The final stretch home

We had plenty of time to get from Cheviot to Kaikoura so we had a few good stops. At Kaikoura we went to see the seals at the peninsula. I mistakenly mentioned to Alayna that they were sealions and from then on they were not fur seals, they were sealions. Whoops. We walked out and saw lots of rocks and kelp only a couple of fur seals and then back at the carpark I found one lounging around a few meters from the cars. Oh well, no harm in a walk.

Kelp was looking fresh

The kelp was looking fresh

A seal hidden in the rocks by the carpark

A seal hidden in the rocks by the carpark

We picked up lunch from a bakery in Kaikoura and then drove on to Ohau Point intending to go and see the seal nursery up by the waterfall. Unfortunately the track had recently been closed so that walk wasn’t going to happen. Thankfully there were plenty of seals to see across the road.

Stretching oystercatcher

Stretching oystercatcher

Lounging around

Lounging around

We had organised to stop off at my Uncle Noel’s place in Renwick and he offered to cook us up an early dinner so that was an unexpected nice surprise. Alayna got to play in a sandpit while dinner was prepared and also enjoyed watching Noel’s dog wandering around. Noel’s wife Val arrived for dinner and Keryn got to show off some of her recent sewing work and look at Val’s sewing setup and work.

From Renwick it was onward to Picton where we joined the queue for our ferry. The return sailing was calm and we even managed to get Alayna to sleep for a while after booking a cabin. Earlier Alayna and Keryn had wandered around the ship and looked at the trucks holding sheep, cattle and even some pigs. Further entertainment was had with a free activity bag we’d got before boarding and the stickers inside were a particular favourite.

Alayna ready for the sailing to Wellington

Alayna ready for the sailing to Wellington

The final South Island sunset

The final South Island sunset

We were home around midnight and it was good to be back, even if it did mean the holiday was over. At least it wouldn’t be long until Christmas and some more time off work.

Clear air views

Saturday night saw a strong southerly blowing through the lower North Island. The wind was mostly gone by Sunday and the afternoon was cool but clear with a uninterrupted views to the western horizon. I’ve been waiting a day like this and as sunset neared I drove north to the viewpoint on the Paekakariki Hill Road to check out the evening panorama. A few years ago I saw some photos taken from the viewpoint of Mount Ruapehu rising on the horizon above Paraparaumu and I’ve been wanting to give it a go. Arriving I was greeted by a clear 180 degree horizon and to the north the snow capped Mount Ruapehu was clearly visible while more westward the cone of Mount Taranaki poked above the horizon and the silhouette of Kapiti Island. Continuing west and south the South Island was also showing well.

Lovely light on the hills above the Paekakariki Hill Road

Lovely light on the hills above the Paekakariki Hill Road

Evening light over the coast

Evening light over the coast

Mount Ruapehu rising above the northern horizon just after sunset.

Mount Ruapehu rising above the northern horizon just after sunset.

I spent the next hour taking photos of the views, slowly losing feeling in my hands as the sun disappeared. I eventually returned to the car and got gloves. As the glow on the western horizon faded the next treat appeared, a sickle moon next to a brightly shining Venus and then directly below the lesser light of Jupiter. If I’d waited a bit longer I probably could have found the comet Panstarrs (C/2015 Q1) above the horizon as well but I needed to get home to assist with dinner and daughter wrangling.

The moon, Venus to the left and Jupiter below.

The moon, Venus to the left and Jupiter below.

Kapiti Island silhouette with Mount Taranaki peeking over the southern end (left hand side)

Kapiti Island silhouette with Mount Taranaki peeking over the southern end (left hand side)

Dusk on the Kapiti Coast

Dusk on the Kapiti Coast

Next time I’ll have to try for photos closer to home. I’ve seen shots of Mount Taranaki taken from Baxter’s Knob near our house so that will be the next viewpoint target.

Photos, a festival and a return to Makara Beach

Saturday was quite busy. Keryn spent the afternoon baking in Miramar at Kim’s with a bunch of like minded people. I spent a few hours wandering around Wellington with fellow photographers all taking part in the Wellington leg of the Scott Kelby world-wide photo walk. All around the world walks were taking place on Saturday and the uploaded photos would be up for various prizes.

The walk started up where at the lookout adjacent to the Cable Car station at the Botanical Gardens. We made our way through the gardens, across into the city and after passing along the waterfront we headed up Cuba St, ending at the Southern Cross bar. What started as thirty odd photographers quickly turned into little groups going every which way and I ended up walking with four others. Werner and his wife were in NZ from Canberra, visiting their daughter Helen. All three had cameras. There was also Kirsty, a local Wellingtonian who is doing a photography diploma and was taking part in her first online meet up. Kirsty became leader as we left parliament, the rest of us not really sure where our destination was.

The weather played nice and it was good to walk through Wellington with a camera taking photos. I’ve included a few here, there are many more in the Flickr gallery.

Statue DetailPhoto by Brendon & Keryn

A statue in the gardens

IMG 1168Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Passing through a graveyard

IMG 1212Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Texting on the waterfront

IMG 1269Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Last shot of the day on Cuba St

The beer I had at the Southern Cross was very refreshing. We talked for a while and then went our separate ways.

The evening saw me head down to the Petone foreshore to watch the burning of the fire sculptures and the fireworks show, all part of the Petone Winter Carnival. The weather was still playing its part and there was only a light breeze with clear skies slowly getting darker and filling with stars. Sam and Julian joined me and when Keryn finished her baking she came along as well. The sculptures to be burnt were arranged along the beach east of the Petone pier. Shortly after 5:30pm the first was lit and we moved from sculpture to sculpture watching the consumption of each by fire. Some were well designed but lacked the forethought of a flammable component, one a horse made out of driftwood that obviously wasn’t properly dry. Another called Stairway to Success took an age to get going but then burnt down dramatically, the fire consuming the stairs before burning the seaweed figure on top.

IMG 1318Photo by Brendon & Keryn

One of two commissioned sculpture pipes burns as the setting sun lights up the far hills.

IMG 1352Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The High Jump sculpture burns

IMG 1403Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The figure atop Stairway to Success rides the flames

IMG 1440Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Watching the final sculpture

The following fireworks were very good. Set off from the pier everyone on the beach got a good view.

IMG 1459Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Petone fireworks

IMG 1509Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Massed explosions in the finale

We followed up the carnival with dinner at a new restaurant in Lower Hutt called Las Margaritas. The restaurant serves Mexican dishes and I had very high hopes, the Mexican leg of our six month Latin America trip being a culinary highlight for me. While the meal was tasty and the free margaritas went down nicely the food lacked enough flavours to really be recommended, it was all a little safe (I’ll be asking for mucho salsa picante next time). That said the place was quite busy and it was just as well we had booked a table.

Sunday and more lovely weather. The cats enjoyed the sun on the patio outside and spent a lot of time lounging around and rolling on the warm concrete.

IMG 1511Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Earl and Cadbury (provisionally renamed Whittakers until Cadbury sort themselves out) enjoy the sun.

In the afternoon we drove back out to Makara Beach so Keryn could have a look. Being a weekend with sun there were lots of people out, the car park which was empty when I visited on the Monday past now chocker full of vehicles. We walked back up to the gun emplacements but the trip wasn’t quite so pleasant as there were strong winds blowing in off the sea. Rather than do the loop we returned the way we had came, otherwise we would have been walking in the dark once more.

IMG 1514Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Fishing off the rocks

IMG 1532Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Families enjoying the afternoon out

IMG 1540Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Looking towards the setting sun

IMG 1565Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Another nice sunset

Heading down we spotted a couple of dead possums, one at least which wasn’t there on the way up. I took a few photos back at the beach but had to give up, the howling wind making it impossible to keep the camera steady even with the tripod. We then drove back to Lower Hutt and spent the evening at the movies watching the latest Harry Potter.

IMG 1568Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A mystery dead possum

IMG 1570Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Last of the light

IMG 1580Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Final shot at Makara Beach

At the Weta Cave

Welcome to the Weta CavePhoto by Brendon & Keryn

Dragons on the gate

This last week we’ve twice been out to the Weta Cave in Miramar. On Wednesday evening the director Guillermo del Toro was signing his new novel (written with Chuck Hogan) The Strain and we took along our copy of The Devils Backbone to get that signed as well. We queued outside in the cold (thankfully not cold, wet and windy) for an hour or so and the queue slowly moved. While signing our things I asked Guillermo a few questions about The Hobbit and also if there would be another movie in the Devils Backbone/Pan’s Labyrinth sequence. The answer is no, Pan’s Labyrinth took so much out of Guillermo that he doesn’t think he could manage another one any time soon (Guillermo lost a lot of weight and struggled to get the movie made at all). Guillermo was as friendly and open as when I last met him back in London at Forbidden Planet. We got some photos taken but the camera hadn’t been set up correctly by yours truly so the there is quite a bit of shake in evidence. Do not adjust your set and contrary to the obvious you do not need 3D glasses to view this image.

IMG 0899Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Keryn and I with Guillermo del Toro at the Weta Cave

Today we returned to the Weta Cave for another signing. Alan Lee is an artist and is best known for his work based on books by J R R Tolkien. Guillermo and Alan are in Wellington working on the forthcoming movie The Hobbit. Alan actually remembered me (again it was a Forbidden Planet signing in London that we last met) and I again asked a few questions about the Hobbit and working in New Zealand (“Wouldn’t you rather be back in England where it’s summer?”, “It’s not that bad here really”). We got some photos taken and I was better prepared this time so the photo isn’t quite so shaky this time.

IMG 0910Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Keryn and I with Alan Lee at the Weta Cave

Day 100 : Puno to La Paz

Driving from Puno early we headed straight for the border with Bolivia. The border town was busy but thankfully not as much of a market as the previous border. There was a bit of queuing but things went well and we were soon all stamped up and in Bolivia.

A view over La Paz
A view over La Paz

We drove on and arrived at the city of La Paz mid afternoon. The hotel was in the old quarter of what looked to be a busy city, the streets nearby packed with people shopping at markets which radiated out along the footpaths. The afternoon was spent wandering around and figuring out where we were and looking into options for the next few days.

This was the last day of this section of the journey so we had a farewell meal at the Oliver’s Travels pub, a place modelled on an English pub. One different thing available at Oliver’s was the option to dress up, a number of costumes available to wear. We arrived to find only two types of costume available, French maid outfits and Spiderman suits. It didn’t take much convincing to get most of the guys into the French maid outfits, the looks we got were very interesting. One of the bar staff also put on the same outfit and she looked much better than we guys did.

The French Maid-Men
The French Maid-Men

Dressed up together
Dressed up together

It wasn’t a very late night as we had a long day of cycling coming up and we took a taxi back to the hotel looking forward to the coming adventure.

Day 97 : Cusco to Puno

We left Cusco today heading for the city Puno on the shore of Lake Titicaca. We stopped at the monument overlooking Cuzco near Sacsayhuaman and took some group photos as a diversion so Danny wouldn’t realise that a cake was being taken out for him back at the truck. Once the tables were out and the cake ready everyone came back to the truck and we sang Happy Birthday and then shared the cake.

The group photo diversion
The group photo diversion

Lake Titicaca is at almost 4000m above sea level and the drive took us gradually up over a high plateau. We arrived in the late afternoon and settled into our hotel. In the evening we all went out for dinner at a nice restaurant in the center of the city. We had two days, one night on the lake coming up so packing was done for the overnight visit and then sleep was called for, driving days being tiring.

Day 85 : Puerto Inka to Arequipa

It was another driving day today. We travelled from Puerto Inka inland to Arequipa, a lovely colonial city. The drive itself was mostly through desert, nothing we hadn’t seen before, and I don’t remember much about it. We left Puerto Inka around 9am and arrived in the late afternoon in Arequipa.

A quiet breakfast on the beach
A quiet breakfast on the beach

Melissa chills out on the beach
Melissa chills out on the beach

Keryn gets arty on the truck
Keryn gets arty on the truck

We had a brief walk from the Hotel Los Balconies to the main plaza, passing lots of tourist shops and looking over the pretty plaza. Dinner was at a local restaurant where we got to sample such delights as guinea pig and alpaca. The guinea pig was ok but a lot of work, plenty of little bones and not a lot of meat. The alpaca steak I had was very nice, cooked simply with some rosemary for added flavour. It was a Saturday night and the town was alive with people, many of the group went out for drinks and stayed out to the wee hours of the morning. Keryn and I were much more sensible, grabbing the opportunity to head to bed straight after dinner.

The Ritz & Freecycling

A while back Keryn, Fawzia and Heidi came up with the idea of going to the Ritz for high tea but for a variety of reasons it never happened. Keryn has been wanting to go before we left the UK so has been looking on the Ritz website trying to find a slot that might work for a visit. Last week I found a slot for today for four people and Keryn booked it (before she read the fine print that said she’d have to pay for the four-person booking even if there wasn’t four people on the day). Emailing around Fawzia was keen to go and in the end a couple of other people that Fawzia knew went along as well.

So Keryn went off for tea and i stayed at home and got to know the freecycle process. Freecycling, for the uninitiated, is a method of getting rid of things you don’t want involving distribution lists on the Internet. You write a brief description of what you don’t need and people offer to take it off your hands. It’s all done for no cost, unlike ebay or trademe. In the morning I listed a few items on the Brentwood area freecycle list and then spent the rest of the day replying to emails from the people that wanted our stuff. It looks like we’ll find homes for all our unwanted items so that’s good.

I’ve been selling lots of things on ebay over the last few weeks as well, mostly successfully (there have been a couple of people who haven’t got in contact after winning an auction which is always annoying). Keryn has had some success using Gumtree to sell things as well.

Keryn had a good time at the Ritz, as the photos show:

Inside the Ritz
Inside the Ritz

Fawzia and Keryn
Fawzia and Keryn

Upcoming Trip

Time seems to be moving very quickly now and before we know it we will be all packed up and heading off on our big trip!

Under the Maps menu I’ve added maps of the trip and also under the Calendar menu I’ve put in where I think we will be day by day. Both of these are my best guess of what we will be doing over our 6 month journey.

The gallery is down at the moment

With the gallery down there won’t be any more photos of New York or other such destinations for a while, hopefully not more than a couple of days. There are two issues at the moment; firstly I updated the back end software yesterday and this broke things a little bit, secondly there are server issues at the hosting company at the moment (not my fault I hope).

Obviously we’re back in the country of supposed darkness and rain, today it’s actually been quite warm and sunny and this should continue into the weekend so the All Blacks can give Les Blues a hiding under a bright autumn sky.


Got home, turned on the computer and not much happened. Got Keryn to come and see that the computer was “doing that thing I told you about the other day” and she told me it had turned itself off. Several hours of poking, cleaning, removing components and trying different combinations of graphic cards have led me to believe we probably have a motherboard problem. We were looking at buying a new laptop…we may now need to get a cheap PC as well. Why does our first proper computer problem in four years have to be so complicated?

If anyone says “have you tried rebooting?” there may be violence.


We had our Citizenship Ceremony this morning and are both now officially British, though we get to keep our New Zealand citizenship as well. Next step is to get UK passports and then that’s one 5 and a half year task complete.

In other news I’ve switched to the new beta version of Blogger and this seems to be causing a few teething issues, so if you notice anything funny in the blog that isn’t one of my normal spelling or grammatical errors then blame the software, not me.