi picked us up again and dropped us off at the Home Café, a delightful cool, funky, trendy café with delicious food. From there we caught a local bus back into Apia to our hotel and had a relaxed afternoon, swimming in the pool, resting, reading, meeting up for drinks before dinner, while outside it poured with rain.

 

Our last night’s meal was at the very flash Paddles restaurant further around the bay. We dined in style and with no Saturday night life happening, we headed back to our beds for our last night in Samoa, all feeling a bit sad and sorry that our time had come to an end and we were flying back to the “real world” tomorrow.

It had been an awesome trip. We had had so many different experiences and would be going home with lots of wonderful memories to take a moment to bask in as we went about our busy working lives back in NZ (not to mention heaps of photos!!) I’m planning on going back for another adventure in October 2015. Wanna join me?!

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14 2014 Sep

Cycling – Waiheke Island – Sept 2014

The forecast didn’t look that great as 9 of us headed over to Waiheke Island for a day of cycling, visiting wineries and exploring. Thank goodness we went anyway as the day turned out perfectly!

The sun was shining as we set off on the ferry.

The sun was shining as we set off on the ferry.

Ready to hit the road!

Ready to hit the road!

 

We arrived and met up with 2 of the women who were already over there, got our hire bikes all organised and off we cycled, straight up the first of many hills into Oneroa township.  A cafe was our first stop!

 

Some walked, some cycled, either way, some of those hills were pretty steep!

Some walked, some cycled, either way, some of those hills were pretty steep!

 

Then it was off and up a few more hills as we cycled along the top of the island heading for Onetangi Beach.  After a bit of a “de-brief” at the top of one of the hills we decided to take the easier, quicker route down towards Ostend and round to our destination – Stonyridge Vineyard – where we stopped for our well deserved wine tasting and lunch.  What a gorgeous place it was too!

Well deserved wining and dining!

Well deserved wining and dining!

 

We sat dry and snug, enjoying our delicious food and wines while outside the one and only rainstorm poured down!  Then, “out came the sun and dried up all the rain so off we went a cycling, yet again.”

 

 

 

Over looking Onetangi Beach.

Over looking Onetangi Beach.

 

We ended up splitting into 3 groups, some took the hilly long way back, some took what they thought was the flatter short road back, but ended up the hilly, shorter road and some caught a bus!

 

 

Cycling along The Esplanade at Blackpool Beach.

Cycling along The Esplanade at Blackpool Beach.

What a perfect day!

 

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6 2014 Aug

Cycling the Hawkes Bay – Aug 2014

Six of us headed off down to the “sunny” Hawkes Bay for 3 days exploring the cycle trails that run in, around and through the beautiful Hawkes Bay.

Our chalet accommodation at Clive Motor camp and Chalets.

Our chalet accommodation at Clive Motor camp and Chalets.

Our accommodation were these warm, cosy cabins in Clive.  Once we got settled in and got our bikes organised we then set off for a sunset bike ride along the beach front heading towards Haumoana.

 

 

 

 

The eclectic "Tsunami Bar" on the beach at Clive.

The eclectic “Tsunami Bar” on the beach at Clive.

On the way we stopped off to admire this incredible, eclectic mix of flotsam and jetsam that has been used to build a very creative “Tsunami Beach Bar.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ready to hit the trails on our first morning.

Ready to hit the trails on our first morning.

 

Day One dawned warm and sunny but incredibly windy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

We battled the wind along the waterfront into Napier where we stopped off to learn more about the history of Napier with it’s unique art deco architecture.

Art Deco Tour in Napier.

Art Deco Tour in Napier.

Then it was off again, out to Ahuriri, West Shore and Bay View.  At times we were almost blown off our bikes! After stopping off at the Snapper Cafe at Bay View for lunch, (very nice) we sped back along the cycle path with the wind at our backs.  It felt sooo good!!  Dinner at Mister D’s in Napier that night was absolutely divine!

Looking towards Cape Kidnappers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Two we awoke to spitting rain but no wind so off we headed out west to the Puketapu Pub for lunch.

Cycling beneath the trees on our way to Puketapu.

Cycling beneath the trees on our way to Puketapu.

 

This was a beautiful ride with the trail winding it’s way through fields of cattle, pine trees and alongside the river before coming in to the pretty and picturesque little village of Puketapu.  We sat back in the warmth and cosiness of the pub with it’s roaring fire,  chatted and laughed together and enjoyed our yummy pub lunches.

 

 

 

 

 

Stopping to put our coats on as the rain came down.

Stopping to put our coats on as the rain came down.

On the way back it really started raining and we all looked a mess when we got back….. the wet fine limestone gravel was splattered all up our backs, legs and all over our bikes!  After literally quick 2 min speed showers we all piled in to my van and drove down the road to our sausage making session at John’s house.

 

 

 

Cutting up the meat and mixing the herbs and spices.

Cutting up the meat and mixing the herbs and spices.

John and his mate Dan gave us a very informative presentation on sausage making and we asked lots of questions before we launched into chopping the meat, weighing and measuring the herbs and spices, mincing it all and making the sausages.

Look what I made!

Look what I made!

 

 

 

We were all feeling very proud of ourselves especially making the real butcher looking loops of sausages!

 

 

Day Three was meant to be our ride out to the wineries with lunch at Ash Ridge Winery.  However, the rain had set in and it was much colder so we opted for Plan B….. we hopped in the van and went exploring and then wine tasting at Clearview before our lunch at Ash Ridge.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take some photos though!  It was a lovely way to spend our last day and we all agreed, it had been an excellent time that we’d had in the lovely “sunny” Hawkes Bay! 🙂

 

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5 2014 Apr

The Otago Rail Trail – in Autumn 2014

We didn’t quite get to see the central Otago area in all it’s Autumnal glory but it was such a lovely adventure anyway!

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All geared up and ready to go!

A warm, sunny, blue sky day , the bikes were sorted and we were on our way!

Nine of us headed off in perfect conditions, just cruising along, chatting together, getting used to our bikes and to each other.

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Just cruising along amid the Autumn leaves….

 

 

We were heading for Omakau, 37km away, where we were to spend our first night at the Omakau Bedpost, the converted Post Office building and Postmasters house.  But first we had a stop at the iconic Chatto Creek Tavern, 25km along the trail.

By the time we got to Omakau it was 5.30pm and after quick showers we were into our “going out” clothes,  picked up by shuttle van and taken to the beautiful Pitches Store in Ophir.  Our meals and the wines were absolutely gorgeous and we tucked in with gusto!

 

Our slightly wet, but still warm , start to Day 2.

Our slightly wet, but still warm , start to Day 2.

Day 2: Omakau to Wedderburn

A leisurely start to our morning saw us off at 9am with our rain jackets on as it was just spitting lightly.  Only 7km down the trail and we stopped for  coffee’s at Lauder, hey… we were in no rush!

 

Atop the Poolburn Viaduct.

Atop the Poolburn Viaduct.

Off again through one of the most spectacular parts of the trail, the Poolburn Gorge, where we crossed the 37m high viaduct and went through 2 long and very dark tunnels.  Good job we had headlights on our bikes!

The next part of the trail was actually quite long and straight and unless you were having a really good conversation with someone then it was quite taxing.  We were all definitely ready for our packed lunches by the time we got to Oturehua!

From there it was just another 8km of gently climbing trail to our accommodation for the next 2 nights at Mt Ida Farmstay.

A lovely hot spa awaited us there and after relaxing and “refreshments” we were ready to go out for dinner just down the road at the famous Wedderburn Tavern.

Frantically sweeping the ice to make the curling iron go faster!

Frantically sweeping the ice to make the curling iron go faster!

Day 3: Exploring Day

I hired a 12 seater van for the day and off we set for a day out exploring the nearby district.  First up it was Curling at Naseby, which was a lot of fun.  Our 2 teams  competed fiercely against each other!

After a warm up coffee, (it was really cold in there) we headed off to Dansey’s Pass Coach Inn for lunch.  This is such a lovely old Inn and certainly well worth the 45 min drive.

The stunning lake at St Bathans.

The stunning lake at St Bathans.

Then it was off to St Bathans for a lazy Sunday afternoon of strolling around the little township with its old stone houses, walking around the lake that was the 168m deep mining pit and of course enjoying the well known Vulcan Hotel.

After stopping off in Ranfurly for supplies it was back to our cosy accommodation where the fire was glowing and the wine was flowing and there was lots of talking and laughing together.  It was a lovely way to finish such a great day out together.

Such a pretty little spot.

Such a pretty little spot.

Day 4: Wedderburn to Hyde

Up and on the trail by 9am on this rather cool morning.  We sped along on the downhill trail to Wedderburn in no time at all.  After the obligatory photo stop by the Green Shed, made famous by the local painter Graham Sydney, we were off and speeding along to Ranfurly.  We were all feeling refreshed and keen after our day off and our backsides were definitely feeling better for having had the rest!  This for me is one of the prettiest parts of the trail as you bike along beside the Taieri River and the trees were just starting to “turn”.  In a few more weeks time it would be simply glorious……ahh well, never mind……

Our very nice accommodation at Tussock Lodge in Waipiata.

Our very nice accommodation at Tussock Lodge in Waipiata.

We sped along the trail once more, our motivation was to get to the Hyde Hotel before it closed at 3pm!  We zoomed in there bang on 3pm only to find it closed at 3.30pm.  YES!  Sitting outside in the afternoon sun enjoying our drinks was just lovely.

We were picked up at and taken back to our accommodation at Tussock Lodge which was a very nice place to stay for our last night on the trail.

 

Gorgeous!!

Gorgeous!!

Day 5: Hyde to Middlemarch

A beautiful red sky morning greeted us when Mark, the owner, picked us up at 7.30am the next morning and dropped us off back at Hyde where our bikes were waiting for us.  From there it was a very easy 27km ride into Middlemarch and the end of the trail.

We had had a fantastic 5 days together.  Friendships were made, stories and laughter were shared along with fine wining and dining and we had all been wowed, impressed and quietly moved by the wide open skies, the golden rolling hills and the rail trail that had been laboriously built so many years ago.  To see more photos,  check out the photo album.

Yaay! We did it!

Yaay! We did it!

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10 2013 Nov

Ohakune Cycling Weekend: Oct 18/19/20 – 2013

All geared up and ready to go!

All geared up and ready to go!

A picture perfect absolutely stunning weekend!  16 of us travelled down to Ohakune for a weekend of cycling and walking and what a weekend it was!  We found out when we got there that the Old Coach Road that we were meant to be cycling along had suffered badly from the major rainfall they’d had in the last week and so we now there was Plan B.  As it worked out, Plan B actually turned out way better.

What us women do best....chatting together while wining and dining!

What us women do best….chatting together while wining and dining!

The 3 carloads arrived within half an hour of each other and we soon made ourselves at home at our Mountain view Lodge at LKNZ.

We soon all got chatting and mixing and mingling  over  our complimentary drinks and our bar meals.

 

The next morning we were up early (ish) to a bit of an overcast day that soon cleared to give us a “one out of the box” picture perfect day.  Our Plan B route took us through back roads, dirt roads, “paper roads, around lakes and back into Ohakune .  And as we rode along with skylarks chirruping above our heads, Mt Ruapehu smiled down on us, her snow capped brilliant whiteness stark against the brilliant blue sky.  (I think we spent more time taking photos than cycling!)

 

What a day! What a mountain!

What a day! What a mountain!

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Lunch stop was atop the highest hill in the district where we surveyed the beautiful valley/basin below us.

Lunch stop.

Lunch stop.

Back into Ohakune in time for some afternoon tea and then off for our walk

to the viaducts on Old Coach Road.

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The new viaduct in the foreground and the old one in the distance.

The new viaduct in the foreground and the old one in the distance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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19 2013 Jun

Samoan Cycling Adventure – 2013

Day One –Thu May 30th 2013 – Auckland to Samoa

We were an excited bunch of 11 women arriving at Auckland airport in 2’s and 3’s for our early morning flight, sitting together in a departure café, tentatively getting to know each other. (Tentativeness was well out the door by the end of Day 2!  )

Ahhh, the sheer bliss of stepping out of the plane into hot sunshine and warm tropical breezes (and leaving foggy Auckland way behind!)   We were met by a van and taken to Airport Lodge just a few k’s away.  Once there we sorted ourselves into pairs for our fales, the same pairs would end up sharing fales for the rest of the trip, then we got fitted out onto our bikes…….this tCocktails at AG'sakes longer than you would think!

A quick van trip down the road to Aggie Grey’s airport lodge where we luxuriated in their gorgeous swimming pool, sipped “happy hour” cocktails, did a proper “meet and greet” and had a lovely meal, was a wonderful way to start our adventure.  Probably just as well that we didn’t know then what the next day was going to bring……….

Highlight of the day: There were many, but for me, arriving into hot sunshine was just awesome!

Day Two – Fri May 31st 2013 – Salelologa to Lano – 19km

Woken to the sound of roosters crowing – at 3am!!  Lots of rain fell in the night but it “seemed” to be clearing ….little did we know….  After a magnificent breakfast, we set off on our bikes for the 3km bike ride to the ferry.  Our bags had all been loaded into the van and we just had a little handle bar pannier with our necessities in, (camera, phone, sunscreen, muesli bars etc.)

ferry to savaiiIt was a pretty rough ferry crossing to the island of Savaii and a couple of the women were a bit green around the Ferry crossinggills.  The closer we got to Savaii the more the weather changed and as we rode off the ferry the rain started.

Our first stop was the huge covered market to get some supplies for the trip.  We had a couple of picnic lunches to buy for.  The idea was to get the food, load it into the van, cycle off to a nearby swimming hole and have a lovely picnic in the sunshine……Yeah right.  We ended up having our lunch inside the market place as the rain pelted down outside.  No guttering on the roof meant it was like walking through a waterfall to get onto our bikes.  But, hey, we all reasoned, once you’re wet, you’re wet.  So off we set in our shorts and singlets (no need for raincoats as it’s so warm and you dry out so quickly once the rain stops.)

By the time we were riding along the coast ride the weather had become like a mini cyclone!  Palm trees lashed and thrashed, bending over in the force of the wind that threatened to blow us off the road, salt spray and rain stung the right side of our faces, palm fronds hurled across the road!  Riding at the back I could barely see the front rider as heads down, shoulders hunched we battled along.  It was so exhilarating, so exciting, so energising …..and also a wee bit scary too!!

getting ready to cross the ford Finally the storm abated, the winds dropped away, the rain stopped and we breezed merrily along….until we came to a long line of vehicles, all stopped by the side of the road.  Hmmmm…..what’s going on here…?  A raging torrent of water across the road was what was going on!  Thigh high, muddy brown water surging across the road, down a little weir and out to sea and our accommodation for the night was just over the other side of it.

As we all stood there contemplating what to do a group of young boys, we’re talking 11 to maybe 14 years old,  rushed across through the raging torrent and starting picking up our bikes and slinging them over their shoulders and wading across, just like that!  None of us were brave enough to go over by ourselves, a couple tried but the force of the water was too strong, so back the boys came to hold our hands and lead us bunch of nana’s safelDebbie crossing ford 2y through to the other side.

Half an hour or so later our support van made it through and warm and mostly dry we settled into our first fale accommodation on Savaii.

Marae style faleMarae style, we slept on foam mattresses on the woven matting floor – 6 of us in one fale, 5 in the other while the storm raged through the night.  Long flashes of lightning lit up the inside of our fale accompanied by long rolling thunder that shook the floorboards…..needless to say we were all were a bit bleary eyed the next morning…and it had nothing to do celebratory drinking session we had when we got through the raging river…..honest!

Highlight of the day:  “Cyclone cycling” I don’t think I’ll ever forget that ride!

Day Three – Sat June 1st 2013 – Lano to Manase – 33km

Took a wee while to get ourselves organised this morning, (or was it just me.)  Having a “system” I find, works really well.  Little things, like laying out your clothes, toiletries etc the night before, having your pannier bag packed with your essentials, having a designated place for your bike lock keys, your luggage keys etc

So off we cycled at 9am, what was to be our latest start time as from then on we were on the road between 7am aLava churchnd 7.30am.  Already it was hot and sticky.  After all that rain last night everything was clean and sparkly but it was like riding in a sauna!

We stopped and visited a couple of tourist spots along the way; the Mauga Crater and the Lava field church where you can see the lava as it flowed through the church and the gravesite – which was fascinating to see.  A few of us stopped off and went out for the afternoon on the Dive Savaii boat – snorkelling and scuba diving out near the reef, while the others biked on to our accommodation at Manase.

Sunset manaseFor me staying at Manase was quite emotional as it was almost exactly a year before that I had been there with my husband and 2 of our grandkids and I’d come up with the plan to cycle around Samoa as an adventure for my Women’s Adventures NZ.  And here I was, 1 year later with a group of 10 women doing exactly that!  (I gave myself a little congratulatory “pat on the back”.)

Highlight of the day:  Sitting at the beach bar, with everyone, watching this amazing sunset, feeling very happy and satisfied with life!

 

Day Four – Sun June 2nd 2013 – Manase to Vaisala – 40km

Up early and breakfasted and on the road by 7:15am!  This was meant to be our hardest day of riding with lots of hills and some bit bits of rough road (though I think a few of the group found other days a bit harder.)

As “tail end Charlie’ I cruised along at the back, blissing out in moments of quiet solitude, smokey morning breakfast fires, roosters crowing in the soft warm morning air….

drink stop long hill climbs After seemingly lots of hills later ranging from undulating to “get off your bike and walk”, after lots of photo stops, rest stops complete with fresh coconut milk, pawpaws, bananas and oranges (carried by our support van) we arrived at our most refreshing stop of all.  A beautiful big cool fresh water pool – Agua Pool – complete with stone wall and steps leading into it.

It was sheer bliss to slide into the water and instantly feel refreshed and energised for our last climb of the day up to our accommodation at Vaisala.  (Unfortunately it was at this pool that we had our first and only accident when one of tagua poolhe group slipped on the step and went down, banging her head as she fell.  Luckily another one of the group sitting there broke her fall a bit so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been…)

Vaisala was our accommodation for 2 nights and what a perfect place it was.  A big old style rambling hotel complete with wide verandahs, large comfy rooms, wonderful meals, perfect snorkelling both along the beach and in a special coral garden pool that was just teeming with fish and interesting coral.

Highlight of the day:  Our refreshing swim in the Agua Pool and being welcomed at Vaisala with fresh cold sweet lemon juice.kayaking

 

Day Five – Mon June 3rd 2013 – Rest Day at Vaisala

We swam, we snorkeled, we kayaked, we rested, we wrote in our journals…..  I did a stretch/yoga class fPre Dinner Drinksor some of the group.  Some of us walked, cycled or taxied down the road to Vaimoana for lunch.

It was wonderful to have this extra day of rest.

 

 

Highlight of the day:  Snorkeling in the rock pool coral garden, honestly it was like snorkeling in a huge aquarium.

Day Six – Tue June 4th 2013 – Vaisala to Falealupo – 19km

Just a short ride today.  We started with quite a big hill climb that we weren’t expecting, but once we turned off the main road and onto the side road that took us around the north western most tip of the island we noticed the changes.  The road, fringed with high sugar cane type grass, was rougher with lots of little pot holes and big sandy patches.  There was no one around.  It was very hot but very calm and peaceful.

cyclone churchWe stopped at a beautiful church that had been ruined by the 1990 cyclone.  On this sunny, calm and peaceful day it was hard to imagine the force of the sea, the wind and the rain that had destroyed this seemingly strong and sturdy building.

Within no time at all wefavourite fales had made it to our most basic, but my most favourite, accommodation.  Our fales were literally metres from the water’s edge and had just a mattress on a woven mat with a mosquito net over it.  We could pull down the coconut palm blinds when and if we wanted to but otherwise our fales were totally open.  So basic, so simple and so pretty.

 

As we had arrived relatively early we had heaps of time to swim, snorkel, just sit together in the water and chat, read, rest and enjoy!  Some of the group went off exploring and met a local guy who showed them how to weave a basket.

After a lovely meal in the open sided dining fale we all sat around and played charades accompanied by lots of fun and laughter!

Highlight of the day:  Lying in my fale at night watching the amazing lightning display over the sea…….

road at the topDay Seven – Wed June 5th 2013 –Falealupo to Satuiatua  – 38km

The cycle today was I think one of my favourites.  The top of the island has a lovely remote, off the beaten track feel to it.  We cycled along the sandy pot holed roads, heaps of palm trees lined up along beautiful white sandy bays…..

As we rode back out onto the main road it started gently raining and continued for a lot of the 38km which Tired cyclistswas actually really nice.  There were quite a few hills and we had lots of rest stops with everyone in the group doing really well and all being so supportive of each other.

We arrived at Satuiatua at about 12 and we all just loved our pretty “Princess Barbie” fales, with their pink and orange curtains fluttering in the satuiatua falessea breeze, nestled under the canopy of a HUGE big tree and right on the beach.

 

After a wonderful restaurant lunch, we spent the afternoon as we spend most afternoons, swimming, snorkeling, relaxing………etc etc!!   The snorkeling there was AMAZING!  There was a current that went along the beach so we’d walk up to the far end of the beach, wade out with our snorkeling gear on and just drift back along with the current.  Not far below the surface was an abundance of marine life!  Lots of these little “bolshie” black fish that would angrily pop up out of the coral and eyeball you as you snorkeled over them.  There were schools and schools of amazing tropical fish….it really was spectacular!

Highlight of the day:  It has to be the big plate of scones that were kindly made for us after we admitted to our hostess that we’d been fantasising about scones and jam for the last few days.  Luckily, she’d spent years in NZ as a primary school teacher and knew how to make a good scone!  This highlight is closely followed by the PD’s (pre dinner drinks) on the beach and another hilarious game of charades.

Day Eight – Thu June 6th 2013 – Satuiatua to Sili – 51km

Early morning start after our yummy “kiwi” breakfast with real “perked” coffee.  It was to be a big day today, though we didn’t know it then.  Off we cycled through beautifully manicured villages with luxurious green lawns, colourful border hedges and cottage garden mix flowering abundantly in their well tended gardens.

kidsIn every village there are always groups of children enthusiastically calling and waving and even running along side us as we biked.  If we stop in a village then you can guarantee we will surrounded by friendly but sometimes shy children (who love having their photo taken, especially when they can see it after.)

P1000509There was lots of rain today from lightly drizzling rain to pouring rain and for the first time I actually got a bit cold….no one else seemed to though.  We stopped at 3 different tourist spots.  Lovers Leap, where we were told the local story of this spot, Alofaaga Blowholes where we ooohed and aaaahed as coconuts were blown sky high by the force of the water shooting up through the blowholes (if you look closely at the photo you can see the coconut at the top of the spray) and lastly at Mu Pogoa waterfall, one of the 8 waterfalls in the world that tumbles onto the beach and into the sea.  A group of us climbed down the rocks and onto the beach where we ducked under the waterfall and stood behind the curtain of water it as it hurtled off the edge and thundered onto the beach.  Such a weird phenomena!

By the time we got to our homestay accommodation at Sili we were all fales at silipretty saturated.  A beautiful hot Samoan lunch was ready waiting for us.  Large bowls and plates of grilled fish, rice, noodles with corned beef, bananas in coconut cream and taro were lined up along the table and we tucked in with enthusiasm while our hosts and their family stood around the edges and watched ….which felt pretty weird I must say.  They then had their meal after us.

After lunch we clambered into the backs of a truck and a ute and set off on a tour of their plantation which was as unlike a plantation as I could imagine.  Taro, banana and other plants were planted seemingly in haphazardly fashion in cleared off bits of jungle with long grassed overgrown tracks to get to them….

Inside our fale at SiliFeeling dirty and muddy from our days cycle and plantation tour, we all wandered down to the local swimming hole where we waded in with our soap, clothes and all and had a good wash.  Finally, in warm dry clothes we rested in our “marae style’ fales until dinner time.

umuRoosters crowing, dogs barking, a smokey haze drifts through the fale as the umu is prepared for our dinner.  And what a feast it was!  Once again bowls and plates lined the middle of the table filled with delicious and very rich tasting food.  There was suckling pig, fish, taro, breadfruit, oka (raw fish in coconut milk) and rice.  Once again our hosts waited for us to eat before they had theirs.

Highlight of the day:  The impromptu singing (and dancing) session after we’d all had dinner.  They’d sing a song, complete with actions, then we’d sing one.  Our grand finale was the Hokey Tokey!

Day Nine –  Fri June 7th 2013 – Sili to the ferry – 30km  and back over to Upolo.

Waterfalls near SiliUp early after a not particularly restful night of roosters crowing, dogs barking and a seemingly steady stream of us nocturnal loo goers crunching our way over the rocky gravel to the loo.  After fond farewells to our host family, we cycled off through the waking village and about 30 minutes down the road to a beautiful waterfall – Afu Aau – where a group of us stripped off and leapt in.  It was so refreshing and a lovely start to the day.

Tapa Cloth demoJust a bit further down the road we stopped off to watch a Tapa cloth making demonstration.  It was absolutely fascinating.  From the cut off bark of a skinny little tree to a fully designed and dyed piece of tapa cloth in just 1 hour…..

Back on the road and in an hour or so we were at the market place just a couple of kms from the ferry.  We’ve been so lucky with the bikes that we hired from Outdoor.Co.NZ.  No major issues at all, a few chains coming every now and then and a broken brake cable and some general tightening of handlebars and seats but nothing too serious.  We had no flat tyres and most importantly, no accidents!

icecreams at the marketAfter a good long stop at the market place where we enjoyed delicious pineapple ice-creams, we biked off to the ferry, cruising along in the sunshine.  So different from when we first started out, 7 days earlier, in all that pouring rain.  We had cycled 200km around Savaii and were all feeling pretty chuffed with ourselves.

Julie waiting at ferryA miscommunication about the exact time of the ferry meant we waited for 2hrs but we were happy enough just relaxing and watching the activity around the ferry buildings.  Once we got back over to Upolo we loaded up the van with our bags, rode back to Airport Lodge to drop off our bikes then we clambered into the van for the 40 min drive to Apia and to our hotel, Amanaki.

What bliss, what pure luxury! We showered and got all doo daahed up and had a lovely meal together (complete with celebratory cocktails!)

Highlight of the day: – has to be enjoying our luxury accommodation….need I say more!

Day Ten – Sat June 8th 2013 – market morning and full day tour

After a blissful night’s sleep had by all in our luxurious rooms, some of us crept out quietly for an early morinside RLStevenson housening swim in the hotel pool, we breakfasted and then ambled down the road to the Apia flea market for a bit of a shopping spree.

Armed with all of our lswimming caveuggage and our purchases, we set off in the van for a tour of some of the most popular tourist spots on Upolo.  Although this was a long day and there was lots of driving, we all got to see and experience so much.  I can thoroughly recommend going to the Robert Louis Stevenson home and museum, the Piula College with its underground cave pool and the To Sua Trench with its loSwimmiung at Te sua trenchooong steep ladder to climb down into the pool.  All absolutely stunning places!

Our final night’s accommodation was on the South East coast of the island and to be honest a bit disappFire dancersointing after we’d been spoilt at our luxury accommodation the night before.  However, once we were all showered and dressed up, we hot footed it over to the flash high end Coconut resort and totally lost ourselves in the high energy, mesmerising, world class fia fia performance.  We were all completely blown away!  A world class performance.Dancing fia fia

 

Highlight of the day: The Fia Fia performance at Coconuts, unforgettable!

Day Eleven Sun June 9th 2013 – Back home again.

The last morning waspawpaw juices last day. spent relaxing under the palm trees, reading, chatting and going swimming.  We had all gotten pretty close over the last 10 days and felt happy and comfortable just being in each other’s company.

It had been a wonderful adventure together with lots of different experiences.  Thank you to the 10 awesome women who shared this adventure.  You’ve set the bar for the rest!Heading off to airport