Down under

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Heading East

The Pacific Coast Highway (SH 35) is a motorway that stretches the entire rugged East Cape of New Zealand’s North Island, and also touted as one of the most scenic drives in the world. We completed our journey along this magnificent but incredibly difficult 420km stretch (possibly longer, since we started off at Rotorua towards Opotiki) first to Gisborne and later completing the other stretch to Napier the next day, and got looks of disbelief from several people after recounting this crazy move of ours for trying this in a day or 2. It was for most part, a completely isolating drives in one of the most remote parts of the country...

Eau de Rotorua

We sped in to Rotorua (as fast as we could given the 3-hr journey that was supposedly meant to last only 1.5 hrs)  and stepped out to the disturbingly familiar fart-like presence heralding geothermal activity. A hasty lunch of Fish and Chips at Oppies – which is a bizarre fast food stand that is a melange of Chinese food and British street fare -, I dragged my poor co-driver to the Polynesian spa and we happily dunked into the geothermal lake pools for a short roll around in hot waters overlooking Rotorua Lake. The bay of plenty is a region of lakes and gorgeous forests. A tip off from the proprietress at...

An eternity in …

An eternity in hell, I swear, is akin to sitting for an interminably long time in a plane to goodness-knows-where. Forget the fire, brimstone and the false preachers folks, the aeroplane, the A380, the 777…cattle class, coach, economy, is the new hell. An eternity in the plane later with no sleep and a rushed stopover in Sydney, the sprawling city of Auckland came into view as a series of inlets and bays that have cut deep into the land, housing what appears to be a sizeable Asian and Polynesian population. Tired and jet-lagged (accompanied with the typical symptoms of gritty eyes, a generally bad disposition and stinky armpits), there was very little...

Down Under in Winter

A 6-month layover and I’m ready to roll again – to a destination that I visited nearly a decade ago. For one moment, it appeared that there were no air tickets available under $1900 – whether to Europe or Canada, or anywhere down Down Under. A listless search on the internet one Saturday morning last week had me quivering in excitement when Scandinavian Airlines offered a ridiculous price for a 2-week sojourn in the far north, while Qantas offered – only with a 3-week advance booking – something similar price-wise for a traipse through New Zealand with a stopover in Sydney. It was surprisingly, a very difficult decision to make:...

Ode to the pink jacket

I was determined to keep the last 2 days in Perth a relaxing one after the collective and prolonged excitement of Margaret River. Things as usual, do not always go according to plan. Returning the car on a Sunday morning meant waking up as early as possible, before rushing (as always) last minute shopping and gifts in the city centre which was fairly unpleasant after the quiet stay in the countryside down south. Our hosts throughout the trip however, have been excellent company and wonderful people, and are probably one of the highlights of the trip. The weather was mostly excellent, us having dodged several serious winter storms. In some...

The gourmet trail

“Is my face getting rounder? Do I look heavier?” TC won the crown of longsuffering as he constantly endured my increasingly psychotic questions that popped up involuntarily a few times a day and particularly after each meal. Such questions weren’t totally unfounded actually; I think it’s fair to say that I ate myself out of my pants and thereafter thought guiltily and quite a lot of amping up my exercise routine when I got back. This is an example, and it’s only breakfast. Eggs from the Dirk’s farm, herbs from their garden and goodness knows what else is organic. Visiting Margaret River is akin to going on a trail to satiate the senses – it...

Sea-longing, Sea change

We could not get enough of the sea. After a long day going up and down the stretch, I was ready to crash and spend some quality time with the laptop and Dirk’s internet connection. But my disobedient, traitorous mind and mouth asked aloud, “What about spending sunset at Prevelly park before going straight to dinner?” TC thought it was a good idea, despite his own traitorous mind telling him otherwise. We went back to witness one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen. Pockets of rain coated the Indian ocean in the distance like the sleek veils of dancing odalisques while dark clouds moved and intermingled with the...

W(h)inery and sour grapes

Does this make any sense, anyone? Colour: Deep red with garnet hues Full-bodied yet refined, the plush palate offers ripe, jubey fruits such as blackcurrants, plums and mulberries framed by subtle cedar/spicy oak characters. Smooth and silky, firm and fine-grained; a structured wine whose slightly closed and brooding core of blackberries, cassis and plums is tightly interwoven with tannin. Best paired with wood fired Margarita pizza. It reads like a confused version of literary analysis and art critique put together by a desperate academic who uses a thesaurus religiously for posturing. A tad bit unfair perhaps? That is a partial description of some wine I took from a catalogue. There is more,...

Tree Hugger

We certainly didn’t think that we would be spending any time in trees. Yet we found ourselves heading to Pemberton bright and early for a 2-hr drive after a few people preached the notion of an exhilarating treetop climb there, stopping to change over quite hilariously in a disease risk area. Picturesque Pemberton is yet another small town that depends on timber and lumbering and calls itself Karri country for good reason. Surrounded by Karri forest, its attractions include the Bicentennial tree and the Gloucester tree that could be climbed for spectacular views of the forest. In other words, we drove all that distance for a tree that is 61m...

Beachy day

Being near the sea and surf is like being constantly intoxicated. Drunk on and mesmerised by the wonderful scenery from the previous day, the next day began with a customary visit to Prevelly Beach despite our mental fatigue and sluggishness from all that driving the day before. Dirk had warned us that there was lots to see and do, leaving us fairly dazed and confused after breakfast by the number of circles he made on our map. The route was easy; on the map, it looked like we would be shuttling down Bussel Hwy and Caves road from South to North and everything in between. But these wonderful stores, wineries,...