Sunday, July 29, 2012

Into Northburn Station

This is the driveway into Northburn Station, near Cromwell.

We turned up just before lunch. The Station was still covered in mist like a big wad of cotton wool.

We warmed ourselves up by the fire and had a look around. The staff seemed surprised to see us emerge from the mist but were happy to tell us about the building and history of the station.

We had plenty of time, so decided to try the wine and food match for $12 each.
They had four canapes that were specifically matched to wines from the station. Altogether we tried six wines, which were all very nice! I was surprised by the quality of the food and we ended up buying a great bottle of pinot noir.

Northburn Station is a 13,500 hectare high country merino sheep station that has diversified the traditional grazing operation to include a vineyard and winery restaurant.  The Shed Cellar Door and Restaurant is open 7 days a week from 10.30am - 4.30pm for wine and food tastings and lunch.  Northburn is surrounded by spectacular mountains, overlooks the picturesque Lake Dunstan.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ollie the Tuatara

We stayed a 2 minute walk from the Kiwi Birdlife Park in Queenstown. Its right next to the Gondola. They do a package deal that we took advantage of, oh yeah.

We almost gave the Kiwi park a miss but our Hotel owner recommended it. It was totally worth it. We got to hang out in a cage with two Keas and saw a few kiwi's. One kiwi was only an arms length away digging through leaves.

We stuck around for the 3pm Conservation show. The highlight of this, for me, was meeting Ollie the Tuatara. He was a juvenile, so still pretty active despite the cold. They also have a possum that runs around and a few birds that fly through the audience. It was pretty cool and well worth it.

Here's the website for the park: Its a must visit when in Queenstown.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Arashiyama in the rain

These boats were tied to a small dock on the Oi River. Just before the Moon Crossing Bridge in Arashiyama, Kyoto. Taken on our way back from the Monkey park in the hills behind the river.

From our Hotel in central Kyoto we walked to the nearest Train Station and caught a train to Arashiyama Station to go visit some monkeys.

The Iwatayama Monkey Park is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm and costs 550 yen per person. It's worth the small fee and the 10-15 minute walk up into the hills. The walk is a nice sedate (read steep) scenic walk up into the hills that grant views over the city. With the cherry blossoms blooming and a slight mist in the hills it was a magical experience.

The monkeys are wild but tolerant of people. At the top of the walk is a small hut where you can buy food to feed the monkeys. Instead of glass windows the hut has wire so the monkeys climb the cage and you can feed them safely from inside. It's a little odd being in the cage with the wild animals roaming freely outside but a lot of fun! When one larger monkey started to shriek and poop while hanging from the window I got a bit worried but he just went about his business and carried on.

After feeding the monkeys and watching them run around we braved the outdoors to enjoy the views of Kyoto below.

See more monkeys here:

It was raining lightly, but that gave our visit an almost surreal atmosphere. There were only a few other people in the hut with us and the crowds on the Moon Crossing bridge over the river were not so bad.

After visiting the monkeys, Arashiyama still has some great places to visit. The Moon crossing bridge crosses the Oi RIver with Sakura lining its banks. There are local fishermen going about their business and as the above photo shows plenty of boats to enjoy the river on. Further down the road is the Sagano Bamboo forest and also plenty of shrines. The road also leads to the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji) and some amazing old gardens.

From Arashiyama you can catch a small tram that has a scenic route through Kyoto and I believe it links up to Nara, but we didnt have time to stop there. The tram goes through a tunnel of cherry blossoms that is worth the ride.

Interesting stuff: 

  • Arashiyama means Storm Mountain.
  • Zhou Enlai, the first Premier of the Peoples Republic of China visited Arashiyama about the same time of year as we did (April) and wrote a poem titled 'Arashiyama in the Rain'. A local park, Kameyama koen, > has his poem inscribed in stone.

For more information and stuff to do in Kyoto check out:

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Hikone Castle - Japan 2012

Day 9 - April 13, 2012

Hikone Castle

While staying in Kyoto we caught a train to check out Hikone Castle. We were a little late for the train but we got to Hikone bout 11 and the castle grounds were teeming with tourists. Damn tourist buses. 

From the station it was about a ten minute walk to the castle grounds.

At the train staion was this cool statue of a samurai:

On the way back to the train, we got a bento box each from a shop we saw on the way to the castle. It was fresh, tasty and pretty cheap. It was about $1000 yen for a bento each.

We sat outside the station, to eat lunch, in a small garden by the statue.

At the Castle there were tour groups galore but it was ok as they move like sleepy snails with bubble gum on their shoes. 

The Sakura surrounding the moat were very pretty.

There were great gardens around the castle. Here some people enjoy their lunch under the Sakura

We tramped up the old stone stairs, and more stairs, to storm the Castle. 

Cool stone steps outside the castle:

The Castle was very cool, worth a visit!. Once at the top of the stairs we did have a small wait to go into the castle and no shoes allowed, you get used to taking off your shoes though.

Within the castle you have to be ready for a steep climb up more of a ladder than a staircase. But! no excuses, there were old people who colud barely walk and kids making their way through the old castle.

From up in the castle there are amazing views of the city below. We didn't bother with garden or museum (we found most museums are a bit basic and in Japanese so I didn't find many interesting enough to forgo lunch)

My lovely wife Rachel posed for me in front of a large Cherry Blossom: