From Colombo we flew to Dubai for a very brief stopover, we arrived late at night, had one full day and were due to leave early the following morning. After breakfast we headed up to the 15th floor to have a look at the rooftop pool, the view across Dubai Creek and out over the city was amazing even though the weather was quite hazy. In the distance we could see the Burj Khalifa Tower, the building that supplanted the Petronas Towers in KL as the highest building in the world, it appeared like a needle stretching high into the sky. We had some admin to do for our trip across Europe sorting out hotel vouchers and train tickets and planned to print them out in the hotels business centre, unfortunately that took much longer than we planned because the hotel Wi-Fi was on the blink and kept dropping out. Eventually, after much frustration we got it all done and turned our attention to Dubai. We asked the hotel concierge to recommend a restaurant where we could get an authentic, Arabic meal; we also mentioned that we would like to see the fountains at the Dubai Mall, he killed two birds with one stone and booked us a table at a restaurant overlooking the fountain, perfect. Continue reading Dubai
Our final stop in Sri Lanka was Bentota a holiday centre on the coast between Galle and Colombo. After two busy weeks exploring the country we were looking forward to a couple of days R&R at the Club Villa hotel, a small boutique hotel promising a good restaurant and a pool in the gardens.
Odi picked us up from Galle mid-morning for the drive to Bentota, on the way we stopped at a centre specialising in wood carving to look for some souvenirs we wanted; after some hard bargaining, we got what we wanted and the salesman threw in a box of teabags as a gift!! From there we headed up the coast road, along the way we saw a lot more evidence of the impact the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. There were graves along the side of the road, memorials and a lot of houses that had been destroyed by the force of the water and never rebuilt, presumably because there was nobody left alive to need them or repair them. Continue reading Bentota
The last stop on our NZ tour was Mount Cook Village, a cluster of accommodation in the centre of the country at the foot of Mount Cook the highest mountain in NZ. The drive from Dunedin was wet with lots of low cloud, it didn’t bode well for a good view of the mountain but we pressed on. About one hour north of Dunedin we stopped briefly at Moeraki Beach and walked along the shore to see the strange round boulders at the waters edge. The Moeraki Boulders are about 1m across and were formed over millions of years in the same way as pearls with a shell or pebble in the centre gradually being enclosed in layers of crystals, very odd! There were a couple split open on the beach so we could see the insides. Continue reading Mount Cook Village and one night in Christchurch…
Next stop was Queenstown, backpacker central and spiritual home of bungee jumping and white water rafting. We arrived in early afternoon after a wet drive from Te Anau, it was too early to check-in at the hotel so, as usual, we parked the car and went to explore Queenstown; first impressions weren’t good, Mark said it felt like Newquay with mountains! There were lots of bars and restaurants and endless shops vying to sign up tourist for a whole range of adrenelin charged activities. We dropped in to what appeared to be the tourist information office and asked a young man what he would recommend we do with our time, the least ‘exciting’ thing he could suggest was a jet boat ride on the lake so we gave up and left, turns out it wasn’t the official tourist office, when we found that it had a few more appealing options but nothing that really grabbed us. Feeling a bit down hearted we headed for the Rees Hotel which was about 2km outside of town. No B&B for us here, the Rees is a 5* hotel, and very nice it was too. We had a good-sized room with a view across the lake to the Remarkable Mountains (another good name!). The restaurant at the hotel was quite grand and we weren’t in the mood or the market for nouvelle cuisine so when the weather improved and the sun came out we decided to walk along the lakeside footpath back into town (the hotel ran an hourly shuttle to and from the town centre so we knew we could get a lift back). We wandered around town and eventually settled on a Vietnamese restaurant down by the wharf, we hadn’t had Vietnamese food before but it was very nice, Mark ordered lemongrass chicken and I ordered Chinese five spice beef, we shared the dishes and a bowl of steamed rice and finished up with a banana fritter with ice-cream. I’m not sure if that is an authentic Vietnamese meal but we enjoyed it! Continue reading Queenstown
We left Wellington on Thursday morning taking a taxi to the ferry terminal to catch the 09.00 ferry across the Cook Straight to the South Island. We were leaving the buzz of the capital city for the costal wilderness of the Marlborough Sound, an area of bays and inlets, islands and headlands, mountains and forest. After two days of winds gusting 40-50 mph and facing a three-and-a-half-hour journey across one of the most unpredictable stretches of water in the world I can’t tell you how much we were hoping that the forecast of calm weather would come good. Sure enough Thursday morning dawned calm and sunny, we put on our trusty wristbands just to be on the safe side and boarded the Interislander Ferry. Continue reading Marlborough Sound