Auckland

Our first day in Auckland dawned bright and sunny and we decided a ticket for the Hop On Hop Off bus was the best way to see the sights. Departing from Sky Tower, just down the road from our apartment, we were surprised by the amount of traffic and roadworks in Auckland. A huge extension to the waterfront precinct began last December, we weren’t enticed by the crowded construction site and remained on the bus as it travelled along Tamaki Drive on the way to Bastion Point. The views across Waitematā Harbour from the upper deck were breathtaking,

1.Waitematā Harbour2.Waitematā Harbour3.Waitematā Harbour

the city clearly visible, looking back across the water.

4.Auckland

The volcanic cone of Maungauika forms the headland that is North Head Reserve, adjacent to the harbourside suburb of Devonport. There are underground tunnels and old gun emplacements to explore at the former military defence installation.

5.North Head

The symmetrical cone of Rangitoto Island is the youngest and largest volcano in the Auckland field, emerging a mere 600 years ago.

6.Rangitoto

We alighted at Bastion Point to wander around the Michael Joseph Savage Memorial Park. Set on 49 hectares, the landscaped gardens, sunken pool and obelisk are a memorial to New Zealand’s first Labour Prime Minister.

7.Michael Savage Memorial

In office from 1935 until his death in 1940, Michael Savage is recognised as the founder of the Welfare State as well as creating a political alliance with the Māori Rātana movement.

8.Michael Savage Memorial

The gardens are immaculate, designed by two Auckland architects who won a national competition to design the memorial in 1941.

9.Michael Savage Memorial

10.Michael Savage Memorial

This site of a former gun emplacement affords a spectacular view of Auckland Harbour Bridge.

13.Auckland Harbour Bridge

We walked the steep path and steps from Bastion Point to Mission Bay, a popular beach with calm waters and plenty of cafes and bars.

14.Mission Bay

We had a different perspective of Devonport and North Head from the beach.

15.Devonport & North Head from Mission Bay

At the bottom of the steps, there are a series of beautiful pebble mosaics but no explanatory signage. I have since discovered the origin of this art, you can read about it here.

16.mosaic17.mosaic18.mosaic

Monterosso

A short boat trip along the coast from Vernazza brought us to the next village of the Cinque Terre, Monterosso.

1.Monterosso

Dating back to Roman times, the oldest and most populated of the Cinque Terre villages is divided into two parts. The old, medieval village

2.Monterosso Vecchio

and the new, modern area known as Fegina

3.Fegina

are separated by San Cristoforo hill.

4.San Cristoforo hill

A strong defence system was built on the hill in the 16th century with only three of the thirteen towers still standing. One of those is the Aurora Tower, with pride of place on the promontory it is now a private residence.

5.Torre Aurora

Ancient lookout turrets and fortress walls adorn the hillside.

Dominating the headland, the Convent of the Capuchin Friars has had a turbulent history since construction in 1619. Closed for the Napoleonic laws in 1816 and again for the Savoy laws in 1867, it has been used as a hospital and warehouse and eventually returned to the friars in 2006.

8.Convento Frati Cappuccini

Across the bay on the other side of the old town, the Hotel Porto Roca clings to the rocky foundations of Punta Corone.

9.Hotel Porto Roca

In 1960, Giacinto Jacazzi, a fashion creator from Milan, fell in love with the village and bought the land. Rather than a family home, he decided to build a hotel so more people could enjoy it. Workers had to construct roads to the isolated site and fearless excavator drivers manoeuvred their machines on the edge of sheer cliffs.

10.Hotel Porto Roca

Three years later, the dream came true. I will definitely be staying here if we are lucky enough to return one day.

11.Hotel Porto Roca

The boat tied up in the harbour of Monterosso Vecchio,

12.Monterosso vecchio

we climbed some stairs and walked along the path to the new part of town. Fegina Beach is the biggest sand covered beach in the Cinque Terre and is a popular destination for tourists.

15.Fegina Beach14.Fegina Beach13.Fegina Beach

We enjoyed a seafood lunch overlooking the bay and then, armed with gelati, wandered along Via Fegina where majestic hotels and apartments afforded uninterrupted views of the coastline.

16.Via Fegina

Returning to the boat, we farewelled Monterosso for a sedate cruise back to Riomaggiore in time for aperitivo.

17.Monterosso Vecchio

Nire Valley Drive

Our time in Ireland was rapidly coming to an end and we had decided to give Dublin another try after being disappointed with our initial, albeit brief, visit. We had booked accommodation at Curracloe on the southeast coast for our last night before returning to Dublin. Leaving Blarney, we set the satnav, Holly, who again seemed to have problems identifying a highway.

1.Holly

Ignoring her instructions, we followed signs to the Nire Valley scenic drive and, as long as we were heading east, we couldn’t go wrong. The scenery was spectacular with the Knockmealdown Mountains running east and west along the border of counties Tipperary and Waterford.

2.Scenic Drive3.Knockmealdown

Knockmealdown is the highest peak in the range, with other peaks named Knocknagnauv, Knockmeal, Knocknafallia, Knocknanask, Knockshane and Knocknasculloge. I can’t help thinking of the knockwurst sausage containing the painting of ‘The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies’ in TV series ‘Allo ‘Allo! I digress. I don’t know why anyone would want to drive along a motorway when they can be surrounded by such magnificent countryside.

4.Knockmealdown5.Nire Valley Drive6.Nire Valley Drive7.Nire Valley Drive8.Nire Valley Drive9.Nire Valley Drive10.Nire Valley Drive

The road may be a little more narrow and winding but so much more rewarding

11.Nire Valley Drive

and from the high points, there were breathtaking views across forty shades of green.

12.Comeragh Mts13.Comeragh Mts

Further east, we followed the mist shrouded Comeragh Mountains

14.Comeragh Mts15.Comeragh Mts

to Waterford where we encountered a monumental traffic jam, it took an hour to travel 24 kilometres. We arrived in Curracloe after dark, our only ambition a beverage, meal and bed. The next morning, we wandered down to Curracloe Beach, eleven majestic kilometres of Blue Flag bathing.

16.Curracloe Beach17.Curracloe Beach

We savoured our last taste of salty air before returning to the car for our final destination – Dublin.

mapali

Last month, the tenth biennial Ten Days on the Island festival inhabited Tasmania once again. Previously, the program has run throughout the state over the course of ten days. This year, it was split over three weekends, firstly in the northwest, then the northeast and concluding in the south. We  couldn’t resist the opportunity to experience the opening of the festival on the beach at Devonport at sunrise. mapali was a celebration at first light, narrated by David mangenner Gough, featuring over a hundred performers from the indigenous community, Slipstream Circus acrobats, Taiko Drummers, school students and a community choir. We didn’t anticipate the crowd and lack of parking, the fires were alight by the time we reached the beach.

1.mapali

David’s voice was clear as he led a Welcome to Country ceremony, acknowledging the significant history of the northwest coastline and local aboriginal communities with the sweeping and smoking of the beach.

3.fires

The kelp gatherers made their way eerily from the shore in the firelight.

2.kelp harvesters

With the rhythmic beat of Taiko drums resounding in the still morning air,

4.Taiko drums

our attention turned to a solitary dark figure suspended in a hoop above the sand.

The drumming ceased while a chorus of ethereal voices harmonised from the balcony.

8.choir

Our senses feasted as a fusion of drums and chorus accompanied the visual spectacle evolving against the peppery hue of nature’s backdrop.

7.Taiko drums & choir9.acrobat

We were next summoned to the village, a representation of a traditional village of the punnilerpanner people who have lived in this area since the beginning of time.

18.the village

On this, International Women’s Day, David spoke in honour of the women who hunted off the coast for shellfish

19.David mangenner Gough

and gathered kelp to clad the huts.

20.kelp hut

He also paid respect to ongoing traditions that the women are passing on to the young, in particular, shell stringing. For thousands of years, Aboriginal women have been collecting maireener shells to make necklaces and bracelets. The shells can only be collected at certain times of the year and each necklace has a unique combination and pattern. Local schoolchildren had made huge effigies of the shells in readiness for this moment.

21.maireener shells

David instructed those positioned around the edge of the village to hold up the rope, a symbol of the twine that binds us together as people, and string on the maireener shells to represent a giant necklace.

22.maireener shells

He then commanded the lighting of patrula, meaning fire in palawa kani, the language of Tasmanian Aborigines.

With the sunrise ceremony concluded,

the crowd dispersed, the beach resumed its peaceful sublimity

27.Bluff Beach

and we went in search of breakfast.

 

barmy beachcombers

Tasmania is renowned for having four seasons in one day and spring is especially unpredictable when any one season could stay for the whole day. My sister had come to visit, we had planned a day out to Stanley and nothing was going to stop us. After browsing the array of wondrous shops in the main street and a delicious lunch at the hotel, we braved the inclement conditions for a spot of fossicking on Godfreys Beach. My sibling is more practised at the fine art of beachcombing and it wasn’t long before I left her behind in the shadow of The Nut.

1.Godfreys Beach

I was distracted by the lovely reflections cast in the shallow water of the incoming tide.

2.Godfreys Beach

Despite the drizzle, there was a serene stillness to the air and the ocean was calm as far as the horizon.

5.Godfreys Beach

Returning to the task at hand, I didn’t find anything of human value, though the sand was scattered with nature’s wealth.

15.sponge

19.seaweed

My attention was again diverted by the amusing antics of a lone gull abluting in a shallow pool amongst the rocks.

The appearance of a second bird didn’t interrupt the routine

24.gulls

and a third sat nonchalantly before finally giving in to the temptation.

Further along the beach, the rocks appeared to be wearing green toupees.

33.rocks

The tessellated pavement of rock ended at the northern headland, I had walked the 1.1km stretch that is Godfreys Beach.

37.Godfreys Beach38.Godfreys Beach39.Godfreys Beach

Now, where was my sister?

40.Godfreys Beach