The Milford Road, NZ. A Pictorial Journey.*****5stars


Te Anau (start).

Time to take a local tour bus up to Milford Sound which is 120km or 2 1/2 hrs driven away. As there’s only one road in and out, why not enjoy the views and leave the driving to the locals who know these roads and conditions best. Here’s a map and information from the NZ Dept of Conservation.


Te Anau Downs (30 mins).

This is where you catch the boat to the head of Lake Te Anau and the start of the Milford Track and the first night’s accommodation at Glade House or Clinton Hut.

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Knobs Flat (30mins)

There’s plenty of picturesque spots along the way where you can stop, have a short walk at Eglington Valley or Mirror Lakes before a convenience stop at Knobs Flat. Hopefully, you’ve remembered your raincoat and boots.

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The Divide (25mins)

Along the way is Lake Gunn Nature Walk, an easy 45 min short walk through the forest and is wheelchair accessible. The Bus stop and carpark at the Divide is the start of the Routeburn Track but you can just do the 3hr return walk UP to the Key Summit or keep going another 30 kms for a few days as you already up in the mountains.


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Homer Tunnel (30 mins)

Waterfalls and rivers by the side of the road until you reach the Homer Tunnel. Allow plenty of time as it’s one way so you simply have to wait for the lights. Hopefully, there’s time for a few pictures and a walk around. Once your through, the road winds downwards and it’s especially good if someone else is driving.



Milford Sound (30 mins)

If you stop nowhere else besides the Mirror Lakes, make sure you visit The Chasm waterfalls walk and enjoy this easy fifteen minute walk. Not far now so you can relax, hopefully have a meal onboard and enjoy the delights of your Milford Sound cruise.


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Milford Sound, N.Z. The Entice of Moving Mountains *****5stars

 A CommAnding Presence

Mitre Peak has been captured by millions of photographers and become such an icon  that it is virtually synonymous with New Zealand, particularly the South Island. Travelling here means you are forced to deal with wet weather but all it usually takes is a raincoat, some sturdy footwear and insect repellent. Don’t despair if rain is forecast, Milford Sound is much more exciting in the rain. The water literally pours off every crevice and rock face creating waterfalls everywhere. Hopefully, it will be clear enough for a magical view of Mitre Peak which overwhelms your arrival at Milford Sound for your cruise or kayak. If your fortunate enough to stay at Mitre Peak Lodge to recover after tramping the Milford Track it’s right on your doorstep. At 1692m, Mitre Peak entices visitors to frequently look backwards in the hope of catching a glimpse of its imposing majesty appearing, however briefly, from beneath the clouds. Mt Cook, at 3754m, is another proponent of this irresistably, enticing behaviour.

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Lake Te Anau, NZ. Graciously Moving Mountains*****5 stars


If you’re thinking of tramping (that’s NZ speak for hiking) the Milford or the Routeburn track then consider flying into Queenstown, taking the bus to Lake Te Anau and getting picked up in Te Anau instead of Queenstown. It’s about 2 1/2 hrs away but you get to sleep in and enjoy the wonderful views! Here’s the timetable. If your lucky there may even be some snow on the mountain tops, even in summer. Te Anau Top 10 Holiday park is one of the best anywhere and has all kinds of accommodation and activities. Tours for Milford Sound all start or pass through Lake Te Anau too. Enjoy a meal at the pub around the corner, followed by a twilight stroll along the foreshore with your camera at the ready for some spectacular views. What a magnificent way to start your adventure!


Even the roses love this place!

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Abel Tasman Track, New Zealand. Unashamedly Moving Mountains*****5stars

New Horizons


Why not walk all day and have a water taxi take your bags and drop them off at your overnight stop for you? The Abel Tasman Track is an ideal alternative to lugging your stuff for miles up and over mountains. It’s so much easier on the feet without thousands of rocks rearing up at you or forcing you to scramble all over the place. Combine this with magnificent views of the ocean, sandy tracks, a chance to kyak and even bring the kids, if you like. Consequently, it’s very popular. Here’s a map showing the Abel Tasman National Park and the water taxi details. We visited in December a couple of years ago and whole families were spending Christmas together camping by the ocean and walking the tracks. Santa appeared along the track at one point as well as a very festive hiker, totally laden down with a huge pack overflowing with gifts, but who still had a long way to go.


After flying into Christchurch and visiting Mt Cook we returned to catch the Trans Coastal Train along the coast from Christchurch up to Blenheim and a bus onto Nelson where we stayed at the Trailways Hotel, which was excellent. Next morning we were picked up by Wilson’s Experience for our five day Abel Tasman walk. We booked online through Hiking NZ and had a terrific time. Picton is the next stop where you can catch the Interislander ferry for the 92km/3hrs across Cook Strait to New Zealand’s North Island. Just love these New Zealand trains, especially the ‘open air’ carriage where the photo hungry congregate and happily snap away as the railway line often runs right by the ocean and through many tunnels. Definitely had scones at Arthurs Pass on the Tranz Alpine Train from Christchurch to Greymouth but can’t remember having them here, although I may have been preoccupied taking photos in the open carriage, as you can see.


The tidal nature of the track meant this was my initiation into Tevas, the sturdy water sandals. Everyone needed something similar so we could all enjoy stomping through the water and over the shells in the estuaries with such reckless abandon. Great fun, especially as the tide rises or falls, as long as you allow yourself plenty of time to cross. Here, everything is determined by the tides. Totally amazing to see the transformation, with a ferry arriving at your front door right where you walked the night before!


Meanwhile, many days have been spent working over the soil in the new garden beds and reflecting on the Abel Tasman Walk. It was wonderful to get more soil delivered and have it actually look like a garden bed. All it needs now is plants! Lots of them!

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Mt Cook, New Zealand. The Unpredictability of Moving Mountains*****5stars

Keeping up the Suspense.

Vagaries in the weather provide us with different experiences from those beautifully, clear and fine days. Fortunately, I’ve tramped along the Hooker Valley in different conditions but regardless, it’s still awe inspiring in it’s unpredictability. Looming fog, dripping with rain, cold or strong winds it’s still unforgettable. These pictures will hopefully give you an inkling into the many facets of Mt Cook.


A swing bridge or two is always a great bonus and sets the heart pumping, especially if’s it’s over rocks and a raging torrent.


Alas, Mt Cook was shrouded in mist and the wind was so fierce it made your hair stand on end!

Finally, we gave up hope and waiting any longer to see anything, so we turned back. After many backward glances the mist started to clear about half way back. Humph!  This is a marvellous spot where you can sit sit on the rocks and take some tremendous photos of the mountain, yourself and fellow adventurers.


Miraculously, it had cleared by the time we were nearly back and so we consoled ourselves and enjoyed the view from the Old Mountaineers Cafe instead!


Conversely, my first visit to the Hooker Valley was brilliant sunshine and views of Mt Cook all the way from the carpark and back to the cafe and  Mt Cook visitors centre.


Maybe you know people who do their best to make swing bridges rock and heave as much as they can while your on it!!!

My favourite resting spot again! Not even a cloud in the sky today!




A Glorious Day with plenty of happy walkers out enjoying the sunshine, the fantastic views and happily snapping away with a multitude of cameras.


Of course, there was still the welcome rest at the Old Mountaineers Cafe and these magnificent stain glass windows at the visitors centre. My garden bed is improving with about a third of it turned over so far. Watering it helps to break it up but there’s  still a long way to go. At least the sunsets and stars are still crystal clear at twilight.

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Mt Cook, New Zealand. The Magic of Moving Mountains.*****5stars

Suspended in Time

Mount Cook is an elusive creature, keeping you in suspense for that moment when the summit is suddenly clearly visible and distinct. Sometimes you round a bend and there it is or you walk for hours with the perpetual hope that there’ll be more than just fog before you leave. Walkers tend to do a lot of looking back and reflecting at times.


Make the most of the opportunity if it’s clear and take a scenic flight over Mt Cook and the glaciers or even a skiplane that lands right on the Tasman glacier. On the way from Christchurch a most welcome stop is at the Cafe Verdi at Geraldine followed by The Church of the Good Shepherd at Lake Tekapo where the wind, rocks and mountain vistas will simply take your breath away.


Of course, at Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park the weather dictates your choice of activity. Here’s some maps and walking track details. Both Glentanner and the YHA at Mt Cook are fine but you need to stock up on any supplies at Christchurch or Queenstown beforehand. If the weather forbades a walk to the Hooker Valley or views of Mt Cook there are hopefully other options including Kea Point and the Tasman Glacier.


From the Heritage Hotel or The Old Mountaineers Cafe there are excellent views where you can while away some time checking out the old mountaineering photos or consider your options and wait for that tantalising glimpse of Mt Cook.


The urge to continue is irresistible and compels us to keep exploring new horizons. There’s still along way to go so I will persevere with my digging and look at what I’ve accomplished with satisfaction and try to envisage what lays ahead. And so we will have to wait for the glorious Mt Cook and the Hooker Valley another day.

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Queenstown, NZ. Quietly Moving Mountains *****5stars

From Lofty Heights

Queenstown is stunning. After walking the 55 km of the Milford Track it was time for a little rest and recuperation amid the splendour of Queenstown, by Lake Wakatipu. The view from the top of the Gondola is magnificent. You can walk, catch the gondola are even take a helicopter up.


If you have your trusty thermos and your emergency rations of scotch finger biscuits  to tide you over, (they travel where scones fear to tread), take time to appreciate the panorama, the town below or the tourists equally enjoying the spectacular scenery.


After a busy day savouring the scenery or joining in the umpteen activities available in Queenstown you can catch your breath while admiring a marvellous sunset.


It was late when I finished digging over the garden bed last night, the sunset was so peaceful and I fancy I saw a shooting star, and so I thought of Queenstown.                       Time to dig again.

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Milford Track, NZ. Moving Mountains *****5stars

Conquering Life’s Uphill Battles

In a time before Sconquest, one of my biggest challenges was tramping the Milford Track on the South Island of New Zealand. Even with months of training it was hard going even in the best of weather. Fortune smiled on us as we didn’t have to endure flooded rivers or furious high winds at the summit but it was still a hard slog. Arriving at the top of McKinnon Pass was extremely exhilarating and the memory of this achievement gives us strength to carry on when things gets tough. I’ve climbed McKinnon Pass so I can do it!


Torrential rain and a deluge made the rocky descent somewhat slippery but the waterfalls were magnificent in the downpour and you really knew you were alive.  After a hard days walking there was no rest as Sunderland Falls was waiting for us. After walking in New Zealand where the weather is always fine (unless it rains), you get used to the rain and mud and just keep going. That’s why we have hiking boots to splash through the puddles and runoff and poles to help  us to balance less precariously on the rocks. Funny, how rocks are a recurring theme in Sconquest. There were a lot of rocks, we thought they were never going to end.  Looking at the pictures we still notice the rocks.



Milford has come to mind as I tackle my new rock garden bed. It’s hard work clearing out the debris and working over the rock hard soil.  If I think of the stages of the zig zag up McKinnon Pass then I can divide the rather large garden into stages and work on a section every day or so and eventually it will be done. Pleased to have survived Stage 1 yesterday it’s now time to done my digging clothes and continue the transformation while I dream of magical mountains and waterfalls and how to build a rock cairn.

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Swane’s Nursery, NSW. Curiously, crumbly, scone cubes ***3 stars

Springing into Action.

After years of complacency, the decision was made whilst in the midst of a spring clean up to take advantage of the power tools at hand and clear out the gardens, once and for all. The devastation was speedy, ruthless and relentless, resulting in a bare earth policy that totally exposed that suburban icon, the ugly colorbond fence.  More swift decisions led to another extreme undertaking and the recycling of the old rock into new garden edges. What a marvellous job was done, too!


Now, the dilemma is deciding what to put back into these pristine garden beds. Visits to the local nurseries were uninspiring, particularly with regard to their range of Australian Native Plants. The idea is for miracles of nature that require little maintenance or water, thrive in all kinds of extreme environments and hopefully, attract native birds like blue wrens.  For ideas we headed to Dural, which is the home of some of Sydney’s largest and best nursery suppliers such as Hargraves, Swanes and Flower Power. Haven’t found much of a range available anywhere online as yet or even an app but there’s plenty of information at the Australian Native Plant Society.


At Hargraves, there were plenty of Lilly Pillys, Bottlebrushes, Westringias and even a few Eriostemons and Croweas. The Australian Banksias, Grevilleas and Waratahs are related to Proteas from South Africa and there were some exceptionally striking plants from Proteaflora. After all our hard investigating, a well deserved morning tea was our top priority when we arrived at Swanes Nursery and the Cafe Botanica.


Imagine our incredulity at such curiously shaped and extremely crumbly scone cubes.   At least, it’s a lovely garden centre with many beautiful roses and lavenders. There was quite a wide range of native plants here as well so we added a few different  lilly pillys, grevilleas, eriostemons, croweas and an enchanting purple isopogon to our list and bought just one baby grevillea before heading back towards Flower Power. Such restraint, but it was the only one left. At Flower Power, we found some more different varieties of grevilleas, philothera, a pimelea and how could anyone resist a grevillea called Tucker Time Entree. With the coming of spring there will probably be many more varieties available and some specials. Hargraves has 50% off all plants at the moment but sometimes they seem rather overpriced to start with so it’s worth checking elsewhere first. Swanes has printable vouchers for 25% off and bulk specials for lilly pillys. Flower Power has good prices for popular plants or multiple buys. The prices and pot sizes all vary but as they’re so close it’s easy to stop by and check them whenever you have decided on your plants.

Here’s one of my all time favourites but it’s not native, it’s a Friesia Floribunda Rose and extremely hardy. It was one of the few to survive the recent scenes of carnage, seemingly unperturbed by the surrounding mayhem. Now it’s time to turn over the soil, prepare the beds and work out a plant list but for a real treat try searching for the artworks of nature by Andy Goldsworthy and simply enjoy such amazing creativity.

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Sea Cliff Bridge, NSW. The Undulating Grand Pacific Drive ****4stars

 Stupendously Stunning Seascapes

High tide again at Kiama Blowhole and still trying to catch the wave as it surges in the strong swell. Luckily, my patience and perseverance is duly rewarded. Time to follow the Grand Pacific Drive north to the magnificent Sea Cliff Bridge. Grand Pacific Drive is a 142 km tourist route from Nowra to Sydney passing through Kiama, Wollongong, the Sea Cliff Bridge, Stanwell Tops and onto the outskirts of Sydney. Here’s a map.

With such glorious weather, there’s a definite sense of exhilaration driving along the coast between the ocean and  railway line, then emerging onto the Sea Cliff Bridge between Clifton and Coalcliff. Parking can be difficult but it’s worth the effort to walk or cycle the 665m length of the bridge and then return the same way.


Frequent rockfalls necessitated building a road and bridge away from the cliff edges and into the Pacific Ocean so there’s splendid views of the waves rolling in and crashing against the rocks beneath, infront and behind you. Marvellous!


To truly appreciate the magnificence of the Sea Cliff Bridge you must drive the short distance to Stanwell Tops where the curves and contours of the cliffs and roadway can be seen snaking around the cliffs.

Today, the views are stunning. Perhaps you might like to try hang gliding, or simply sit in the park and watch the passing parade, treasure the view and take just a few more photos, while enjoying a cuppa.


Reluctantly, it’s time to drag ourselves away from these wonderfully captivating vistas and head back to Sydney. Hopefully, that sense of awe and wonder we find here, perched on the clifftops, will stay with us until we venture this way again.

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