Girl in Mudgee

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A quick weekend away in Mudgee, New South Wales over Easter has left me with a new favourite place near Sydney.  Mudgee is a gorgeous little town four hours drive from Sydney, with vineyards in all directions, and some superb places to eat and rest.  I like that it’s a very flat region, making it perfect for cyclists.  There are also some gorgeous vineyards and very special places to stay nestled into the surrounding hills.  The golden light in the mornings and evenings shining down on the valley and the layers of hills is just divine.

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Karloo Walk, Royal National Park, NSW

Karloo Pool

Karloo track is one of Sydney’s Royal National Park’s best day walks.  It’s close proximity to the suburban train from Sydney and it’s stunning swimming hole make it a very popular destination for Sydney visitors.  If you are planning a visit on the weekend, I would recommend starting out early, so you can enjoy the swimming hole before it gets too busy.

Directions: From Heathcoate Train Station, cross to the east side of the train tracks and walk about 20 metres south down Wilson Parade until you reach a sign marking the start of Karloo Track.  Walk 1 hour on this track through the bush until you reach Karloo Pool. After a swim and a rest, you have the option of continuing on to Uloola Falls and then onward to Waterfall Train Station, or turning and walking an hour back up the track to Heathcote Train Station.

Girl in Noosa

Noosa

We spent Christmas in Noosa this year, swimming, walking the headlands, and visiting the farmers market.  There was something comforting about bobbing in the flat warm water on Main Beach at 6am on Christmas morning with about 40 other souls… moving gently with the swell, sharing the beginning of the day’s festivities with strangers.

Hawksbury Lagoon Walk, Coastal Otago, NZ

Hawksbury Lagoon

From the main highway running through the small Otago town of Waikouaiti, you would never imagine that a few streets away there is a beautiful rural walk that takes you through some of Otago’s most striking coastal landscape.

There is something eerie and and other wordly about Hawskbury Lagoon, a wildlife refuge on the drive North out of Dunedin.  Lots of native plants and birds will greet you, but few if any people.  It is so quiet, and just made for a movie – it would make such a good film location.

Directions:
From the main highway, walk or drive down Beach Street to Scotia Street, which will lead you to a causeway over the lagoon. Cross the Causeway and then turn left up the path towards Inverary Street.  From here you can either head back to do, or walk down Inverary to Edinburgh Street which will take you to the beach and Matanaka.

Puketapu Walk, Coastal Otago, NZ

Puketapu

If you have a few hours to spare when driving to Dunedin, and don’t mind a steep hill and lots of sheep, stop in Palmeston for a quick walk up Puketapu and fantastic 360 degree views of this part of Otago.

Directions: From the main road in Palmeston, drive up Goodwood Road until a parking lot on the right hand side, looking back down over town.  About 10 metres back down the road from the parking lot, there is a stile over the fence on the other side of the road, leading into paddocks and up the hill to the monument you can see at the top.

The walk will take you up a few steep paddocks, past some very gentle rams feasting on thistles, and a flock of sheep sheltering under some macrocarpa pines, and across another two stiles until you start to see yellow markers which point the way to the top of the hill.  You will see one steep trail leading straight up the hill, which you can scramble up if you are very fit, but if you would like a more leisurely walk that spirals around the hill and gives you views in all directions, follow the markers in a clockwise direction.

You approach the summit from the back of the hill, and it is a bit of a scramble, but you will get up there faster than you think, and there is a table and bench at the top to have a rest while you enjoy the views.  You then take the exact same route back down again.  It will take about an hour and a half to walk up and down.

Girl in Central Otago

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I grew up 2 hours drive from this part of New Zealand, and spent a lot of time there as a teenager and again at University when I was studying Geography at the University of Otago in Dunedin.

The area has changed a lot since the wild thyme and rabbits that I remember from school camps when I was a kid, with the landscape often now defined by the vines that Central Otago Pinot and Riesling have made the region famous for.

Many people know Central Otago particularly for the thrill seeking activities you can find around Queenstown, but  I prefer to think of it as the same kind of place as Napa or Sonoma in California, Orange or Mudgee in New South Wales, Australia, and the Kelowna or Okanagan wine region in Canada.  The mountains and lakes around Queenstown and the schist geology of Cromwell offer such a stunningly dynamic landscape, and personally I think one of the best ways to explore the lower part of the region and really take everything in is via the Central Otago Rail Trail.

We didn’t have enough time to cycle on this trip, flying into Queenstown for one night before heading further south to Coastal Otago,  so instead chose to focus on wine.  After a walk around Lake Wakitipu our first evening, we had a lovely dinner at Amisfield Winery and the next day joined Jim Ashe for a day trip to visit wineries in the Gibbston Valley, Cromwell and Bannockburn.  Jim has worked in the Central Otago wine industry as a grower and wine maker for many years and really knows his stuff.  We visited Peregrine, Aurum, The Wooing Tree, Domain Road, and enjoyed a delicious lunch at Mt Difficulty.

Stayed at: Queenstown Hilton, Kawarau, Queenstown and Plum Tree Cottage, Clyde
Ate at: Amisfield Bistro, Lake Hayes; Mt Difficulty, Cromwell; and Olivers, Clyde
Explored: Central Otago Vineyards with Pinot Thyme Wine Tours
Region Highlights: Glenorchy, Arrowtown, Bannockburn, Clyde, St Bathans

Travel Diary: Balinese Funeral

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When in Ubud, we joined the early morning crowd gathered in the village of Peliatan to farewell a member of the Balinese Royal Family.  A royal cremation is a huge affair, with men from all the local villages involved in carrying the ornate funeral pyre for kilometres down Ubud’s main streets.  The men take turns carrying the heavy pyre for short distances, and are helped along by some impressive drumming.  The men join together to pick up the pyre and run with it for a few metres, before they are replaced by another crew. What with the uneven gutters, large crowds and a constantly moving swell of villagers as the pyre changes hands, watching the parade was a chaotic but very interesting cultural experience.

Thank you very much to Rana, Manager at Bidadari for helping us dress appropriately and taking us along.

Campuhan Ridge Walk, Ubud

Campuhan Ridge

They call it ‘trekking’ in Bali, and it’s one of the best ways to explore.  There are plenty of walking tracks around Ubud, and all tracks lead to rice fields.  If you would like to spend a lot of time exploring the Ubud area by foot, I would highly recommend the Bali Pathfinder Map (which you can buy from book stores in Ubud for about $5).  I also found a lot of useful information in blog posts by other travellers.

Campuhan Ridge was the walk I most enjoyed on both our trips to Ubud.  I loved it for its beautiful scenery, and the tasty places to stop and eat on the way.  I was also very taken by the idea that this is where lovers in Ubud go for some romantic alone time, and we were actually lucky enough on our last trip to see a local couple meeting here in their beautiful wedding clothes, before their ceremony.

Directions: Walk from Jalan Raya Ubud towards Penestanan.  Just before the Temple, at the sign to Hotel Ibah on the right side of the road, turn right up the driveway to the hotel and then right again up a narrow walled pathway.  Careful, there could be motorcycles coming down from the ridge in the opposite direction quite quickly.