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.

Girl in Ubud

Flights from Australia often arrive at Denpasar in the afternoon, which means that the drive to Ubud delivers you to your destination in darkness.  This leads to a delightful experience your first morning in Ubud that I like to call ‘waking up in the green world’.

Waking in your four poster bed, pushing the gauzy curtains aside, and peeking out the window at the deep green swimming pool waiting for you, with a jungle valley teeming with insect life and other biota below, is one of the special things about treating yourself when travelling to Bali.  It’s magical to wake up in a new world.

With two visits to Ubud under our belt, we have stayed both times at a gorgeous little private retreat called Bidadari.  With only six villas, built in the traditional style, this resort offers a lot of privacy and plenty of opportunity for relaxing.  Another thing we like about Bidadari is that it is located away from the busy town center of Ubud, in a village called Kelabang Moding (on the way to the Tegalalang Rice Fields).  Bidadari only hires staff from the local village, so it’s a great way to get to know a community and learn a little bit about village life.

When in Ubud, we tend to start the day slowly and then wander through the rice fields surrounding Kelabang Moding and maybe take one of the various walking routes into town, something the locals call ‘trekking’.  Between walking and eating delicious food, and lounging in our little jungle pad, we find we fill our days quite nicely.

Stayed atBidadari Private Villas and Retreat, Ubud
Ate at: Hujan Locale, Swept Away at the Samaya
Explored: Mt Batur to Ubud by Mountain Bike with Infinity Mountain Biking

Girl in Melbourne

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Melbourne is a city that swaddles you and keeps you warm… as long as you are appropriately dressed.  It’s the kind of destination you always park a scarf when visiting (especially in Autumn) because you never know how bitterly cold it might be.  This is why Melbourne feels a lot like home, because New Zealand is the same.  And because my sister lives in Melbourne, so a part of home is always there to welcome me.

I never really do much when I am in Melbourne, only the things that you imagine people who live there do in this town.  It’s the perfect city to imagine you live in and just relax into.  So I shop, go to cafes, eat, wander through parks, walk up four flights of steps in search of bookstores, go to museums and galleries.  It is an easy to navigate city, so simple to get around.  Perfect for exploring and for solitary wandering days punctuated by meals with friends.

Stayed at: Tyrian Apartments in Fitzroy
Ate at: Vegie Bar, Moroccan Soup BarCumulus Inc, Mamasita, La Belle Miette
Explored: Tessuti Fabric Store, Metropolis Bookshop, Collected Works, The Nicholas Building
Region Highlights: Fitzroy, Collingwood, Carlton

Travel Diary: Solo Train Travel Across Canada

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Faced with a flight from somewhere in the US or Vancouver to Toronto, or a leisurely 3 day train trip, I will choose the train every time.  I have never had the opportunity to do an overnight train trip in a sleeper cabin before, so when I noticed that Via Rail had last minute half price tickets from Edmonton to Toronto I knew I had to get myself over the Rockies and onto that train.

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Vernal and Nevada Falls Walk, Yosemite

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This hike up the Mist Trail is a gorgeous forested and mossy zigzag to a height of 300 meres above sea level, where you will find one of Yosemite’s biggest and most famous waterfalls.  At the top of the trail, after some rather precarious but thrilling steps, the Merced River spills over the booming 100 metre tall Vernal Falls.  Be careful on the rock steps, which are slippery, and whatever you do, don’t think it’s a good idea to take a dip as it is very dangerous to swim there.   While the Mist Trail is a busy track, it’s not too crowded and there is a good sense of camaraderie as people walk up together.  From Vernal Falls, you can go higher to the much less crowded Nevada Falls.  It’s a 10 kilometre hike all up, but at least the return is downhill.