Otago Peninsula – ‘finest example of ecotourism in the world’

Otago Peninsula was a volcano some 10 or 13 million years ago – give or take a week or three!

65-thousand years ago it became an island when sea levels rose and, more recently, it became a peninsula.  Captain Cook and the hardy self-sufficient pioneers fought battles with the elements along the notorious 2000 kilometres coastline which is now scattered with shipwrecks.

The area is not just a day trip from Dunedin but a destination in its own right and during my ten days in Dunedin – traveling in a  car from  NZ RentaCar – and I spent time in Ngaio Cottage in Broad Bay.

This cottage, built in the 1930s,  when my hosts, Julz Asher & Lutz Ritter, bought it I’m told ‘it looked very different’ to the charming, well-appointed accommodation it is today. ‘It was unlivable. In fact, everything is new – except a few boards,’ Lutz said.

The fittings and furniture were chosen with care, resulting in beautiful and tasteful atmosphere. I have no idea how many stars this place has, but I’d give it 4 or 5!

This is a fabulous place to stay and use as a base to explore the peninsula, and the Dunedin region – check out these photos.

 

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I’m not the only one who rates Otago Peninsula:

  • Neville Peat a local nature writer based in Broad Bay says the whole area is a ‘kind of supermarket for marine life, souped up by currents and adjacent deep-water canyons.
  • Botanist and environmentalist David Bellamy said the peninsula is ‘the finest example of ecotourism in the world’   while Mark Carwardine,  zoologist and outspoken conservationist, writer, TV and radio presenter, wildlife photographer, columnist,  best-selling author, a wildlife tour operator calls New Zealand a “wildlife hotspot”. He also says it’s one of the best places in the world to see great wildlife and recently he was on a whirlwind tour, searching for our equivalent to Africa’s ‘big five’, the New Zealand ‘small five’ – all endangered species: hector’s dolphinkeakiwituatarayellow-eyed penguin all  which are found on or around this amazing outcrop of land.

I have written some stories about the area, and more to come about –  albatross, penguins, castleboat trips, fur seals, settlers museum, bus stops, birds, gardens, heritage city walks, the Taieri Gorge train, Chinese gardens, butterfly house and the Orokonui eco-sanctuary and more.

 

View of the harbour from the couch
View of the harbour from the couch

 

 

Off to Ireland? here’s the best of the best road road trip tips

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Ok … now I want to return to Ireland with this book under my arm.

It’s been many years since I visited the emerald isle and this book will make my next one even better. With three clear sections (Plan your Trip; On the Road; Road Trip Essentials) these 34 road trips will help you (me) pick the right route and get around easily with the clear maps and, even better, it shows detours, local walking tracks and ways to link the routes.

So whether searching for ancestors, history or have some Craic this Lonely Planet  book is for you.

Craic means having fun, having a good time, while saying ‘what’s the craic’ is like saying ‘what’s up?

The trip suggestions range from a 2-day escape through to a week-long adventure: of course you could do them all and spend ages on this wonderful island!

The book also has the Irish road rules, many which are similar to New Zealand – drive on the left – but children under 12 are not allowed in the front seats and while some motorways allow 120k the speed limits change often over the island so be on the lookout for speed road signs.

So whether you choose a ‘classic trip’ to take in the well-known and much-loved sights or want to concentrate on a small region and really get to know the area, this book has it all – including accommodation, ancient monuments, traditional music, and good food ideas.

Italy: 38 road trips planned for you!

Lonely Planet has just released its first European guidebooks for its successful Best Trips series, with the publication of France’s Best Trips, Ireland’s Best Trips and Italy’s Best Trips which has 38 road trips planned for you.  

These Best Trips are ideal for travellers who want to explore a specific region by car and each guide is packed with more than 30 road trips; inspirational trip ideas; exciting regional detours; and detailed directions and map – including a pull-out map.

I have a copy of Italy’s Best Trips and am sure we would have discovered more had I had this when exploring the non-tourist area I stayed in a few years ago, on my last trip. (We stayed near Fabro Scalo in the hilltop hamlet of Carnaiola, Umbria.

Many travellers restrict themselves to Italy’s star cities, but with a car you’ll discover there’s more to the country than Michelangelo masterpieces and Roman ruins. The 38 trips in Italy’s Best Trips run the length of the country, from the northern Alps to southern Sicily, and cover a range of experiences.

On my travel bucket list would be Route# 35: the Sicilian Island Hop which starts at Mt Etna and ends at Salina and which it seems has jaw-dropping views and homes that climb the hill side … ‘steeply stacked” is how the book describes them.

Of course I also want to add Historic Sardinia (#38) to my bucket list with its ‘isolated towns known for feuding and bandits’.

So, if you are heading for Italy (or elsewhere) check out this latest offering from Lonely Planet.

My copy will be available for viewing (to dream over  before you buy your own) while you have real coffee at Caffe Italiano – in the Plaza, 719 Whangaparaoa Rd. (NZ of course)

Make sure you tell them the ‘kiwitravelwriter’  sent you!

Open top double-decker resumes Christchurch tours

Hassle-frees open top double-decker has resumed  its Christchurch tours and sue sign that the city is certainly taking its place in the New Zealand tourism scene again.

It’s  New Zealand’s only open top double-decker bus tour  and is popular.

Another of Hassle-frees buses

Mark and Nikki Gilbert, who together run Hassle-free Tours, brought the distinctive 1964 Routemaster bus to Christchurch last year and it, along with a closed top double-decker, has proved a big hit with visitors to the city.

Lonely Planet, in its just released Best in Travel guide (which places Christchurch at number six in a list of Top 10 Cities for 2013) suggests that Hassle-free Tour’s double decker bus tours are one of the best ways for visitors to explore Christchurch.

The company now has five-purpose built vehicles to take passengers around the Canterbury high country and three double-decker buses and expects to carry 17,500 passengers this year.

The road to success though has not been easy. Immediately after the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, the company’s visitor numbers plummeted by 80%, but the company took quick action to continue operating and keep staff.

They introduced the double-decker bus tours of Christchurch and started offering charter tours. Hassle-free Tours also developed new tours from Akaroa for the cruise market and targeted the domestic market with special offers and promotions.

“The earthquakes forced us to re-think our business but we were determined to continue offering visitors to the region a high-quality experience and we are thrilled that we have managed to do that. Christchurch has a very interesting story to tell and we’re committed to being part of the story-telling,’’ Mr Gilbert says.

See more here about the company and their tours … including Lord of the Rings, which I have done, and  Alpine and adventures trips

Gifts for travellers – whether armchair or on the road often

Gifts for travellers, whether they are armchair travellers or on the road often, can be problematic. Let me solve the problem for you with these ideas. Food, travel and tales … these books have it all.
I have all these books and know fellow travellers … or food lovers … will love them. Of course I know they would also love my travel memoir too Naked in Budapest: travels with a passionate nomad. I always get great feedback from readers about it. Available for all e-readers from Amazon and Smashwords (etc) and as a hard copy directly from me.

Global food and travel issues (and recipes) are in Lonely Planet’s new book Food Lover’s Guide to the World (published October 2012.

Even if you can’t travel, you can take your taste buds around the world in this book. With more than fifty authentic recipes, it also has contributions from celebrity food-lovers, such as chef Fergus Henderson (co-founder of St John restaurant, London), chef, restaurateur and food writer Mark Hix, Dan Hunter (chef at the Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld, Victoria), Tessa Kiros (author of Limoncello and Linen Water), chef Atul Kochhar (Benares restaurant, London), Eric Ripert (head chef at Le Bernardin, New York) and Ruth Rogers (River Café, London).

It has introductions by Mark Bittman, lead food writer for The New York Times Magazine; and James Oseland, Editor-in-Chief of Saveur magazine.

For travellers you can also find the best places to find local dishes in cities great & small and most importantly, many cultural tips and how-to-eat etiquette.

I have already blogged about Lonely Planet’s latest guide to New Zealand (published Sept. 2012) but it’s worth giving you another heads up about it. While many people travel with tablets and smart phones, a huge percentage still love the paper copy in their bag. See my blog about it here.

And finally, Better than Fiction (November 2012) is their fifth literary anthology edited by Don George. It has 32 international fiction authors telling their real travel stories from across the world: this will fit perfectly in anyone’s Christmas stocking (or birthday gift). For beside the bed, or in the backpack or suitcase, mine is beside my bed for dipping into. Wonderful writing!

 

Lonely Planet names Christchurch 6th in the top 10 cities for your 2013 bucket list

Lonely Planet has chosen Christchurch as one of the world’s Top 10 Cities for next year in LONELY PLANET’S BEST IN TRAV2013, published today. This bookis Lonely Planet’s eighth eagerly-awaited annual collection of the best trends, destinations, journeys and experiences for the upcoming year.

Ranked sixth on the book’s list of Top 10 Cities 2013, Christchurch is “rising from the rubble created by devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 with a breathtaking mix of spirit, determination and flair,” Lonely Planet says.

Christchurch, with a unique opportunity to rethink urban form, is bouncing back with a new energy and inventiveness,” the book says. “2013 will be an intriguing year to join the rebirth of this proud southern city.”Lonely Planet’s placement of Christchurch at number six on its list of ‘Top 10 Cities for 2013’ is being hailed as game-changing news for the city’s tourism industry.

Arrive at the great international airport in Christchurch

“To have such a respected world-wide publication single out Christchurch as an exciting, vibrant place to visit is an incredible boost for Christchurch,” says Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter.

“It is priceless recognition of all the hard work that has gone on in Christchurch since the quakes and has the potential to make a huge difference to the speed at which our tourism industry recovers.”

Christchurch is the only New Zealand city to make it into Lonely Planet’s annual Best in Travel publication and was singled out by Lonely Planet for the way it was “bouncing back with a new energy and inventiveness”.

“New Zealand’s second largest city is rising from the rubble … with a breath-taking mix of spirit, determination and flair,” Lonely Planet writers say. “The recovery effort is well under way and 2013 will be an intriguing year to join the rebirth of this proud southern city.”

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker is thrilled Lonely Planet has picked up on all the exciting things happening in Christchurch and is actively promoting the city to the travelling public.

“The creativity and determination Christchurch people have shown since the quakes means we now have a city like no other in the world. There’s a real energy and buzz in Christchurch which will intensify as the rebuild ramps up so it is an exciting time to visit,” Mayor Parker says.

Associate Minister of Tourism Chris Tremain said “It’s a real coup to get Christchurch included in the list of top 10 cities for 2013. As a regular user of Lonely Planet when I am travelling myself I fully understand the significant value of this recommendation.’

“Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel is all about setting the travel agenda for the year ahead,” says Lonely Planet’s Asia Pacific Sales & Marketing Director Chris Zeiher.

“In making our selections, we focus on each destination’s merits and the unique experiences they offer travellers.”

“We believe 2013 will be a great year to visit to Christchurch and experience the amazing energy of the city in its rebuilding phase,” Mr Zeiher says. ( see many more photos and stories I’ve written about pre and post quake Christchurch on this blog)

Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Cities 2013 are:

  1. San Francisco
  2. Amsterdam
  3. Hyderabad
  4. Derry/Londonderry
  5. Beijing
  6. Christchurch
  7. Hobart
  8. Montreal
  9. Addis Ababa
  10. Puerto Iguazú

✪ The Top 10 Countries to visit in 2013: Sri Lanka, Montenegro, South Korea, Ecuador, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, Iceland, Turkey, Dominican Republic and Madagascar.

✪ The Top 10 Regions to visit in 2013: Corsica, The Negev; Mustang, The Yukon, Chachapoyas & Kuélap, The US Gulf Coast, Carinthia, Palawan, Japan’s Inland Sea and Campania.

✪More than 35 events mapped out month by month in the 2013 Travel Planner, from the Special Olympics Winter Games in South Korea to Fiestas de Quito in Ecuador.

LONELY PLANET’S BEST IN TRAVEL 2013

  • 208pp, full-colour, 180mm x 145mm, paperback
  • RRP: $29.99
  • Available from all good bookstores

Christchurch, New Zealand. Lonely Planet gives a thumbs up to city and people

As a  frequent visitor to Christchurch, New Zealand, (last time only days ago) it’s good to see Lonely Planet’s new edition New Zealand Travel Guide, released today, pays tribute to the strength of New Zealand’s people in the wake of a series of challenges. It particularly gives a thumbs up to the city and its people.

“There’s no denying it,” the guidebook says, “New Zealand has had it tough over the last few years.” (p.638)

Reflecting on the past two years in which the country has endured the vagaries of the global economy, the Pike River coalmine explosion, the Rena oil spill, and two Christchurch earthquakes, the guide says “in the midst of all this … New Zealanders have soldiered on stoically, with the people of Christchurch proving remarkably resilient.” (p.639)

The new edition hails the energy and creativity on display in Christchurch, saying “nowhere in New Zealand is changing and developing as fast as post-earthquake Christchurch, and visiting the country’s second-largest city as it’s being rebuilt and reborn is both interesting and inspiring.” (p.480)

Christchurch International Airport wins international awards

New Zealanders’ welcoming nature and eagerness for travellers to enjoy their visit is unchanged, and the guidebook says, “you might be surprised by the extent to which the average Kiwi will genuinely want you to have a really, really good time during your stay.” (p.639)

I note Lonely Planet also reports “that in December 2011, the influential United States magazine Foreign Policy nominated Christchurch one of the urban centres of the 21st century,opining that the ‘massive rebuilding effort is a unique opportunity to rethink urban form’. Draft plans for the city’s rebuilding over 20 years include a compact, low-rise city centre, neighbourhood green spaces, and parks and cycleways along the Avon River. Coupled with the endurance and energy of the people of Christchurch, the city’s future promises to be both interesting and innovative”.

The Sign of the Kiwi has great views of Christchurch, Canterbury, and Lyttelton Harbour

Christchurch-born and educated (& now living in NZ’s capital) each time I return I’m both saddened and encouraged and I know visitors will be amazed at the regrowth already.  I saw in the paper last week that the City Council has granted about 80 permits for new buildings, 17 within the “four Avenues’ which mark the centre of the city and where lived at the time of the September 2010 quake – see this blog for photos I took within hours of it, and many blogs written since.

If you are coming to NZ, make sure Christchurch is on your list, do a quake tour, tuck this latest guide-book under your arm, and note all the new things that will have popped up since the book was published  (things are happening fast here)  and, make sure you let LP know too for their next edition!

NOTE: New Zealand (16th edition) is the first of four new guidebooks to NZ that Lonely Planet is publishing in 2012.  New Zealand’s North Island (2nd edition) and New Zealand’s South Island (3rd edition) will be available in October, with Discover New Zealand (2nd edition) following in November.

Buddhist Sand Mandala

One of my favourite travel books is Lonely Planet’s Happy: Secrets to Happiness from the Cultures of the World – and I have just quoted from it again in a  blog about Taiamai Tours … a Maori cultural tourism activity that enables travellers to learn how to be part of a waka tau (war canoe) commemoration of New Zealand’s’ national day  – Waitangi Day 6th February.

Here is another quote from the book

LIKE SAND THROUGH THE HOURGLASS…

Secret: Accept and celebrate the transience of life

Tradition: Buddhist sand mandalas

Date: Any time

Celebrated in: Tibet

I took these mandala  photos at WOMAD – New Plymouth NZ

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“No matter what we do, no matter what we leave behind, time sweeps on: one day we’ll all be dust.

Tibetan Buddhists illustrate this inescapable truism in a particularly lovely way, by making incredibly intricate, brightly glowing mandalas from grains of sand.

Yet when the mandala is finished, the whole fabulous creation is swept into an urn. Half of the sand is distributed among the audience, to disperse its healing through the room; the other half is fed to the nearest river, to carry its healing throughout the world.

Celebrating transience is strangely comforting. Spend an afternoon drawing chalk pictures on your front path, then watch them be worn away by time or rain. Lie on the grass with a friend making outlandish creatures from the clouds, observing as they change from dragons into ducks. Make a sand castle. Accept the inevitable truth that nothing lasts – and savour the peace that comes with it.”

These are edited extracts from Happy: Secrets to Happiness from the Cultures of the World © Lonely Planet 2011. RRP: $25. lonelyplanet.com.

Maori tour ‘tour of a lifetime’ says National Geographic Traveler

Hone Mihaka, of Taia­mai Tours says, “To classify ourselves as New Zealanders denies our cultural identity as Maori. Being Maori is our point of difference.”

Hone, of the Ngapuhi iwi (tribe) is given a lot of “mana” ( respect and prestige) and I was happy to be hosted at his marae in February  as I checked out  what the National Geographic Traveler named as one the 50 Tours of  Lifetime 2011 –pretty  good for a new venture!

Their interactive Waka experience is a unique insight into ancient customs, rituals and traditions: and once a year visitors from around the world not only learn how to paddle the ceremonial waka tau (war canoe) but also become part of the annual national commemorations that acknowledge ( and sometimes protest about) the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi – NZ’s founding document – on the 6th February 1840.

“Great – now let’s try that again then we will head for Pihia and our waka”‘ says Hone

This year there were guests from the USA, France, The Netherlands, Canada, and Germany staying with the  extended Mihaka family at their traditional home near Lake Omapare, and I watched as they went through the last of their training in paddle techniques, waka manoeuvres, chants and haka in preparation for the next days’ celebration – out on the bay with all the other waka.  These photos show some of the day, with more stories to come after they feature in print media.

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As Hone says “I’m Ngapuhi, and I offer my world. Only in Tai Tokerau can you get a unique, authentic Ngapuhi experience.”

Tai Tokerau stretches from the Bay of Islands on Northlands’ east coast over to Hokianga on the west coast – which is where my Ngapuhi husband came from: Ngapuhi is New Zealand’s largest indigenous tribe of 100,000 – made up of over 100 smaller independent Hapu (clans).

If you are unable to take part in the Waitangi Day events, you are still able to paddle a waka with them – up to Haruru Falls .. see their website or find Taiamai Tours on Facebook

In Lonely Planets‘ book “Happy” on  page 105 it says ” Be Proud of your Roots. Embrace your heritage to better understand yourself.” The page is about Maori and their haka and Taiamai Tours embody this ‘secret to happiness’ and offer it to others.

As traveller, I believe  learning about other cultures helps us understand and embrace our own no matter where we’re from.

“This edited extract is from Happy: Secrets to Happiness from the Cultures of the World © Lonely Planet 2011. RRP: $25. lonelyplanet.com.”

Lonely Planet city books – get one free

guide books, whether in print or on e-readers are essential to most travellers – this is just a corner of my bookshelves

One of the biggest sellers of such books are Lonely Planet, and two new books I have from them to road test are from a series of great cities

great pocket books

In May 2012, Lonely Planet launched its new Pocket Guides series – they cover some of the world’s most popular cities: I am road testing the Prague book next month.

AND I am offering the Pocket Barcelona one as a free gift to the lucky reader who signs up for my blog before I leave New Zealand for Europe in 10 days – or the person, already on my blogs mail list, who leaves the best comment on this page

Highlighting each city’s top sights along with the best local experiences, Lonely Planet’s Pocket Guides are perfect for a quick city break or a business trip.

Pocket Barcelona “Barcelona could just be the coolest city on earth.”

 

Pocket Berlin “Berlin is a bon vivant, passionately feasting on the smorgasbord of life.”

 

Pocket London “London has something for everyone, from art to grand museums, dazzling architecture, royalty, diversity, glorious parks and irrepressible pizazz.”

 

Pocket Los Angeles “LA runs deeper than her blonde beaches and celebrified hills would have you believe.“

 

Pocket Paris “The world’s most romanticised city … has a way of seducing you every moment of the year.”

 

Pocket Prague “Thrills visitors with dramatic Gothic architecture, cool cubist design, down-to-earth pubs, ornate cafes, cutting-edge art and the grand Prague Castle.” (NOTE: I’m happy to have the pull-out  map that’s included in each guide and know I’ll use it for my 3 days in this beautiful city –my first time there for about 12 years”)

 

Pocket San Francisco “Fisherman’s Wharf sea lions and Telegraph Hill parrots agree: this town is totally wild.”

The Lonely Planet Pocket Guides feature:

* Fast access to the information travellers need, so they don’t waste any time on their short trip.

* Comprehensive coverage of the city’s ‘must-sees’.

* Guides to areas that the locals really love, so travellers can get to the heart of the city.

* Lonely Planet’s trademark great mapping – updated and improved for easier navigation.

* On-the-ground research, each and every edition.