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Posts tagged ‘water travel’

Tour on the Firth of Forth

This tour sounded interesting and was a good opportunity to get a little bit out of the city. From the same departure point on Waverley Bridge it was a 45 minute bus ride out to South Queensferry.

I didn’t delve into much pre-reading about the tour other than to grasp there was a boat ride and there was something about bridges across the Forth River.

As we neared South Queensferry suddenly this big red metal structure loomed. This was the rail bridge and it was immediately clear why they make a big deal of it. We pulled up near the pier and I then saw the big road bridge, a little further to the west. It was quite a striking sight.

To the right the rail bridge, to the left the road bridge, and straight ahead our tour boat

The rail bridge

The bridges play a major role in joining north and south Scotland on the east coast. The cantilevered rail bridge came first in 1890 and is 2.5km long. 70 years later the road bridge was opened. This tour would travel under both bridges and further out into the Firth of Forth – where the Forth River meets the North Sea.

The dozen or so of us on the tour shuffled from the bus down the pier to the boat.

Table top inside the boat!

We circuited under the road bridge first, then the rail bridge and beyond.

The road bridge

Cold? Yes just a teensy bit

The firth has a number of islands, two of which we saw fairly close up. This was the first.

The tiny island of Inchgarvie, below the rail bridge, has fortifications from a long long long time ago. In its day its position was very strategic. In the 1500s it was used to quarantine people with certain diseases

And this was the second. Inchcolm Island looked fascinating and if I could’ve jumped off for an hour I would’ve. It has a mix of ruins from several centuries ago to World War II.

Inchcolm has a fabulous 12th century abbey

Observation post from WWII on Inchcolm Island.

Rear view of the abbey

Other firth features…

The very large oil delivery platform called Hound Point. Crude oil is piped to here from the North Sea

Lighthouse in the Firth of Forth with Edinburgh behind

Grey seals taking it easy

As well as seals we were told to keep an eye out for puffins. Which I did, though didn’t really know what I was supposed to be looking for. As it turned out they were feeling a bit shy on this day.

We headed back. The tour commentary said that there were estimates of around 500 wrecks lying at the bottom of those waters. 500!

On the return run from Inchcolm to South Queensferry

Houses in South Queensferry near the tour departure point. Across the river is North Queensferry. Coming from NZ, this is an excellent naming scheme

All in all, worthwhile. And I didn’t connect the dots but I would be travelling across the rail bridge the next day when I was to catch a train to head north.

Vietnam: 17~Up river for a cooking lesson

Dan and Mark had organised a cooking lesson for us in Vietnamese food, which followed on quite nicely from our tour of the produce markets. Though I have to say elements of that had not exactly stimulated my appetite!

I hadn’t really been looking forward to this part of the day as I’m pretty indifferent toward cooking. But it was much more enjoyable than I expected. Read more

Vietnam: 10~In the Mekong Delta

We had reached the Mekong Delta. The bus driver deposited us and our guide at a departure point along the river and we were shown to a long covered ferry type boat with open sides. For about half an hour we were taken around, along, across the river.

There was just so much to see – the combination of muddy water, old boats and houses, clutter and colour everywhere. Read more

New Year Trip: 11~From White to Welly

Back on the boat after the tour Mike and I grabbed the same seats outside as there was still plenty to see. Loads of seabirds for a start.

Gannet? Gull?

The boat puttered away from its anchorage, the skipper giving us a closer look at and some commentary about the island’s coastline and habitat.

On the far hill are trees burned by the volcanic climate; the near hill has a colony of gannets

More gannets. Can anyone else see the face-like thing going on in this photo or is it just me?

Then we headed west back toward Whakatane. No dolphins this time.

Settling in for another 80 minute boat ride

Seabirds behind the boat

One last look back to Whale Island.

Near the Whakatane River mouth you can't help but notice that part of the cliff has slipped in a big way. One of the crew I think commented that it happened about 18 months before in another big rain. Most interesting though: the ex-mayor lives in the house directly beneath and he refuses to leave.

Back on land we checked into our new room, the result of a bit of a muck-up earlier in the day. We did very well out of it as the half-villa was much nicer than our bog standard (though still perfectly adequate) motel room. I eyed up the bath – it and I would be getting better acquainted later on…

First though it was tea time. We walked across the road to order fish and chips from a very popular place on the wharf and then drove down to the end of the road, near the river mouth. Fish ‘n’ chips is best consumed at the beach, or at least with view of the water. It was a bit windy and cool out so we stayed in the car. To the dismay of the locals.

Lurking seagulls but they scored no tidbits from us

Unfortunately the next day was the last of our holiday :(. Car packed and TomTom programmed, we headed for home. The first part of the route included roads I’m not sure I’d ever been on and where other traffic was seldom encountered. Galatea Road extended some distance and revealed a couple of interesting highlights.

Shot past this old garage (<something> Motors on the sign) and did a u-turn so that I could take a couple of quick snaps

Another finding on Galatea Road, the Matahina Dam in the process of spilling water down river. Not massive by hydro power station standards, it is the second largest earth dam in NZ. It was damaged in the 1987 Edgecumbe earthquake and subsequently strengthened.

As if I wasn’t already aware that the holiday was screaming to a halt, with my workplace also being in the electricity industry this stop was another reminder that I’d be back in the office the next day.

Later we diverted to Taupo for lunch – along with half the North Island it seemed. Ugh. And then it was State Highway 1 all the way home.

Home! Work. Sigh.

But what a great week away. Time now to start getting sorted for the big trip in May!

New Year Trip: 9~Dolphin delight on the way to White

(Surely a contender for cheesiest title!)

A new day dawned and we were relieved to hear that the tours were running. During peak season they run three per day and we were on the last tour, leaving around midday. The peak season for White Island Tours is only a couple of weeks long, coinciding with the main holiday period, and they must have been gutted to lose several days because of the storm. We went down to check on the river at the time the day’s middle tour was heading out.

The largest of the PeeJay boats negotiating the standard reverse turn before heading down the river and out to sea

Now to kill some time before our turn...

What’s the big deal with visiting White Island? It’s a volcano! More precisely, it’s the summit of a submarine volcano, maybe 2,000 centuries old and with over half its height submerged. New Zealand’s most active volcano, it normally ‘rests’ at alert level one. Things got a bit more exciting in 2000 when it rose to level two and did in fact erupt.

But mid-morning plans were suddenly thrown into disarray. Back at the motel I was contacted by reception, asking if we were still checking out. Huh??? No I said, we organised yesterday to rebook on a tour today and to keep our room for another night. She hung up to investigate. It wasn’t sounding good so I went along in person. Amazingly we were neither booked onto a tour, nor booked into the motel that night. Argh!

Luckily there was still room on the midday tour. Phew. Our room wasn’t available but there was one room left – a villa next door – and they agreed we could have that at the same rate. Disaster averted! After what was a bit of a cock up they really made amends.

Having to pack up made the rest of the time fly and it was soon time to check in and board. We were joined by about 30 other tour-goers, mostly foreign I think, and half a dozen staff. The boat manoeuvred away and headed down the river. It was great getting a perspective from the water.

Boats moored along Whakatane River

On a rock at the mouth of the Whakatane River is a statue of Wairaka

The story of Wairaka is from the 12th century. She saw a waka drifting out to sea shortly after her family landed from Polynesia during the Great Migration. Although women were not supposed to handle waka, she shouted “Kia whakatane au I ahau” (“I will be bold and act as a man") and paddled it back to shore. And that is how Whakatane got its name.

White Island is 49km away which takes about 80 minutes to reach by water. We settled in for the ride.

The very clear separation between deep sea water and the mud-tainted water caused by the floods

My er windswept look

This is probably about as windswept as Mike gets

While overcast, it wasn't raining or particularly cold so we enjoyed the fresh air and views from the back of PeeJay IV

At one point Whale Island was neatly positioned in front of Mt Edgecumbe back on the mainland

Whale Island, named partly for its silhouette likeness to you-can-guess-what, is a wildlife sanctuary. Tours there offer sightings of dolphins, whales, penguins, seals, seabirds, as well as diving and snorkelling. May have to come back for a closer look one day.

Back to the tour at hand, the captain had mentioned that it might be possible to come across either whales or dolphins. I forgot about this until there was a flurry of excitement and it was announced that we’d come across a pod of dolphins (or, they’d come across us). Already being outside gave us an advantage to those inside, and we scurried to the front of the boat. From there we had a fantastic view of these amazing creatures.

After a few minutes we parted company. It was an unexpected bonus, and a privilege, to have seen them.

White Island wasn’t far away.

Some wee island rock things just to the left (north I guess) of White Island

Not too far away now

Southward bound – yay!

It’s always a surreal feeling to be finally free of the day-to-day and have your holiday stretching out before you. The chore of packing isn’t such a chore, and 10 days away seems like a looong time. At the beginning at least.

Before it all becomes a distant memory I’ll recap the first couple of days of our trip down south, this post covering the journey down to Queenstown. This is almost a month ago now – I can’t believe how fast the year is going. Anyway…

A winter holiday generally requires more space to pack all the woolly layers, not to mention extra bags for snowboards and gear. It was a good call to drive down rather than fly and we filled every nook and cranny in Mike’s car. At a respectable hour on a Friday morning in August we set out for the Interislander ferry terminal.

With car locked and loaded, the happy travellers wait to drive onto the ferry

Onboard the ferry, though not a day to linger on deck

Once on board we found the lounge bar and staked out our patch. The weather was a bit dubious but fears of a rough crossing were soon dispelled, and later when the announcement was made that pies were being served, yours truly cut a brisk path to the cafe. Mmmm pies.

We didn’t linger in Picton and pressed on to Kaikoura for a coffee stop. The stretch of coast on the way is home to a seal colony and we had to stop maybe three times to watch them for a while. Very cute.

Cute wee fella

Couldn't resist veering off to look at this chap as well

We’ve done the ferry-and-drive-through-to-Queenstown-in-one-day thing before and as well as being a slog, much of the scenery is traversed in darkness which is a waste. So we broke the journey with an overnight stop in Methven, located near the Mt Hutt ski field. From our hotel we walked along to the Blue Pub for dinner (across the road from the Brown Pub).

The Rakaia River near Methven

Saturday morning began with a quick soak in the outdoor hot pools – a tad hot to linger for long, but a novel way to start the day. Yesterday’s cloud had cleared to blue skies and we were treated with our first views of the alps. A breakfast stop in Geraldine may have resulted in pie no.2 of the trip…

Between Methven and Geraldine we got our first view of mountains

Along the way are a couple of stunning lake views. Tekapo is a near-compulsory stop for all travellers even if you’ve seen it all before. The glacier-fed Lake Pukaki creeps up quite suddenly and its gorgeousness is rather distracting. Luckily I wasn’t driving.

Being driven round the bend! In the nicest way, with Lake Pukaki unfolding in front of us

Tarras is a very small community made famous in recent years by Shrek the sheep. It is now a thriving wee hub offering a few shops (including beautiful merino garments) and a small Shrek museum. Not much further on is the Lindis Pass, the boundary between North and Central Otago. We remember it well as last time through there we pulled off to turn the car inside out looking for Mike’s wallet.

In the Lindis Pass. A couple of days later snow descended, lots of it, and closed the road

Lake Wakatipu from outside our hotel

We made it to Queenstown mid-afternoon, hoards of people everywhere. TomTom guided us to the hotel and while checking in I made a shocking discovery.

Hello Canada!

After a busy couple of hours in Seattle and armed with some fruit from the Pike Place Markets, it was time to board the ferry to Vancouver Island.

That brought my three weeks in the US to an end and marked the start of several weeks in Canada. The plan was to begin west and head east, with a couple of northerly deviations. A short stay in the capital city of British Columbia would kick things off.

The ferry took less than three hours. Downtown Victoria had a nice traditional Government-building look to it and you also get a sense of the city’s reputation for gardens.

Sea planes are common place.

Vancouver Island is renowned for whale watching and grizzly bear tours. Whales were the closer option so I went to go find some. This fellow here had just swum under our zodiac.

I was in Victoria for two nights and didn’t go further into the island – another quickie stop on account of a fixed date to meet in Vancouver.

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