Beautiful Mauritius, Part 3

May 4, 2013 - Leave a Response

For such a small island Mauritius has many places of interest to visit. The capital, Port Louiswas founded by Mahe de Labourdonnais in 1736. It has great character and in some parts has a battered elegance. Off the main square the, “Place d’Armes” is set amidst giant palms trees. For people who are interested in the architecture of the past, there are fine French colonial buildings like Government House built in the 18th century and the Municipal Theatre built around the same time. There are two cathedrals, a Supreme Court, 18thcentury barracks, a Historical and Natural History museum all watched over by numerous statues of various people of importance from the past. On the fringe of the town, nestling at the foot of the mountains is the Champ de Mars which was originally laid out by the French for military parades and now serves as a race course. A must when in Port Louis is the vibrant covered market where you can see the amazing crafts, tropical fruit and veggies and many other wares sold by the vendors dressed in colourful attire. Before leaving the town, make sure you visit the Port which is the main reason for the creation of Port Louis and lies quietly in the shelter of a semi-circle of mountains, holding its secrets of the past of the Spice Traders, battles and sunken ships.
Leaving the town, you pass through its suburbs, Beau Bassin, Rose Hill, Quatres Bornes and Vacoas where you must make a stop and view the extinct crater, Trou aux Cerfs some 280ft deep and more than 200 yards wide. You can stand on the rim and look out over one of the most spectacular views of the island, (a great place to take photos).
Then drive on to Curepipewhich is the island’s main urban shopping centre. Here you will find retail outlets and good restaurants where you can have a meal before heading on to Mahebourg, one of the main fishing centres, situated in the bay of Grand Port and has a historical museum which is housed in the French Colonial Mansionwhere, apparently, in 1810 English and French naval commanders were both wounded in the same battle, and brought to the mansion and given medical attention at the same time, (I wonder what they had to say to each other? Perhaps they were too wounded to care.) Apart from naval relics, the museum has copies of the priceless Mauritius “Post Office stamps, such as the “Blue Mauritius.”
Travel back, towards the village of Souillac and a little farther along the south coast you can see where the island’s distinguished poet, Robert-Edward Hart de Keating lived in a delightful little house called “Le Nef” which is built of coral and volcanic rock. It now serves as a museum standing on the cliffs, looking out over the sea; – no wonder Hart was such a great poet! –
In the south west of the island, close to Le Morne, are the “Coloured Earths”, an amazing geological phenomenon which is believed to have been caused by weathering of the layers of rock. Try and see this sight on a bright, sunny day as this is when the colours are seen at their best.
Do not miss out on seeing the Black River Gorges where you shall discover great picnic spots and spectacular scenery as well as heavy forests bejewelled with rain drops, where there is an abundance of birdlife.
Passing the Moka Range of mountains, Le Pouce, 2661ft, which can be climbed and is categorised as “easy”, Pieter Both, 2700ft, categorised for experienced climbers and rock-climbers. Then head back south of Port Louis and stop at Le Reduit, the French colonial residence of the Governors’ of Mauritius and walk in magnificent 325 acre gardens that roll out in front of the residence majestically.
To the north of Port Louis you will find my favourite place on the island, the Royal Botanical Gardens, Pampelmousses, an absolute haven of peace and tranquillity. Founded in 1770 as a nursery for tropical crops, it was from here that cloves were first introduced to Zanzibar. Famous for its pond where you will see the huge floating Victoria Regia lily-pads that look like large round trays proudly displaying their exquisite purple flowers that reflect into the pond’s liquid surface.
The tear-jerking French classic, “Paul et Virginie” the novel by author Bernardin de St. Pierre was written by him after his stay on the island of Mauritius and the Pampelmousses are wrapped into the saga. This is a must-read book to pack in your travel bag when you plan to visit this tropical paradise.

©Susan Cook-Jahme, Freelance Writer

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The Beautiful Island of Mauritius (Part 2)

May 3, 2013 - Leave a Response

Mauritius is the result of a powerful volcanic eruption; flowing masses of basalt solidified and formed three chains of mountains running from northeast to southwest. Other masses of lava were flung farther afield to form solitary peaks, which are now beautiful mountains dominating the landscape of the island and are thickly forested with tropical green jungles. They rise up from the surrounding flat lands planted with fields of yellow-green sugar cane, their jagged indigo peaks touching the powder blue dome of the skies.

What I enjoy the most about these peaks that guard the island silently are their descriptive names, – Les Trois Mamelles, (the three breasts) Le Pouce, (the thumb) Le Morne (the mournful) and Lion Mountain. Nestled comfortably amidst these mountains rises a central plateau to some 1900ft. lying in the west and southeast are a series of gorges that divide the plateau. The main ones comprising fast flowing rivers and spectacular waterfalls are Grand River in the northwest and the Black River in the southwest.

The coastal areas of the island reveal rocky coves and bays, some fringed with white talcum-like sandy beaches, protected by a coral reef that wraps itself protectively around the entire island and in some places rising to 40ft above sea level. Languishing between the shore and the reef is the ocean that plays colours of turquoise, indigo and royal blue, dappled by silver sun stars playing on its tranquil surface.

Some two hundred years ago, Mauritius was home to a massive variety of birds, some of which, like the dodo had lost the power of flight and were easily shot for “the pot” by early sea-farers and eventually became extinct. A small number of the surviving species live in the indigenous forests, now National Reserves.

Animals that were imported in the years of the East India Spice Traders are the Indian hare and Mina bird, the Macaque Monkey from Malaysia and the Javanese deer. There are also 4 different kinds of snake that are harmless, and fifteen different types of lizards.

Sadly in the early years of discovery the island’s natural primeval forests were plundered for their natural hardwoods, but it is still cloaked in lush vegetation that is kept green all year round with rain showers. Tall palms and casuarinas, (locally called filaos) that cling to the sea’s edge and in the hills are eucalyptus and conifers. Villages are shaded by badamier, banyan, camphor and baobab trees with roads lined with avenues of flame trees, (originally from Madagascar.) All year round one is delighted by the flowering blooms of jacaranda, cassia, oleander, bougainvillea, hibiscus and a variety of other trees and shrubs.

Sugar cane covers two-fifths of the land, earning 93% of the revenue on the island, whilst the other crops, coffee, tea, tobacco and rice provide a living for a majority of the Mauritians.

There is an estimated population of 1,286 million living on the island, of which the majority are Indians of the Hindu faith, Creoles, (people of mixed European and African blood), Chinese traders,  and the minority who are Franco and Anglo Mauritian who descend from families who have lived on the island for over 200 years. The official business language is English, but the native language of Europeans and Creoles id French, or lingua franca, a Creole patois. Educated Indians and those in the tourism business are bi-lingual in French and English, as well as their native Hindi or Urdu.

Mauritius has a maritime climate which is cooled by the southeast Trade Winds from April to October. Between December to May, (the summer) temperatures reach the upper 80’s and the humidity is high with the hottest months being December to February. In the months of July to August, (winter) temperatures reach the upper 70’s.

It rains throughout the year, the wettest months being January to March and this is known as the Season of Cyclones and one visit I made to the island was in February where I sat out a cyclone in the Touessrok Hotel close to the Ille aux Cerfs which was an awesome and frightening experience, to put it mildly! Ever since then I have been prone to visit Mauritius in the months of April to May.

©Susan Cook-Jahme, Freelance Writer

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 Mauritius Flag

The Beautiful Island of Mauritius, (Part 2)

May 3, 2013 - Leave a Response

Mauritius is the result of a powerful volcanic eruption; flowing masses of basalt solidified and formed three chains of mountains running from northeast to southwest. Other masses of lava were flung farther afield to form solitary peaks, which are now beautiful mountains dominating the landscape of the island and are thickly forested with tropical green jungles. They rise up from the surrounding flat lands planted with fields of yellow-green sugar cane, their jagged indigo peaks touching the powder blue dome of the skies.
What I enjoy the most about these peaks that guard the island silently are their descriptive names, – Les Trois Mamelles, (the three breasts) Le Pouce, (the thumb) Le Morne (the mournful) and Lion Mountain. Nestled comfortably amidst these mountains rises a central plateau to some 1900ft. lying in the west and southeast are a series of gorges that divide the plateau. The main ones comprising fast flowing rivers and spectacular waterfalls are Grand River in the northwest and the Black River in the southwest.
The coastal areas of the island reveal rocky coves and bays, some fringed with white talcum-like sandy beaches, protected by a coral reef that wraps itself protectively around the entire island and in some places rising to 40ft above sea level. Languishing between the shore and the reef is the ocean that plays colours of turquoise, indigo and royal blue, dappled by silver sun stars playing on its tranquil surface.
Some two hundred years ago, Mauritius was home to a massive variety of birds, some of which, like the dodo had lost the power of flight and were easily shot for “the pot” by early sea-farers and eventually became extinct. A small number of the surviving species live in the indigenous forests, now National Reserves.
Animals that were imported in the years of the East India Spice Traders are the Indian hare and Mina bird, the Macaque Monkey from Malaysia and the Javanese deer. There are also 4 different kinds of snake that are harmless, and fifteen different types of lizards.
Sadly in the early years of discovery the island’s natural primeval forests were plundered for their natural hardwoods, but it is still cloaked in lush vegetation that is kept green all year round with rain showers. Tall palms and casuarinas, (locally called filaos) that cling to the sea’s edge and in the hills are eucalyptus and conifers. Villages are shaded by badamier, banyan, camphor and baobab trees with roads lined with avenues of flame trees, (originally from Madagascar.) All year round one is delighted by the flowering blooms of jacaranda, cassia, oleander, bougainvillea, hibiscus and a variety of other trees and shrubs.
Sugar cane covers two-fifths of the land, earning 93% of the revenue on the island, whilst the other crops, coffee, tea, tobacco and rice provide a living for a majority of the Mauritians.
There is an estimated population of 1,286 million living on the island, of which the majority are Indians of the Hindu faith, Creoles, (people of mixed European and African blood), Chinese traders,  and the minority who are Franco and Anglo Mauritian who descend from families who have lived on the island for over 200 years. The official business language is English, but the native language of Europeans and Creoles id French, or lingua franca, a Creole patois. Educated Indians and those in the tourism business are bi-lingual in French and English, as well as their native Hindi or Urdu.
Mauritius has a maritime climatewhich is cooled by the southeast Trade Winds from April to October. Between December to May, (the summer) temperatures reach the upper 80’s and the humidity is high with the hottest months being December to February. In the months of July to August, (winter) temperatures reach the upper 70’s.
It rains throughout the year, the wettest months being January to March and this is known as the Season of Cyclones and one visit I made to the island was in February where I sat out a cyclone in the Touessrok Hotelclose to the Ille aux Cerfs which was an awesome and frightening experience, to put it mildly! Ever since then I have been prone to visit Mauritius in the months of April to May.
©Susan Cook-Jahme, Freelance Writer

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The Beautiful Island of Mauritius

May 2, 2013 - Leave a Response

In 1973, when I first visited the beautiful Indian Ocean Island of Mauritius it was relatively untouched by tourism and yet to be discovered by tourists in their masses. In those days, its main claims to fame were the extinct bird, the Dodo, and the postage stamp known as the “Blue Mountain.”
Now the island is a prime destination for seekers of white coral sands, blue skies, tranquillity and fantastic hospitality from the hosts and staff in the many hotels set in tropical gardens that are shaded by coconut palms, bending in the balmy tropical breeze that softly sighs in from its surrounding turquoise seas.
Mauritius lies 1200 off the coast of East Africa and the people of the island do not consider themselves “African”. Populated mostly with people of Indian origin, it bears no resemblance to India. The main language is French and civilised in the way of the French, it owes no allegiance to France. Also with 150 years of British administration and influence, its association with the United Kingdom is not massive. However, with all the different backgrounds and cultural influences, there has merged a culture that has created a unique and vibrant people, who, without a doubt, make them the greatest tourism attraction to the island. They are happy, colourful, friendly and make every person visiting feel very special.
Add the squeaky, soft, sandy beaches lapped by aquamarine coral lagoon waters, the Black Mountains, tropical tangled forests casting their shade over timber walled cottages, bubbling mountain streams and rolling fields of sugar cane, it is a place of 700 square miles of Eden.
It is thought that in the first 1000 years AD, the Arab and Malay peoples were the first to visit the island, which was uninhabited until the 16th century. The first European to moor off the island and visit was the Portuguese Captain Pedro Mascarenhasand named the group of islands, Reunion, Rodrigues and Mauritius the “Mascareignes.” Then in 1598 a party of Dutchmen landed on the island and named it after their ruler at the time, Prince Maurice of Nassau. For forty years it became the port of call for the Dutch, English and French trading ships, until the Dutch took formal possession in 1638. Four years later the Dutch navigator, Tasman, set sail on his most important voyage that led to the discovery of Australia.
The Dutch introduced sugar cane to the island and the sambar deer from Java in the East Indies. They also hunted out and exterminated the dodo and other indigenous birds and animals unique to the island. Their settlement lasted until 1715 and was then claimed by the French who renamed it Ile de France. In the early years of administration by the French East India Company, several fortifications were built, (one of which can be seen at the entrance of Grand Port.) They also shipped in African slaves. In 1735 a great governor was appointed, Mahe de Labourdonnais, who, during 11 years of office transformed the colony. The planting of sugar cane was encouraged; the first sugar factory was opened in Pamplemousses in 1743 and cotton, indigo, cloves, nutmeg and spices were grown. He had the “marrons” (escaped African slaves) rounded up and captured as they had been terrorising the French settlers, creating peace on the plantations. In Port Louis he established a naval base that conducted forays that harassed the English merchant ships sailing on their way to India on the Spice Route, confiscating their precious cargos of spice. But, the rise of the French East India Company was short lived, – ruined by financial setbacks and a succession of wars, they were forced to hand the island over to the rule of France and under the rule of the French crown, it flourished as a naval station, figuring prominently in sea strategy during the War of American Independence, the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years’ War. In the Napoleonic Wars it became “Le Nid de Corsairs” which was a base for privateers who preyed on the East English Indiamen.
In 1810, the British Royal Navy were fed up with this stone in their shoe and decided to retaliate by sending off four frigates. They were thoroughly defeated in Grand Port, off Mahebourg. The wrecks of two frigates, the Magicienne and the Sirius are known to be lying 60 to 90 feet down and can be reached by scuba diving. The Battle of Grand Port was the only notable French naval victory against the English and is proudly inscribed on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
A few months after this embarrassment to the English, an invasion was launched by them from the island of Rodrigues, 250 miles away. The island’s defences collapsed and the French capitulated and four years later Ille de France was ceded to Britain. It is interesting to note that under the terms of surrender to the English under the treaty of Paris, the French way of life, religion, language, laws and customs were safeguarded. This settlement is still recognised with gratitude by the French descendants of Mauritius.
The economy thrived under British administration and the island prospered. The first major social change came with the abolition of slavery in 1833. Freed, the African and Creole workers refused to labour in the sugar plantations and indentured labour was recruited from India. Once strengthened, the labour force helped towards the expansion of the sugar industry and helped speed sugar consignments to Port Louis by building roads and bridges to the port.
Life continued peacefully for more than 100 years and Mauritius was known as the “Star and Key of the Indian Ocean”. During the Age of Steam the island became an important coaling station on the passage to India. When the Suez Canalwas opened, the island’s strategic commercial importance was lost until the closure of the Suez during WW2 when it had a brief revival. Prosperity continued through the first half of the 20th century, interrupted by the two Great Wars in which many Mauritians served with the British army.
In 1968, after 154 years of British rule Mauritius gained Independence.

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"Wear the Most Important Hat that Fits"

May 2, 2013 - Leave a Response
I saw a teapot being auctioned off on one of those shows on TV, and fell in love with it and thought my son-in-law would too. As I could not afford to buy a Clarice Cliff original, an illustration was the next best thing I could give him. So here is an image of my offering:

“chooks for Johnno” Copyright-Susan Cook-Jahme

One thing I have learnt in life, “Wear the Most Important Hat that Fits” when it comes to being creative. Wake up every day and be excited at the prospect of what your are really good at and enjoy doing and you will become successful and happy.

Love and Light,
Susan

About Susan Cook-Jahme: the Happy Scribbler

April 28, 2013 - Leave a Response

About Susan Cook-Jahme: the Happy Scribbler.

Have Camper Van, must Travel, Portobello to Akorora, Banks Peninsula

December 12, 2012 - Leave a Response

The next morning we took time to explore the Otago Peninsula, driving to Taiaroa Head to see the Albatross Colony fortifications at the extreme tip of the peninsula.

The road ended at Penguin Beach on farmland owned by the Reid family who manage and run a conservation effort called Nature’s Wonders. Here, the world’s rarest penguins, yellow-eyed or Hoiho penguins, (Maori for “Noise-Shouter”) and little blue penguins live in harmony with New Zealand fur seals, sea lions and a vast variety of birds.

“Fur seals look like old Russian men in big hats” I said to Graham.

“Well,” Graham replied, “better not mess with these old Russian men, take a look at their rows of sharp teeth!”

I laughed, “Better not try drinking their vodka, or eating their smoked fish, I guess.”

On our return to the main land, we stopped at one of the many artist’s craft studios, “Happy Hens” to see Yvonne Sutherland’s ceramic hens. Absolutely delightful, they are based on traditional poultry breeds once kept by the pioneering women on the island. They are a well established part of New Zealand folk art and are exported all over the world.

I wanted to buy one so badly, but was reminded by Graham that I would have to carry it all the way back to South Africa, so I left with a brochure and a promise to myself that one day I’d return, live in South Island and have a house full of the bright chooks!

On the side of the road we saw “Fletcher House”, a restored Victorian villa from around 1909. As we are fortunate to have a number of similar houses in Cape Town, we did not bother to stop, but turned down Castelwood Road to take a look at Lanarch Castle.

This is New Zealand’s only castle, built in 1871, standing regally in its well manicured gardens. It’s walls holding the secrets of tragic and scandalous tales from long ago.

As we discovered there was an entrance fee into the Castle and the grounds, we moved on towards Port Chalmers on Route 1, heading up the east coast.

The views over Otago’s harbour and the landscape were amazing and Port Chalmer’s appeared to boast many artist’s studios, boutiques and galleries. Many of them housed in the port’s original buildings.

“We’ll earmark this place, and come back sometime,” Graham promised.

He knew I was longing to stop and mooch around, but was also aware if I had my way, we would never reach our evening destination, Akorora.

“Did you know that this was the birthplace of New Zealand’s modern export trade?” I asked, “In 1882, the Island’s first cargo of frozen meat left and arrived 98 days later in Great Britain, still frozen. Since then the Kiwi’s have been known as very good frozen meat exporters.”

Graham looked across at me, “Good old New Zealand lamb!”

We travelled through Palmerston, Hampden, Herbert, and Maheno, before reaching Oamaruwhere we parked and had a cup of coffee before setting off to walk on the beach and have a look at the unusual round rocks on the shore.

Known as the Moeraki Boulders, they look as if giants have been playing a game of bowls on the smooth white sands of the beach. A few of them are shattered and the molten centres are exposed.

“Perhaps aliens arrived here, laid eggs and their offspring hatched?” I suggested to Graham.

Actually…they are a collection of fifty round concretions scattered along Koekohe Beach and are among the world’s largest concretions at a whopping 7 tons and 8 feet in diameter.”

He explained as he stroked the surface of one of them.

These lumps of sediment took 4 million years to grow and are bound together by a mineral cement. They started forming in a mud stone about 60 million years ago and were later lifted out of the sea and became part of the cliff line. Centuries of coastline erosion released them from the cliffs and then they rolled down to the beach.”

Smarty-pants,” I said, thinking my version was far more romantic…

As we had spent more time than we had planned on the beach, we decided to drive through Timaru, Ashburton and on to Rolleston where we tuned off on to Route 75, past Lake Ellesmere and over the steep, windy roads of Banks Peninsular, arriving late evening to the sun setting over Akaroa Harbour where we found Duvauchelle Holiday park which is beautifully situated on the water’s edge on Seafield Road at the head of the harbour.

Much to our surprise the camp manager and his wife were originally from South Africa, so we spent extra time chatting to him about the surrounds and what to see.

We learnt that Captain Cook arrived in Akaroa Harbour in the 1770’s, but before him, the Ngai Tahu tribe well before he and his crew ever set site on the place and that it was one of the only places colonised by French speaking natives.

More time to look around tomorrow,” Graham said, “right now, lets start the fire and have a barb-q, I’m starving!”

Don’t forget the wine,” I suggested as I took the New Zealand lamb chops out of the marinade they had been soaking in.

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Have Camper Van, must Travel, Queenstown to Dunedin, (House of Pain)

December 10, 2012 - Leave a Response
 “Let’s go see Milford Sound”, I said to Graham as I fried eggs and bacon,
“OK” He agreed, “And then we will back-track down to the southern most tip of the island, Bluff, before heading our way up to Dunedinon the Otago Peninsula for the night.”
Full tummies, and happy that we had chosen the camper-van alternative to travel, we packed up and headed down Route 6 over the Mataura River, which runs through Gore, (known as the “Brown Trout Capital of the World.”) After a coffee and stretching our legs, we drove on to Lumsden, turning right onto Route 94, through Mossburnarriving at the town of Te Anau on the shores of Lake Te Anau over the Downs, to Cascade Creek, through the Homer Tunnel in the Southern Alps and bursting out the exit to the sight of Milford Sound.
Buses from Queenstown and Te Anau were disgorging tourists, some fortunate enough to be including a Red Boat Cruise around the Sound, and after that a scenic plane flight back to Queenstown.
We were perfectly happy to sit in the front of our home on wheels and share a bag of crisps, watching all the busy people brandishing their cameras, and take in what is described as the “Eighth Natural Wonder of the World,” one of the most incredible views we had ever seen in our lives. Water from the Mitre Peak tumbled and crashed down, disrupting the slumbering blue waters below.
“Wow!” We both exclaimed, crunching our salt and vinegar crisps. Unable to verbalise how we felt about the place.
We would have liked to stay the night there, but as we still had so much of the island to see, and limited time in which to do it, we returned the way we had travelled. Driving past Te Anau onto Manapouri, then a connecting road (53) to Clifden, where we viewed the historic suspension bridge, spanning the Waiaiu River which was built in 1899.
Soon we arrived in Tuatapereand connected onto Route 1 which leads through Invercargilland down to Bluffoverlooking the Foveaux Strait onto the distant view of the port village of Halfmoon Bay on Stewart Island.
“Time for lunch!”, Graham announced as we pulled up at the southern most point of New Zealand.
I clambered into the back and started preparing tuna sandwiches, while Graham took a stroll.
Taking our sarnies to a nearby rock that looked as if it had two bottom sized dents conveniently carved in its surface, we sat and looked out at the sea.
A dwarf sea-gull ambled up to us and told us off for not sharing our tuna with him, “Cheeky! Go catch your own fish!” I shooed him away.
“Didn’t work Babe,” Graham laughed, “he’s summoned his mates…”
Obviously well meaning people who travel to that part of the island throw scraps for the persistent little birds, and as we were not sharing ours, they were fed up.
“Ewww, makes me think of Alfred Hitchcock’s film “The Birds”, let’s leave before we are devoured!”
Graham raised an eyebrow, “No, let’s leave before your imagination overtakes both of us…”
Tracking around the outskirts of Invercargill, we travelled on the unsealed connecting road (46) to Fortrose, connecting to road (28) to Tokanui, Papatowai, on through the beautiful Catlins Forest Park to Kaka Point.
“Mmmm, wonder who named this place?” I mused.
“Maybe someone who needed to kaka?” Graham suggested. I gave him a friendly punch on his arm.
Balculutha was our next port of call, where we turned right onto Route1, through the towns of Clarksville, Milton and Waihola, over the Taeri River to the University city of Dunedin on the central-eastern coast of Otago. This is the second largest city in South Island after Christchurch.
It is also called “The House of Pain,” due to Carisbrook Stadium, where rugby, New Zealand’s most popular sport is played.
As it was growing dark, we made our way through the city along the twisty road clinging to the Otago Peninsula overlooking Macandrew, Company and Broad Bays, to our over night camp Portobello Village Tourist Park in Herewek Street, Portobello.
The park was close to a spit that had the Dunedin Aquarium perched at the end, so we walked there to have a look around, but as it was late, the place was closed.
Not phased, we turned around and returned to our camper, ready to settle down for the night.
“Beer?”
I heard the clink of bottles and fizz of the cap as Graham opened our evening sun-downer.

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Have Camper Van, must Travel, Mount Cook to Queenstown

November 26, 2012 - Leave a Response

Waking up in a camper-van was a new experience. My bed was comfortable and warm. I untangled myself from the duvet and rolled over to look out of the window at the trees shadowing Lake Tekapo.

How different this lush, green Eden of a country is in comparison to the tawny golds and yellows of the African bush that I have grown up with.” I thought.
Morning,” said Graham as he brought me a steaming cup of coffee, “beautiful, isn’t it?”
Yes, not like England, or Europe,” I mused, “The air is so pristine and everything seems to breath easy, you get what I am trying to say?”
Graham nodded, “One could easily live here.”
I nodded, “Now I know fairyland does exist.” The light twinkled, skipping on the ripples over the Lake’s clear, blue glacial waters.
After breakfast, we looked at our map, “Mount Cook looks good, what do you think?”
I nodded in agreement. No one visits South Island, New Zealand without paying homage to that famous land mark, sacred to the Maori’s, their name for their ancestral mountain, “Aoraki.
Driving along Route 8, we stopped to take photo’s at the foot of Lake Pukaki, then on Route 80 to Mount Cook, where we called in at the visitor centre located on the High Dam.
The well informed guide at the centre came across to chat, and told us that the view of Mt. Cook was known as “The Million Dollar View.”
It’s beautiful,” I said as I looked at the massive mountain reaching up to the sky.
Graham put his hand on my shoulder, “3, 753 meters high”
How do you know that?” I asked him, impressed, “Learnt it in geography at school, years ago,” was his reply.
I shook my head, amazed, as always at the amount of general knowledge my husband stores in his head.
The guide went on to tell us that the Lake is a major water source for the upper and lower hydro systems, having been raised in 1950 by 9 meters and again in 1980 by 37 meters to create massive water storage.
We still had a way to go, and turned our backs to the mass of water, “Let’s go catch that mountain up ahead,”
I nodded in response to what Graham had said, “A photo opportunity at every turn in this country!”
The “Lord of the Rings trilogy” came to my mind as we drove towards Mount Cook and its soaring peaks and glaciers. I thought of the film crews who filmed the entire film on different locations in New Zealand.
Here, the ancestors of Aoraki watched as the crew re-enacted the Misty Mountains of Tolkien’s epic tale.
We passed the Glentanner Station, a fully working high country sheep station and then fifteen minutes later arrived at the Mount Cook village, where we went and mulled over a menu at the Hermitage Hotel.
Um, let’s give this place a miss,” we both said at the same time and laughed.
Things on that menu were a trifle expensive and we knew we had enough for a hearty meal and hot cup of tea in our trustworthy camper-van!
In the warmth of our refuge, we took in the vast blanket of snow cloaked over Mount Cook, its peak wearing a flossy hat of cloud.
Kia tuohu koutou, Me he maunga teitei, Ko Aoraki anake.” I read from my travel guide.
Translate,” asked Graham
If you must bow your head, then let it be to the lofty mountain Aoraki,”
A prayer or blessing.
I bowed my head in the direction of the mountain.
I think to to the Maori’s, the mountain represents the elements that bind the spiritual and physical elements of all things together. It is the source of creation and life.”
There was no doubt that there was a powerful sacredness that had enveloped us as we sipped steaming mugs of tea.
We back tracked along Route 80 which winds adjacent to the Ben Ohau Mountain Range and stopped at Twizel, the town of trees.
I could settle here Babe,”
Why?” Graham asked.
Because it’s a great name, – imagine telling people you live in a place called Twizzle!”
I visualised us living in one of the Scandinavian style houses, set in amongst the 250,000 trees that had been planted by the local residents.
A new town, constructed in 1968 in the Mackenzie Basin on land formerly part of the Ruataniwha Station, Twizel takes its name from the River Twizel.
The town survived being bulldozed to ground level once the Upper Waitaki power Scheme was completed, but the residents fought the Government.
They won and in 1983 the town, its shops, houses and facilities were handed over to the County.
It is now known as the “Heart of the high Country” and survives on tourism. In the summer water-sports and golfing and in the winter ski season.
Twizel,” it rolled off my tongue, “Bet the witch’s house in Hansel and Gretel was called Twizel…sounds like a kind of sugar stick or cup-cake.”
Come on Babe,” Graham hauled me out of my day dream, “there’s a grocery shop, let’s get practical and stock up for tonight.”
Travelling south, we arrived at a small town called Omaramasituated on the junctions of routes 8 and 83 and as we wanted to reach our camp in Queenstown, we did not stop, but carried on through the Lindis Pass, which links the Mackenzie Basin to Central Otago, saddling the Ahuririand LindisRivers, 971 meters above sea level.
Snow teased the edges of the road and I was once again glad that Graham was driving. The view of the valley way, way below as we drove along had me closing my eyes on occasion!
Arriving at Comwella small town set on the shores of Lake Dunstan, I said to Graham as I looked at the map, “left or right? Both roads are Route 6!”
He leant over from the drivers seat and looked at the map, “Queenstownto the left and Wanaka to the right. Still plenty of time, let’s go right.” he said as he turned right.
Lake Wanaka was nestled in the base of towering mountains and was picture book perfect.
We pulled over onto the side of the road and got outside to stretch our legs.
Coffee?” I asked Graham, “Why not?” He agreed as we moved into the back of the van, out of the cold.
Time to find a place for the night,”
Yes,” I agreed, as we both moved back into the front of our flash camper.
We back tracked down the way we had come, travelling through Cromwell once again and passed through Arrow Junction and on to Queenstown, snuggling the shores of Lake Wakatipu.
We stopped for a while to take a look at Nevis Bungy, on the corner of Camp and Shotover Streets. This is New Zealand’s highest bungy jump and has a 134 meter drop.
Not going on that!” I moved away from the edge.
Me neither,” Graham said.
We got back into the van and drove through the ski town to Frankton Motor Camp on the lake edge.
After a lovely hot showers in the camp-site bathroom facilities, we took a walk into the town where we found a cosy little restaurant.
The side walks outside were full of happy holiday makers all out for a good evening on the town.
The waitress looking after our table informed us that Queenstown was known as the “Adventure Capital of the World,” and that it has half the population in New Zealand in Tourists every year.
Wow,” I took a sip of my wine and winked at Graham, “and we are two of them!”

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Have Camper Van, must Travel

November 24, 2012 - 2 Responses

The bed and breakfast facilities in New Zealand are all well appointed, with friendly owner/managers. The people we stayed with happily shared their knowledge of South Island with us, the best places to visit and how to go about booking a camper van for less than what was advertised by the rental companies.
What we found valuable information was that we should ask the company to show us their vehicles that were more than four years old. The reason for this is that the insurance premium on them is as not as high as the new vehicles they tout, and if you are not in the know, the rental agent will get you to sign up and you pay almost a third more for a newer model!
As we wanted to visit my uncle who was in hospital, (one of the main reasons for our trip to New Zealand) we decided that we would visit him first, then spend the day looking around the city, spend another night with our lovely B and B hosts, then go and find the camper van of our choice the next day.
Christchurchis a beautiful garden city, nestled on the coast with the Southern Alps creating a breath-taking backdrop. It is the gateway to the Canterbury Plains which spread westwards towards the mountains.
South-East of the city leads on to Banks Peninsula, which is formed by two huge volcanic craters and extends into the Pacific Ocean, like an old gnarled sharks-tooth.
After looking around a very modern shopping mall and having a bite to eat, we took the historic inner city Christchurch Tramway.
Although the tickets are valid for two days, we knew that this was the best way to see all of the city in one day, as it took us past Cathedral Square, Arts Centre, Canterbury Museum and the Botanic Gardens.
In the evening we had a slap up meal at a local Indian restaurant within walking distance of our B and B.
Upon our return our hosts had waited up for us and had coffee and biscuits laid out on the kitchen table. We felt that we were visiting good friends.
At breakfast the next day we mentioned that we were going to book our camper van and asked where the rental agencies were located.
Oh, close to the airport,” said our host, “No worries, I’ll drive you there,” he said.
So off we set, Graham sitting “shot-gun” in the front passenger seat and me squashed into the back seat with all of our suitcases and travel bags.
It’s OK Babe, not too far to go…besides, you are little, so you fit in there with the luggage perfectly.”
Yeah, that’s me, economy sized!” I though to myself.
Our Holiday Home on Wheels
After going to a couple of places, we ended up with a six berth camper from Maui Rentals. It had all living, cooking and sleeping equipment included, air-conditioning and bathroom facilities, 24 hour road service and a handy road map and travel guide.
(Oh, and if you are wondering why we went for a six berth, we did not feel like making up beds, then folding them away to have a sitting area. Too much trouble, and we were on holiday!)
Glad that Graham was at the helm and I was the navigator, we drove to a large shopping area where we stocked up on groceries and supplies before setting off in our up-market Mercedes-Benz camper.
Where are we going?” I asked Graham,
Dunno, let’s have a coffee and look at our map,” he said as he parked outside a coffee shop.
We found a table close to a window, ordered coffee, cheese and ham pies, then spread the map out over the table.
Here” Graham said, pinpointing a place with his finger on the map, “ Lake Tekapo”
OK Babe, let’s go” I agreed in a flash, “looks a really good place to spend our first night!”
Taking the road along the east coast, then onto Route 79 we drove through stunning scenery and pulled off at a lay-by to have a snack. This was the first time we had ever had such a luxury as a camper van, we were used to camping in the African bush in our tent, so had not experienced the leisure of a mobile home where you could simply stop, open up the kitchen, prepare something to eat and sit in a comfy seat at your dining room table and look out the window at the view. We both decided it was a good way to holiday and see the country at the same time.
The roads in New Zealand are of high standard, maps and places are well marked. It appeared, much to our amusement, that the locals steered clear of tourists driving camper vans. We were fine as we were used to driving on the left hand side of the road, but noticed some vans swerved onto the wrong side of the road on occasion. So, like the locals, we were cautious of fellow camper van sight-seers from our first day on the road.
My first sight of Lake Tekapo
Upon our arrival at Lake Tekapo in the late afternoon, the sun was setting behind the mountains of the vast Mackenzie Basin, their faces reflecting in the clear turquoise waters.
We booked into Lake Tekapo Motels and Motor Camp, set in amongst massive, shady trees.
Our camping pitch over looked the lake and as we parked we both looked out the front windscreen. Neither of us spoke, we were too busy absorbing the peaceful beauty of the place, there was no need to say anything.
The camp is run as a quiet family camp, with security and cleanliness a top priority. There is a laundry with four commercial washers, for commercial dryers and they also have a TV lounge, should you wish to watch the goggle-box instead of taking in the lake and all its beauty. For people who choose not to eat “in”, the place has easy access to a variety of restaurants, bars, a service station with LPG facilities, garage and grocery store.
Autumn Colours at Lake Tekapo
We went for a walk, taking a bottle of beer each and sat on the shore sipping the golden local beer. A couple walked by and stopped to chat. They informed us that Tekapo was the departure point for the world renowned Air Safaris Grand Traverse flight around Mount Cook and were going on it the next day.
As they walked away, their parting shot was, “By the way, make sure you don’t leave the empties behind…we Kiwis make sure the environment is kept clean!”
Graham and I looked at each other, “As if we would,”
I nodded in agreement with his comment, “Yes, we get deposit on the bottles. Can buy more.”
In that year the Springbok Rugby Team played like Trojans, so we both decided that because they “hammered” the All-blacks15-12 in the Final game played on South African soil at Ellis Park, Johannesburg, we had been told off on Kiwi soil.
Chuckling to ourselves, we returned to our four wheel home, discussing how we remembered Nelson Mandella wearing the Sprinkbok Rugby shirt and cap when he presented the Ellis Cup to the Captain, Francois Pienaar.
That was a great game and brought all the people in South Africa closer than ever before.
Of course we admitted to each other, that makes the New Zealanders the second best in the world.
Giving them credit where credit was due, we started a good old South African braai, and cooked our supper before turning in for the night.
Early Morning at Lake Tekapo

If you enjoy my writing, purchase my books and EBooks:

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Read my daily Blog:
http://www.susans-light-box.blogspot.com/
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