Sentosa Island, Singapore.

When we came to Sentosa Island nearly thirty years ago it really was an island. You could only get here by cable car or boat. It had to be boat for me as I was afraid of heights in those days. A few years later I learnt to snow ski (was already a water skier), had to get over my fear so I could go up on the chair lifts. Still not keen on heights, but I cope! Getting back to Sentosa, time and progress means huge changes. Over the years land was reclaimed so now you can drive onto the island. This means it is no longer a quiet little place where you wander around the nature walks and visit the Butterfly Park. There are beautiful resorts, a skywalk along the treetops high above the ground, lovely beaches, Madam Tussauds, Universal Studios and many other attractions. 

We had lunch one day in the Malaysian Food Street by Universal Studios. This has been developed to be like a food street in Malaysia with numerous little shops just selling a couple of choices of their specialty meals, but it is indoors and cool away from the beating heat outside. Dishes included Hokkien Prawn Mee, Nasi Lemak and Claypot Chicken Rice. At S$6-10 this was a well priced meal – might go back for dinner!

Another place to go is up the Tiger Sky Tower. This gives 360-degree views across Sentosa’s beaches, attractions and Singapore city. At S $18 this is good value.

Universal studios had huge queues at opening time. Looked fabulous – maybe we’ll go another time! 

We stayed at the Siloso Beach Resort. This is an Eco Resort. Sustainability is part of everything they do. Surrounded by dense greenery, but looking out to the beach and sunset (between the trees), it has a pool with natural spring water, a really high waterfall and water slides – great for the children and adults alike! They recycle much of the food waste on site through worm composting (just as we do at our home) and organic roof-top farming. Nice! An interesting place to stay on Sentosa close to all the action. There are free buses and a tram that continually travel around the island to save walking in the heat!  It is just across the road from the beach too, so that is a bonus! The lukewarm water is just my style! It’s never this warm in NZ.

Siloso beach , our room looked out to this
waterfall and pool at the Siloso Beach Resort


Bali: beautiful people, busy and exciting.

We have had a fabulous time in Bali. Our fourth time here- the first was nearly twenty years ago! How it has changed since then. This year we spent time in Seminyak, very busy with tourists, great beach and shopping, and Ubud, which is known as the art and cultural centre of Bali. It is a little cooler than the beach areas, we appreciated that! Each day was up to 30 degrees. One day in Seminyak it felt more like 40. Thank goodness for the pools in each place we stayed in. 

This time we stayed in a great hotel in Ubud, near the rear entrance of the monkey forest, so that was really convenient with a walkway beside the monkey forest to get to the shopping area. Those cheeky monkeys – doesn’t pay to have bananas or other fruit in your bag. They are liable to jump on you and take them out! Can be a little scary – one jumped on my back, and another on our little one’s side! Lucky it didn’t pull her down, but it did leave a bruise. One time when we were in Malaysia a monkey took my friends ice cream out of her hand. Cheeky!

A new experience for us this time was staying in Airbnb’s. In Bali these range in price for a whole house from NZ $50 to $1000 a night. Our first night in one was in a fairly typical Balinese house which had bedrooms you could lock but an open kitchen, dining, lounge area. It was surrounded by a high fence with a gate with a padlock. The bedrooms didn’t have ensuites so so you had to leave your secure room and go through the open area if you wished to go to the bathroom during the night. Noisy too with the path outside being a shortcut for motorbikes and dogs barking  and cats fighting. Not much sleep to be had! The fence wasn’t that high that it couldn’t be climbed over so we weren’t very comfortable with it – especially as someone was banging on the gate late that evening! Probably drunk Australian’s our host said!  

We decided to leave the next day, and what a fantastic place we stayed in that night. It was brand new, $240 for 4 of us, . beautiful and also secure. We loved it. Absolutely amazing. $240 a night for 4 of us, our own pool, and everything else we could desire. Lots of fruit, eggs etc there for us to make our own breakfast. That worked well, a couple of other places we stayed they came in and prepared breakfast in front of us. That was a new experience too, a little strange with us there in our jamas, but that was okay.

All up Bali was fabulous, we loved it. We had a great regular driver – NZ $50 a day. Good value, not only a good driver but also terrific when translation was required. He also had GPS (not all drivers do) and sometimes it can be very difficult finding places. Lots of experiences and things to learn for us. Great food too.​

Aitutaki. Cook Islands.

We enjoyed a week in Aitutaki in June after a week in Rarotonga. The temperature was much warmer than Rarotonga, a very nice up to 30 degrees. We stayed at the Aitutaki Resort and Spa which has lovely separate bungalows- whares – along the waterfront, a great restaurant and plenty of aquatic and other equipment including bikes you are able to use for no charge. This resort is on a  small island that you get to by barge from Aitutaki. It is the only group of buildings on the island, there are no cars. The transfer barge is available all day to cross the channel for no charge. We used it a few times each day to go walking or cycling on Aitutaki, and to go to nearby restaurants- recommend The Boatshed, especially Ika Mata, the local delicious raw fish dish served in a coconut.  Good prices here too. Rental cars here too, we did a day trip around Aitutaki, this included stopping at and climbing to Matriki and Piraki Lookouts  and going to dinner at Tupuna’s restaurant – definitely worthwhile.

It is easy snorkelling down the channel, just relax and let the current take you down. Whatever the tide it still runs the same way. At the sides there are thousands of little fish that jump around you. In the middle larger fish, coloured starfish and little coloured fish. Good snorkelling also at the end of the airport runway on Aitutaki.

Many boats both large and small take lagoon cruises to islands such as One Foot Island – named because it’s shape is similar to that of a foot. This is a fabulous day out to stunning islands including Akaiami Island where  those voted off Survivor were placed while sworn to secrecy while filming continued on a nearby island. What a hardship – three meals a day on a beautiful island while those still in the game hunted for food, or went hungry! 

Aitutaki is a beautiful island with great weather. You get there on a small aeroplane from Rarotonga which takes 45 minutes. It does cost to get there but it is amazing! There are many cultural shows available.


The Cook Islands are named after Captain James Cook.  The road that runs around Rarotonga is believed to be at least 1200 years old. Some of the earliest settlers are believed to have travelled from French Polynesia to the Islands around 800AD.  Between 1773 and 1779 Capt. James Cook sighted and landed on many of the southern group (Cook Islands are made up of 15 major islands) but missed Rarotonga.

The name “Cook Islands” was given to the group by the Russians in honour of the great English navigator when it appeared for the first time on a Russian naval chart in the early 1800’s.

France’s takeover of Tahiti in 1843 caused considerable apprehension among the Cook Island’s chiefs and they requested British protection in the event of a French attack. In 1900 the Cook Islands were annexed by NZ , it was a NZ colony until 1965 when the Islands became self governing in association with NZ.

This relationship is recognised by NZ in the form of annual aid and by the automatic right of Cook Islanders to have NZ citizenship ( a right also enjoyed by the people of Nuie and the Tokelau Islands).

In 2013 the population of the Cook Islands was less than 14,000, while 62,000 people of  “Cook Islands Maori” descent lived in NZ.

Cook Islands

The Cook  Islands are an easy place for New Zealanders to travel to. They use NZ currency, and they drive on the left hand side of the road! Scooter and car hireage is easy too.

I know a lot of New Zealanders travel there regularly, but this was our first time, there are so many places to visit in the world and we tend to chose Asia with it’s beautiful fresh cheap food – and low priced massages – can have one each day there!

There is a local bus that travels around the island of Rarotonga, but as there was a large group of us it was cheaper to hire a van and share the cost. Not like Fiji where you can hop on the local bus from Denarau Island into Nadi for very little cost. It’s a good idea to take some food or snacks with you to  the Cook Islands, a lot of their food is imported and thus costly. We chose to eat most meals out, and had many delicious lunches and dinners. These ranged from the best’real’ Indian at Mama T’s, to organic salads with all ingredients grown at the cafe The Hidden Garden, to seafood platters at resorts. We ate a lot of yellow fin tuna. Medium rare, it is the best!

The weather was a little cool and windy, we were there in June which is their winter, 20-24 degrees. The pool and sea didn’t have many enjoying what would have at other times been their fabulous waters and surrounds. No matter, there were plenty of other things to do.

We went on a marine life eco tour on the Raro Reef Sub. This is a semi-submersible boat. It leaves from the Avatiu Harbour near the Pununga Market ( which is great on Saturdays with many stalls including food) , and the trip takes a little more than an hour. The captain, Steph (a New Zealander) , told many interesting tales,  fed giant trevally which swam around the boat, and showed us the underwater life. We climbed down the ladder to the underwater section of the boat to see hundreds of fish, coral and what is left of a century old shipwreck.

Those of us who like a challenge, or didn’t read the info to realise we were going to have a challenge, spent an afternoon walking the Across Island Track in Rarotonga. This 3-4 hr walk moves through a lush valley – a walk in the park at this stage – then a steep ascent to the base of the Needle, climbing up tree roots to the top where we met a walker (climber) going the other way. No longer a walk in the park!  He told us that the journey down for us was pretty steep, but no worries, there were ropes to hold onto to help us down. Wow. No choice, only one way and that was forward! Those of us in our 60’s and 70’s found it quite an experience, for the teenagers and their parents it was more enjoyable!  The extra steep parts we were advised by our friend to turn around backwards, hold onto the rope and let our feet find the place where they can settle. Reminder to self: take sneakers with grip even if you think you are doing a walk in the park – it might be a walk in the rainforest! We made it down to Wigmore’s waterfall at the end of the walk, then had  more than 2km to walk along the road back to our accomodation- a good wind down! If you do the walk, remember insect repellent. Mozzies are hungry!

Cycling is another way to get around the Cook Islands. Some resorts have them available or there are places with them to hire. The roads are not too busy and the drivers give you plenty of space.

All up we had a great time in Rarotonga, Aitutaki which followed Raro was warmer and beautiful. More about that soon!

Enjoying Wellington 

We recently had a few days in Wellington. I always enjoy visiting Wellington, going to old haunts and discovering new ones. We stayed in the motorhome at the car park by the Evan’s Bay boat club. This is a great spot for motorhomers. There are always a range of vans here from very large to small. The bus  route is nearby. One day we walked into the city, cycled another and caught the bus on the wet day. There is a food market by Te Papa on Sundays. Great for breakfast and to stock up with fruit and vegetables for the week. It  is a 5km ride from Evan’s Bay to Te Papa around the coast, interesting too.      From Evan’s Bay it’s an interesting drive along Shelly Bay Rd through Shelly Bay, Scorching Bay and Worser Bay where we watched yachts racing, then over the hill to Seatoun and Mirimar.

Te Papa has joined forces with Weta Workshop to create the amazing exhibition – Gallipoli, The Scale  of our War. This is well worth visiting with the incredible larger than life size models, photos and letters telling how supplies weren’t getting through and they were sick and tired. Very emotional. Exhibition runs until April 2018. Allow a few hours, or do a return visit, there is so much to see and take in. Te Papa is the national museum and art gallery of NZ. It is a recognised world leader in interactive and visitor focused experiences. 

We also visited the Wellington Museum on Queen’s Wharf, not far from Te Papa. It is in a heritage building on the waterfront. It offers an insight into the social and cultural history of Wellington. It takes you on a journey through Wellington’s past, present and future. The Wahine disaster was particularly worth seeing.

Museum visits over, time for relaxation. Off to a  small boutique bar – LBQ is on Edwards St near McDonalds on Manners St. If you enjoy boutique beer this is the place to go. Over 100 beers on sale! Wellington’s beer geek heaven.

If you are a cyclist take a trip to Island Bay to see their new cycle way – but maybe not on your bike! A number of local cyclists are not using it saying it is dangerous. We have certainly never seen anything like it with the footpath, next to that is the cycle lane, then a gap lane,  then the lane to park and leave your car while you go shopping – or into your house if you are unlucky enough to live on this part of The Parade – then the lane when cars drive. It will be interesting to see how long it stays like this before being reconfigured.

Websites : 




Stony River Hotel, Okato, Taranaki

Where the mountain meets the sea……

Spent a lovely night in the motorhome at this gem on the Surf Highway travelling south around the coast from New Plymouth.  They have good parking outside so you can stay in your motorhome, in one of the really nice refurbished rooms in the hotel, or simply visit for a drink or a meal.

The hotel is run by the very friendly couple Heimo and Renate who moved to New Zealand from Austria seven years ago. They have a pleasant dining room and a great lounge (snug), along with a garden bar for those warm evenings. The resident passion fruit vine is amazing. I have never seen one so healthy. Nice sheltered spot!

The meals are delicious. Lamb rack, chicken breast wrapped with speck, sauerbraten (a traditional German dish), along with many others, all beautifully prepared by Heimo. 

Check their deals on their website.  Some presently available are a two course dinner for two, and bed and breakfast. We thought  the three course dinner for two with bed and cooked breakfast, presently $195 sounded great.

They have a stall at the Farmers Market on Sundays in New Plymouth where they sell smoked salmon, smoked beef sourdough rye bread and speck. This is very popular as it is nitrate free.

In the hotel they also have some local products for sale such as honey, apricot jam, knitted garments, felt scarves. I bought a merino silk felt scarf, gorgeous colours with pinks and blues. How could I resist? 

Our group loved our night at the Stony River boutique Hotel and enjoyed being shown around by the convivial hosts Heimo and Renate. They also regularly have live music some nights so we will be back to enjoy an Austrian evening.

Nearby the Stony River Hotel is – surprise surprise – Stony River. There is a walkway along this river. It is a 4.4 km loop, about 1.5 hrs walking time.   There are also some great surf beaches.  

Wellington- Marine Reserve

Travel around the coast in Wellington, through Lyall Bay and Island Bay going towards Owhiro Bay and you will come to the Taputeranga Marine Reserve on The Esplanade. This was developed to protect the ecosystem and keep it in a natural state. Scientists use the reserve as a natural laboratory and for those of us who love the sea it is relaxing to sit and look out over this area while for the more adventurous it is a great place to spend a few hours. You can dive, swim, snorkel and explore the rock pools, but don’t take any fish or shellfish away. This is not allowed in marine reserves. With the only predators in this area being of the natural sea life kind, that is not human, the sea life is able to grow and reproduce, so we can all enjoy the spectacle before us. It’s wonderful to see paua, starfish and other shellfish at our fingertips in their natural habitat.

Another benefit of visiting a place like this is that it encourages us to climb over the uneven surface of rocks. This is good for the older as well as the young. Our brains are challenged to put our feet in safe positions and our confidence grows as we do so. It’s amazing how quickly you lose your confidence to do these things when you don’t do them regularly, and how young children find uneven surfaces tricky when they haven’t been offered these experiences. They get a buzz when they find they can move over and around the rocks. For the older folk it’s a bit like doing the crossword or sudoku – use it or lose it – physical activity is great for the brain as well as the body.

After climbing around at the beach a coffee and snack seems a good plan. Opposite the marine reserve is a cafe with a great outlook. Sit on the deck of “the bach” and enjoy the fresh Wellington sea air along with the view. You may even see a ferry go past. “The bach” also operates as a function centre.  It’s also on the bus route. There is good parking for motorhomes.

Fishing in Kaikoura 

the crayfish before the size check and return to sea of many
Tomo’s fishing boat

Dolphins at play beside the boat
What a day of fun I have had. Was booked in to go on a fishing charter with Kaikoura Fishing Tours at 8.50am. Woke at what we thought was 8.20am. This isn’t too unusual, we often sleep in when in the motorhome, lept out of bed thinking no time for breakfast, just as well I packed my fishing bag the night before! But no, it was only 7.20! Whew! After a relaxing hour I boarded the fishing boat for my two hour trip.
On board the boat were skipper Tomo, his mate, six Chinese folk and myself. As we skimmed the sea we  saw three pods of dolphins. Lucky us. They were having fun playing near the boat, jumping out of the water and putting on a show for us. No swimming with the dolphins on this trip, we had business to do! The first stop was to pick up, empty and reset three crayfish pots. As per photo the pots when pulled up had plenty of crays in them, but most of them were too small. The law says that to be able to take crays home from a fishing charter you must participate in the measuring of them. On with the gloves and each cray was held by one of us while the boat mate measured the width of the tail. Not a job we were trusted with, I guess their licence depends on the accuracy of this. All the crays that didn’t measure the required 54mm were returned to the sea along with the only female we brought up. It had a big egg sac attached for a little cray, wonder how many of the eggs that a crayfish lays survive to adulthood? There is another job to do before we can take the crays off the boat. The telson, the end of the fan on the tail, must have the end of the centre of the five parts cut shorter. This shows that the crayfish has been legally caught and it cannot be sold. It is illegal for a crayfish with the telson cut to be sold or served in a restaurant (apart from to those who caught it, as you can take your cray or fish you catch into a restaurant and many will cook it for you). 

We caught blue cod, red cod and sea perch, so will be dining on fish for a while ( some went into the motorhome freezer).

This is a great fishing charter. These guys work incredibly hard, pulling in the craypots, setting up the fishing lines for the clients, baiting them, taking the fish off the lines, and filleting the fish at the end of the trip ready for he clients to take home. Lines and bait are supplied.

The trip was made even more fun by the Chinese group on the boat. They were so excited by the crayfish coming into the boat, then the fish that they were catching., It was like when you do something you have done many times and is, maybe, mundane to you, with a young child. You see it through their eyes. There was squealing and laughing, it was a great atmosphere. Helped by the number of fish we caught of course!

Fishing charter website: http://www.kaikoura-fishing-

Hanmer springs

We travelled in the motorhome from Christchurch to Hanmer Springs in the autumn. This is an easy 2 hrs or so drive. The trees are stunning at this time of year with the autumn colours shimmering.

We stayed at the Hot Springs Motor Lodge on the edge of the shopping area (walking distance to shops, restaurants and many activities).  Self contained motorhomers can stay in a  field beside the lodge for $30 per night. If you dine in their restaurant the $30 comes off your meal account. We did this and really enjoyed our meals, the atmosphere, the friendly staff and the surroundings. The building is nicely laid out with a pool table and darts in an adjoining room. We, along with other families, found this a great way to entertain the children while we waited for our meals. There are also fascinating photos on the walls, showing the very early history of Hanmer.

A soak in hot pools is always a great way to relax and Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa is no exception. They have been attracting visitors for more than 125 years. There are 15 thermal pools of varying temperatures, private pools, steam and sauna rooms and waterslides,  amongst other facilities. The pool complex is fresh and modern. There is a special feature which we didn’t find the last time we visited, but this year we heard lots of people saying they were going to the Lazy River. So we followed. The youngsters and oldies alike were loving an oval shaped pool, the movement of which carries you around it naturally. Fun fun fun! What’s not to like about this complex? We had a nice lunch in their cafe too.

We also enjoyed A-MAZE-N-GOLF. This themed mini golf course is easy enough for youngsters but still has plenty of challenges. It is well maintained and has plenty of shade – or shower cover. Alongside the mini golf is the Lost Temple Adventure Maze. We didn’t have time for this but it looked as though it was fun.

We loved our time in Hanmer Springs and look forward to our next visit there.

Berries and Playgrounds 

Just out of Christchurch not far from Kaiapoi is the Pataka berry farm. What a great place this is. We picked delicious raspberries and flavoursome tomatoes. Our grandson was with us, it was the first time he had seen raspberries on a vine, so it was a learning experience. He probably  hadn’t thought about how they grow! They just appear in the supermarket don’t they? What is more tasty than fresh raspberries and ice cream?  Picking raspberries is so labour intensive it’s no wonder the little punnets are costly. Picking your own is fun and has a fabulous end result- so my taste buds tell me!       The tomatoes were enjoyed on toast, in a salad and as a snack. When they are so fresh and yummy you don’t need anything with them!

The next stop travelling along SH1  was at Owen Stalker Park in Woodend. This is a lovely big park for a play or a picnic. Equipment includes a train to climb on which is a bit different, shady trees, lots of room to run or play with a ball. Pity about the name! Maybe just “Owen Park” rather than “Owen Stalker Park” would have meant the butterflies could have flown peacefully around rather than settling in my tummy!  Eyes on alert at all times! Do the stalkers frequent it often or is it exclusively for Owen?  Talking of butterflies it was great to see a young lad there with his net catching white butterflies. Just as we did as children.  

On the road again and we turned off SH1 towards Waikuku beach. The beach is just 3km off the main road. There is a big playground and park near the beach. It was great to see lots of families there chatting and enjoying the lovely autumn day. The children were having fun playing together. I always feel sad when we pass lovely playgrounds and there are no children there.