Up hills and down dales and on to the bonnie shores of Loch Lomond

The walk on day 2 starts with a short summit of Conic Hill’s summit (361m), on the Highland Boundary Fault  which separates the highlands and the lowlands and provides fantastic views of  Loch Lomond.  After the steep descent  into Balmaha we were rewarded with a well deserved ale and sandwich.

Our afternoon was filled with a scenic but challenging path which followed  the loch shore, natural forest and headlands as we made our way to Rowardennan.  The day two walk was an energetic twenty-three kilometres.

One step at a time!

The West Highland Way officially commences in the Glasgow suburb Milngavie (pronounced Mull-guy).  It is possible to take a train from the city centre to Milngavie but we caught a taxi and met our baggage transfer service at the train station.  Once unhindered by heavy bags we could set off on the first day – the nineteen kilometre hike to Drymen.  We set out on an initial stroll through a suburban reserve , then through beautiful farm-scapes, stopped off at Glengoyne Whiskey Distillery and then on to our wonderful B&B and dinner in a very quaint and cosy pub.  An excellent start to our adventure.  We would soon know if our pre-trip training had been enough.

Queenstown revisited.

 

This little township is somewhere to come back to.  It is always re-inventing itself but the main drawcard is the spectacular lakeside scenery.

Make sure you stay downtown as the roadway into Queenstown, along the lake is very busy all of the time.  Any hotels along this route are way too noisy.  Air conditioning in summer is also a necessity.

The road from Queenstown to Glenorchy is spectacular with lots of picnic spots and photo opportunities.  Many walks commence from Glenorchy.

 

Try the Earnslaw day trip and BBQ lunch – it was a great day out despite being a very touristy experience.  The steamboat trip in the sunny weather was enjoyable with the horn sounded when we arrived at the sheep farm.  The shearing display was littered with kiwi jokes and the skilful sheepdog display was interesting.  Lunch was full of magnificent kiwi produce and consumed on the lakeside patio.

Lots to do, plenty to see, just take lots of money!

 

In awe of Hillary – Inspiring Mount Cook.

How inspiring to think that Hillary trained here and went on to conquer Everest.

The DOC office has a museum to the climbers of days past including hob nail climbing boots and documentaries on the many mountain rescues mad regularly on Mount Cook.

A great village with a few options for dining.  Camping is some distance from the village. Lots of walking options including a tramp to Hooker Glacier.   Make the effort as the scenery and environment is worthwhile.

The Te Aroa track ventures close to the road in this area.   Get inspired -hop out of the car and go on a walking adventure from the top of NZ to the bottom!

 

From the ocean to the mountains… too easy in NZ!

It is a quick trip from the pristine harbour of Akaroa to the splendid valley that is Arthur’s Pass.  Visitors can drive to this location or catch the train – with a station at Arthur’s Pass.

There are a few accommodation options at Arthur’s Pass with many people choosing to camp or stay in their RVs.  There is a useful DOC office which will provide plenty of advice about the various hikes on offer.  Make sure to visit the DOC office to make the most of your time tramping.

We stayed four nights and enjoyed a variety of hikes which included waterfalls and magnificent viewpoints.  Make sure to bring some food along with you as food is expensive in this location.  Look out for some pretty native flowers and those cheeky parrots – the Kea.

 

 

Antipodean Escape

Summer Holiday Escape

What better way to wind down after a busy year than to jet off to the South Island of New Zealand.

It is a quick flight over “the ditch” from Brisbane to Christchurch.  Easy to organise a hire car for pick up at the airport and then a leisurely drive out to the tranquillity of Akaroa.

This beautiful village is set on a magnificent harbour, formed by the flooded crater of an extinct volcano.  There are a range of walking tracks on the surrounding hillsides and the opportunity to take a harbour cruise.  The day cruise means getting up close and personal with the tiny hector dolphins.  There is an option of swimming with these beautiful creatures however they seem very happy to swim alongside of the cruise boat.  Lazy NZ fur seals sunbake at the entrance of the harbour.  A great day out to enjoy the fresh air, sunshine and natural beauty of this special place.  A beer watching the sunset is always a good option to end a busy day.

Dining and shopping options are limited outside of the arrivals of cruise ships, when I am  sure the place springs to life.  Fish and chips is always a great NZ dining choice!

Make sure you take the time to drive out to this pretty French inspired New Zealand enclave.

Day 18 – Arigatou

Our last day in Japan was one of contrasts.  We left the comfort of the Park Hotel behind us for our last day exploring this marvellous city.

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We visited the hustle and bustle of Shinjuku streets to the peace and bliss of the gardens.

There was a wonderful display of chrysanthemum flowers.  The garden scapes with skyscrapers in the background said it all.

Japan is a fantastic destination with so much to see and do… we will be back.

Sayonara … now what to buy at duty free???

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Day 17 – sNOw monkeys

A stay in Maruka Ryokan is a step back in time.  I am not sure how old the owners of the Ryokan are but their very helpful son appeared to us to be in his seventies!

The best days for this Ryokan have past.  Taps are quaint, tiles around the onsen crumbling and fixtures and fittings have seen better days.  However the linen was spotless and miso soup the best in Japan.  Breakfast was excellent and the hospitality from the elderly hosts has to be experienced to be believed.  A little window to the past.

We were lucky to be given a lift to the snow monkey park by the Ryoken owner’s son.  He had a message in English on his phone to tell us that it wasn’t likely that the monkeys would come out to play.  I just wish someone had said out right – don’t waste your time, but anyway live and learn!

If you go to Yamanouchi in autumn don’t expect to see snow monkeys.  They are too busy making more snow monkeys and don’t bother to come down to their onsen.  We waited and waited with the promise they might come down but finally had to go.  Looking on webcam, even from home it seems they didn’t come down from the hills for quite some time!

 

We left Yaramnouchi and travelled by JR train back to Tokyo.  The contrast of the quiet backwater to the hustle and bustle of the world class city was huge.

We rediscovered the Ginza line and Shimbashi station.  We retraced our steps to the Park Hotel and this time we had booked a room with a view- maybe we will see the shy one – Mount Fuji.

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Day 16 – Down from the clouds

Overnight the weather had changed and Murodo was covered in snow.  It was great to experience different climatic conditions and get the chance to view the alpine environment from a different perspective.

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After breakfast we set off on the journey down the alps and on to Yamanouchi.

We left Murodo on an electric trolley bus through a mountain tunnel, then caught the ropeway, cable car and then had to walk over the dam wall.  This was mildly unpleasant as the weather had turned to rain with wind whistling through the gorge.  I am sure that this would have been a stunning sector on the previous day.  For us it was a hurried walk, dragging our roller bags with our umbrellas nearly blowing away!  Hey, it happens!

The trolley bus the took us through the mountain to the bus station.

We then had to purchase tickets on the local bus to drive us to Nagano.  This bus trip took quite a long time – a few hours.  It was especially frustrating to experience the peak hour traffic as we approached Nagano.  We had been spoilt by the efficient Japanese train services.  At Nagano we quickly boarded the JR train to Yudanaka.

There were ominous signs up at the ticket office – “No snow monkeys today”

Yudanaka was a curious old onsen town with public foot spas dotted around the footpaths and the local public onsen housed in the same building as the train station.

We had organised to stay in an old Ryokan and the owner’s son would collect us from the station when we arrived.  Just like clock work, we were picked up and driven to our home for the night.