Whale watching and more

We were up before dawn to go and see whales. The weather was perfect, no wind and the sun would be shining when it rose.


There was a half hour video presentation then we boarded the bus to go to the wharf and our boat on the other side of the Kaikoura Peninsula.

We went on the Paikea (the Maori name for Humpback Whale).

We went several kilometres out to sea. The captain was in touch with other boats in the area and there was also a spotter plane. We found one!!! It was enormous, photographs don’t show it’s size though it was rather low in the water, a shame for photographic opportunities but who cared. I spent more time  watching it than taking photos and listening to it when it spouted. Awesome!


And then there were the pelagic birds, lots of them but I forgot to photograph them too!


I won’t try to name them, someone better qualified than me is most welcome to 🙂

And then we could see he was about to go under. It was quite a slow process and I was astounded at how little he disturbed the water as he went under!


going . . . . . . . .


going . . . . . .



We headed closer to shore to look for Dolphins and it didn’t take long before we came across a pod, watching as they cavorted and frolicked . . . . . . fascinating! Like the whale, the photos were  minimal (and quite a few of water minus the dolphins) and not great but nothing can take away the memories of these beautiful marine mammals, it was more than awesome.

They look a little like sharks but they weren’t 🙂
Dasha, always smiling 🙂


I intruded on these two. There will be babies 😉


It was with reluctance I got off the boat. I could have happily gone again.

The ocean air is good for the appetite so it was hard to choose from the many lovely cafes and restaurants. I had an omelette and an iced coffee!


We spent the afternoon driving along the foreshore and stopping when we saw something we liked. There were lots of stops, lots of photos.

There were some interesting rock formations, I’m guessing the upthrust of the area due to volcanic activity.


This one almost looks like a driveway! It was low tide.
I never got tired of this vista


Such a gorgeous rock pool




My kind of road signs. What a nicely parked Ducato.
An opportunity to see some of the history of the area that I didn’t take.


We didn’t eat here but I will on the next visit!
From the motel veranda (which I fell off) at the end of a perfect day.

~~28 April 2016~~


To Kaikoura via the animal park :)

I was nervous about getting out of Christchurch. We were in the south of the city and had to drive across the city and north to Kaikoura. It went much better than I expected and we were on motorways for most of the way. We got a teeny bit confused in the airport area but managed to find our way back easily. All was great until we got close to Willowbank Wildlife Park which was in Harewood. I had sussed it out the previous night, knew exactly where to turn off on the motorway except that . . . .   there were roadworks, no right turns 😦 We had to drive a goodly way north then turn back but that was OK 🙂




I wish I could put up all the photos we took. Willowbank was a perfect place for us both, with native and an non native animals and birds even monkeys, which I dislike; it’s the best overall New Zealand experience of it’s type I have had and with the best Kea and Kiwi exhibits. It even has Otters!!


This one is special, a Takahe, every rare, on the brink of extinction ❤





Ready to go to Kaikoura. We were excited. Again!

I have only been on this route once, in 1969 and I don’t remember it, I was looking forward to new sights. It wasn’t too long before we found a gas station and store and stopped for a bite to eat. Possibly a pie . . . I don’t remember but I think it may have involved cake too.


The countryside was very dry and they had been in drought for some time, there were few animals to see except an occasional sheep. There was also some heavy machinery on the road and lots and lots of big trucks, very little of anything else.


Understandably, when we got to Cheviot there were quite a few sheep. For the non-sheep fanatics, a Cheviot is a breed of sheep!


As we moved up the island and towards the ranges there were more sheep with the Kaikoura Ranges in the distance.



We began to climb and came across these two picking fruit, apples I suspect, from a self planted tree in a section of windy, hilly road. I wouldn’t be so brave/foolish/desperate!


At the top of the hill . . . . not too far now!


This truck kindly waited for me 🙂


I have a passion for old houses and sheds. This one is fabulous and complete with TV satellite dish!


At last the sea, I don’t think we had seen it since Timaru. The furthest you can be from the sea in New Zealand is 119.44 kilometres (74.22 mi). It was all down hill from here.



The road hugs the coast and there are several places with tunnels for both vehicles and for trains.


And we were in Kaikoura, a small town of only 2,000 but is a huge tourist attraction. We fell in love with it, if we could have we would have stayed longer; Dasha could live here.


I had always intended to have crayfish (lobster) here. We were fortunate in arriving before a large group of tourists and had the restaurant to ourselves.
Such a pretty sunset ❤

~~27 April 2016~~



Christchurch art!

We saw some fantastic art. Art is one way of keeping the city vibrant during the aftermath of the earthquakes. A perfect outlet for expression!

There are so many blank canvases, so many empty spaces where buildings fell or were demolished. Most empty spaces have a blank wall at each end. Those are the buildings the survived or are waiting to be demolished, often brick or concrete. We don’t see these usually as city building abut each other.


The empty spaces have become carparks until new buildings are constructed; carparks with pieces  of fallen masonry, carparks often with art.




~~26 April 2016~~


It was Anzac Day and everything but essential services close until 1pm. It was great to be able to relax, sleep in and not rush.

I had decided not to drive in Christchurch even with the GPS. There have been many changes as the city is still rebuilding after the earthquakes. Over 12,000 houses were uninhabitable, a further 150,000 required repairs. This in a city with (then) a population of 376,000!!! There were 1250 commercial building demolished in the central business district alone!!. Thousand and thousand of kilometers of  waste, water and sewerage pipes were destroyed, roads and bridges needing to be replaced. It will take a long time to recover. One upside of this was they now have the nicest public toilets I have seen in any one city!


The Riccarton Mall was not far from our motel so we set off to walk, Dasha in the lead. I am hopeless when it comes to knowing where I am, I have no sense of direction at all though I did begin to question just where we were going. It seemed to me that we may just possibly be going the wrong way. We finally found someone to ask (the streets were largely deserted with it being a holiday). So we turned around and had a nice long walk back the way we had come. It was weird to see randomly stickered houses that were unfit for habitation. They looked OK . . . . . !

If we hadn’t gone the wrong way we wouldn’t have seen this cutie 🙂

As we we about to cross the highway at the lights we heard a huge bang and saw 2 cars collide. We took some photos in case they may be required and went to offer assistance.
My first aid training kicked in; everyone else in the crowd that had gathered clearly didn’t know what to do. The poor guy who had been hit had only had his car for a few weeks, was in shock but not too seriously hurt. I called the Police and eventually persuaded him to let me call the ambulance to get checked over and to call his mum.

I was rather impressed I could squat down and also get up without assistance. Adrenaline!



I let him my contact  details and we continued on. The Mall was (to me) huge and is the 3rd largest in New Zealand. We had lunch and shopped. I bought a lovely iron bird and left it in the store or in one of the ones we visited. I never did find it. 😦

~~25 april 2016~~

The next day we caught the bus into the centre of Christchurch. Being over 65 I have accesss to free off-peak public transport so got on the bus, showed my “Gold Card” (I look so young I need to prove it 😉 ) and Dasha followed. They asked her for her card, the cheek!!!! She had to pay 😦  It’s the first time on two years I have had the chance for free travel.
I was feeling very solemn as we entered the city centre, found it difficult not to cry. I did cry at the Cathedral. Vast areas of the CBD have been bulldozed, rebuilding is everywhere. And everywhere there is art; on broken buildings, on bare walls, on the many containers that have been used to prop up facades or buildings that are being refurbished. Art blog to follow!




The Container Mall
The remaining section of the CTV building where 115 people died.




The inside of the Cardboard Cathedral, built until the fate of the old one is decided.



a beautiful cathedral, wonderful architecture, looking sad and abandoned 😦





~~26 April 2016~~


To Christchurch for a few days


Before we left Timaru we called in to see Ken and Noeleen and to meet their daughter, my cousin, Tina (and her wee dog Oscar). I wished we could have stayed longer and I intend to visit again soon. I love hearing about my family history, I have missed so much ❤

Dasha was missing her dog, BJ, and was so pleased to have smooches with Oscar.

We became a little lost and confused leaving Timaru. I had wanted to see Caroline Bay but we missed it, after going around in circles, over a ramp several times and ending up in a dead end 🙂

Caroline Bay through a dirty window looking in to the sun 🙂


I had intended to meet Tash in Temuka for a 5 minute catch up, she lives in Geraldine, a short drive away. We arrived in Temuka, I rang her, circumstances were such that I needed to go to her and I was pleased I did. She and the children were moving into their new home that day and it was an emotional (and difficult) time for them (emotional for me too).

Dylan, Tash and me (at the back), Holly, Alana and Maddi (at the front)



Dasha made popcorn with Holly and they found a pretty toadstool outside.


We couldn’t stay as long as I would have liked at Tash’s, we needed to get to our motel in Christchurch. It was Sunday and the next day was ANZAC Day (a public holiday in remembrance of the soldiers who died in the wars, mainly WW1 and WW2 but also the Korean and Vietnam wars).

The Canterbury Plains with the Southern Alps in the distance.


Two of my favourite things (I have many) irrigators, that seem to march proudly across the countryside and power pylons (also on the march).

We stopped in Ashburton for lunch and I began to psych myself into being calm about driving through the city! I was nervous, I found driving through Dunedin overwhelming and Christchurch, New Zealand’s second biggest city ,was three times the size! In my favour it was flat, the streets were wider and (hopefully) since the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes much of the roading had been repaired and enhanced. I had planned (with GPS help) a more rural approach and then onto the motorways. It looked good in principal and it wasn’t too bad. Not awesome but bearable 🙂

We were there, my first visit since 2011 . . . . . . . . . .

~~24 April 2016~~

Ulva Island then back to the Mainland.

It was up early again to walk over the hill to get the ferry to Ulva Island, there is no public transport. It was rather steep, I found my fitness was sadly lacking, Dasha was fine 🙂 It was a pleasant walk though.

Looking back towards Oban at 9.21am.
The ferry coming into the wharf.
We were going down!
It was a steep little one way road.
The sole Policeman’s residence and Police Station.


The Ferry!
We each had a ticket, written on a leaf!

After a little wait at the wharf, we boarded the ferry and we were off!14492522_10155364274244863_1797762754322739678_n

It was a 15 minute boat ride to the island, the sea was a little choppy  . . . . . . .

We were on the island, greeted immediately by a Stewart Island Robin (and the photos  were out of focus).
We were on a bird sanctuary so caution was essential.


I have either lost or misplaced a memory card, I have few photos of the island or maybe I was enjoying being there so much that I didn’t take many. We decided to walk over to the other side, to Sydney Cove. The track was good, the bush thick and the bird song wonderful.


There are Kiwis in there!



Dasha and I parted here, she to walk around the island and me to walk and stop and listen (and hope!)


I took several reasonable (but not fantastic) photos.

The Stewart Island Robin, Species: Petroica australis. Sub Species: Petroica australis rakiura. An uncommon endemic bird, is nationally endangered so it is a special bird to see. They are thriving on Ulva Island and don’t appear to be afraid of humans.

Variable Oystercatchers
I found a pretty little beach.

I was aware of the approaching dark clouds, the wind got up and the bird song quietened. I was thinking of the boat ride back to Stewart Island in that tiny boat 😦
Dasha and I met up at the wharf, sad to leave, I could have spent at full day or two there (if the weather had been more conducive for bird spotting).

The trip back was bumpy and mercifully short. I couldn’t take photos as the covers had been pulled down. Again, though, I was OK.

The walk back to Oban was lovely and we snapped some touristy photos. . . . . . .


and some of the local flavour!


Someone has a sense of humour.

We picked up our belongings from the hotel, had something to eat, had a final look around before making our way to the ferry to go back to the ‘Mainland’

There is an affectionate rivalry between those who live, or come from, the North Island and the South Island. The South Islanders consider they come from the “Main(is)Land’. He who named New Zealand  the two parts of the country the “North Island” and the South Island” was clearly lacking in imagination.

The names North and South had never been made official, a fact which was only discovered when the National Geographic Board met to discuss adopting Maori names for the country’s two main land masses in 2009!!!!

A juvenile Black-Billed Gull (uncommon where I live).

It was lovely to watch the seagulls and the families fishing off the wharf and I got chatting to a few. It was a great way to spend the last hour there. I wanted to be first in line to get on the boat.


So it was a sad farewell and an apprehensive feeling about the crossing. We knew it was going to be really rough.

Adieu Stewart Island.

I got the prime seat outside and Dasha went inside. I wanted both the fresh air and the opportunity for some good photos. I took a lot, it kept my mind off the large seas. The skipper was very talented at skimming along in the troughs between the waves, it was quite exciting.

This is possibly an albatross, a mollmawk or a petrel.
I loved this photo but it doesn’t show the height of the waves!
It was good to near the calmer waters of Bluff.


It was a wonderful two days. I hope I get an opportunity to repeat them but next time for longer 🙂

~~19 April 2016~~



To Stewart Island

14479614_10155361084369863_8652766538307547040_nWe were up early to travel to Bluff (home of the best ever oysters) to catch the ferry to Stewart Island, the most southerly populated place in New Zealand. Oban, the town, has a population of about 500 and it’s the best place to fish, to look at birds and the wildlife. We were optimistic we would see Kiwis. We didn’t but I’m sure I heard them.

A little history before we left.

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I was anxious about the crossing as the weather forecast wasn’t great; winds were expected. Boat or air, it may not be pleasant and it was drizzly 😦


The catamaran taking us wasn’t very large and had all sorts of passengers including day visitors and residents. The crossing wasn’t too bad, several were sea sick but not me, I sat outside and enjoyed it.



I think we had all seasons that morning. We left at at 8am and were on the island by 9am.



We were booked into the hotel, very old fashioned but warm and comfortable. Our room wasn’t ready so we went exploring.


There were lots of walks to choose from so we decided to walk along the shore and over a hill to Observation Rock to see what was on the other side.

Looking back towards Oban
A tractor, a sheep and her friend.


A pretty bush track.


A private garden for the public to rest in.
I visited this one, with a sea view, over the hill 🙂
Art work!

Back at Oban we had a pie for lunch, booked an excursion and made plans to visit Ulva Island the next day.

An ale marinated steak pie, which looks rather odd but was extremely tasty.

We walked around the town and I found two perfect bird books. There are only a few shops at Oban, a grocery store, a few touristy ones and several cafes. Most were closed as we were at the end of the tourist season.


Chess?  I suspect it is made from road cones.
Dasha being scary in our room. 

The tour was interesting and conducted by a slightly eccentric and charming local  lady who had many stories to tell us! We went to a look out over Oban; the roads are narrow, windy and steep! Traffic is scarce 🙂 We went over another hill to Horseshoe Bay (where the chain is) to perhaps see the sea lions. They had been there, their odour remained but we didn’t see them.


A beautiful kingfisher.
A gull on an old crayfish pot.
A working telephone.

Much of stewart Island is a National Park and has a predator proof fence. It is home to many birds, some brought back from the brink of extinction.


Freshly caught Stewart Island mussels for dinner.
A perfect end to a perfect day.


~~18 April 2016~~




The umbrella was not needed!

Invercargill is the most southern city in New Zealand. It dates back to the 1850s, when people from the Scottish settlement of Dunedin began buying land for sheep runs in the far south. I always thought of it as being a somewhat bleak place, buffeted by winds form the Antarctic and not a place that would appeal. I was pleasantly surprised!


Thanks to surveyor John Turnbull Thomson – who laid out the city during the 1850s – the city’s main streets are 40 metres wide and form a grid, running mostly west to east or north to south.

There was some interesting modern New Zealand art too!

Invercargill also has the honour of having the southernmost STARBUCKS ❤  and New Zealand only has 11 outlets 😦

Only 842 kms from home. I have been to all these places ❤

We went twice. I ordered a pink Frappuccino (it may have been a cotton candy – candy floss to Kiwis)  for some bizarre reason, it wasn’t great but I had it anyway. I had rot go back to get a regular Frappuccino; delicious ❤

The custard square was delicious.

We strolled the empty streets, it was Sunday. Very few people were about. We peeked into a beautiful church.

No devil burger, Dasha and I are good girls.

I was desperate for a steak, I’m a carnivore and the Ferburger at Queenstown was still fresh in my mind. The good old Cobb & Co, a nationwide restaurant chain can be guaranteed to provide constantly good quality food so we went. There was a choice of two and, of course, we went to the one that was back towards our initial accomodation, nearly rurally. Not intentionally , I’m still getting used to reading the GPS and this was our first city to get lost in  🙂


We were so pleased we had changed accomodation, the motel was awesome, we got a free upgrade (my first ever in New Zealand, it’s not a common practise) and the owners delightful. I would thoroughly recommend the Admiral Court Motel in Invercargill.

~~17 April 2016~~

Queenstown to Invercargill

The first hour of our journey, until south of Athol, was a repeat of our trip to Milford and I wanted to go via Mataura as travelling to the Catlins would mean we would miss it after leaving Invercargill.
I was sad to leave Queenstown, I really liked it, surprise!!!!

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 4.48.57 PM

We stopped for a late breakfast at Garston, pies again 🙂 The pub had a lovely cafe with a lovely owner and delicious food.

The Garston signpost looking pretty amid the autumn foliage.


So on to Gore. Gore is the home of country and western music in New Zealand (a genre I don’t particularly like) and is sister city to Tamworth, Australia.

A sheep 🙂 with Sergeant Dan the Creamota Man on the wall of the old building.

The Flemings “Creamoata Mill” is an iconic local building, with Flemings “Creamoata” brand of porridge once considered the National Breakfast and the mill itself considered one of the most modern cereal mills in the southern hemisphere. Sergeant Dan the Creamota man. I personally, despite being of Scottish heritage have never been a fan of porridge. I think I was a disappointment to my parents 😉


As it was close to ANZAC day there were  . . . . .  and a new RSA (Returned Servicemen’s Association) is being constructed in Gore. In many areas they are closing.

The Gore War Memorial
I really likeDd the detail on this building!
Wow, who ever parked that Ducato did a very nice job at angle parking lol

Gore had a well laid out main street and a nice public toilet. There was a garden medium strip and the streets were nice and wide. hence my braving angle parking.

Gore wc
The public toilet in the park.


The road from Gore to Invercargill was mostly farming land and it was drizzling so few photos were taken. Here is one of few, a power pylon 🙂

The blots on the left are likely to be splattered insects on the windscreen.

Invercargill is our southern most city with a population of  approximately 55,000 and is home to the Southern Institute of Technology, which has introduced a zero-fees scheme. The scheme was partly responsible for rejuvenating the city when it was in a steady state of population decline.

It is a lovely city, well laid out with wide street and lots of trees. There are many old buildings and fabulous art. I was impressed, I could live there if it wasn’t right at the bottom on New Zealand.

The iSite had lovely gardens and this was the only photo I took, sadly.

We headed for the iSite to book our accomodation and tickets to Stewart Island. We could have gone by air but decided to go by boat with fingers crossed for a decent sailing. The weather didn’t look perfect, maybe windy and the plane would a small one.  While we were at the iSite we had a quick look at the attached museum. We intended to go back but didn’t 😦



“Tuatara are reptiles endemic to New Zealand and which, although resembling most lizards, are part of a distinct lineage, the order Rhynchocephalia. Their name derives from the Māori language, and means “peaks on the back”. The single species of tuatara is the only surviving member of its order, which flourished around 200 million years ago.”

Dasha took this, I wonder if it was in the loo ;(

We headed to our accomodation. We seemed to go for miles and miles. . . . . . . . . . .


. . . . . . . and saw this on the way.

The Motel was actually in the countryside, not something I had expected when I booked it. It was a pleasant place but I like somewhere we can walk to the store if we choose. We did our accumulated washing, the internet wasn’t great so we booked an inner city motel for the next night.

~~16 April 2016~~

To Milford Sound

This was going to be a big day and one we looked forward to with excitement. We had wanted to do an overnight cruise on Milford but we missed out, we didn’t book early enough. Without changing plans and at a time of the year when the weather wasn’t too reliable, this was always going to mean that we could miss out on some things we wanted to do.

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The bus picked us up from our accomodation at 8.40am. I had made a teeny error in time and we got up up an hour earlier than we needed to (it was nice not to rush coffee 🙂 ) Unfortunately we weren’t going to Manapouri power station as it was closed for maintenance. I would have liked to go there, next time 🙂

We had paid extra for a front seat, a wise move as there were perfect photo opportunities, though the window was rather dirty by the time we arrived at Milford.

q'town leaving
Leaving Queenstown with the Remarkable Ranges in the background.

It was a 5 hour drive to Milford (despite what the above map says) and our driver’s name was Eric. He was French and was easy to listen to as he gave an almost nonstop commentary about the areas we passed through and the history. He was exceptionally knowledgeable and had been an extra in Lord Of The Rings, knew many important people and he was really entertaining too.

I love these big irrigators, they look like soldiers marching across the fields!
It’s not uncommon to see cattle grazing along the roadside (contained by electric fences).

We stopped at Te Anau for lunch. Dasha and I had intended to spend a night here and cancelled, as we knew we were passing through on the way to Milford. It was so pretty, I wish we had.

I had a lovely venison pie!

Dasha has her camera, I have food!

There was lots to look at and we stopped at Mirror Lakes, the Chasm, Monkey Creek and and it was great when we saw the first snow.

Mirror Lake


A waterfall at the beginning of the Chasm.

The Divide is the lowest east-west pass in the Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o Te Moana (531 m) and it marks the start of the Routeburn, Caples and Greenstone Tracks. The Southern Alps run almost the full length of the South Island.

Mil the divide


I would have loved the opportunity NOT to feed a Kea. That was one regret I had. Not one Kea did I see in the wild.

Standing in a glacial valley.
It’s not far from the avalanche area with ever changing scenery.

We came into the avalanche zone, a 21 kilometre stretch of the Milford Road which spans the Homer Tunnel. It’s a no-stopping area bound by avalanche control gates and is the only stretch of public road in New Zealand that’s affected by avalanches. Forty avalanche paths run across this stretch of road. I was hoping we may see Keas here, sadly not.


avalanche .jpg
Avalanche country.

The Homer Tunnel

 was interesting and has traffic lights; traffic travels in one direction at a time. The tunnel is rather narrow and the walls are unlined granite. It is 1.2 kilometers long and descends  325 meters during it’s length, towards Milford.

Looking for Keas, maybe 😉

And another photo opportunity 😀

About to go in!
And out the other side for a photo opportunity!

Mil the divide

“With a mean annual rainfall of 6,813 mm on 182 days a year, a high level even for the West Coast, Milford Sound is known as the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand and one of the wettest in the world. Rainfall can reach 250 mm during a span of 24 hours.”

I was very exciting to arrive at Milford. I had no idea what to expect despite having seen many photos and TV documentaries. Sometimes we need the real thing to know. I was not disappointed.

Milford Sound is notorious for sandflies. I didn’t see one, we were lucky! Dasha was even more lucky as she reacts very badly to them.

Our catamaran. The weather was perfect!
Mil mitre p
Mitre Peak rises, nearly vertically, to 5,560 feet (1,690 meters), i.e. just over a mile!
Mil falls and rainbow
There are waterfalls everywhere.

At 265 metres deep, most of the sound’s water is salty, but the top 10 metres or so is actually fresh water. It comes from of rainfall, emptied into the sound via its many rivers and waterfalls. On its way, this runoff picks up tannins from plants and soil that stain the fresh water the colour of tea. It’s still completely clean and natural, but it blocks much of the sunlight from the lower salty layer.

The seawater layer is calm and a few degrees warmer, if a little dark. When you reach about 40 metres deep there is very little sunlight getting through, so all the marine life hangs out near the surface, including many species that normally live much deeper. We’ve got a unique mix of dolphins, penguins, fish, sea stars, seals, rare black coral. Milford

Sutherland fallsMil majestic

They reach for the sky!
Out to the end of the sound and to the Tasman Sea, where we turned to make the return journey.
Milford seal
Another cute seal
Mil  Sterling falls
This one was so pretty.

We both could have done the trip again, stayed on the boat for the next trip. Someone actually didn’t get off the boat and there was some anxious people. Seemingly one guy had gone to sleep at the beginning of the boat trip, slept all the way and was found by the crew. The buses did wait 🙂

back on bus
Back on the bus with Eris at the wheel!
going back
Back through the tunnel
good night
The last photo for the day

We stopped at Te Anau for a dinner, I can’t remember if I had another pie but it’s possible 🙂

We had a movie, Whale Rider, one I had seen before but an excellent New Zealand movie and a good choice for the (mainly overseas) passengers. I was tired, so it seemed was Eric! I half watched the movie, half watched him, hoping he wasn’t too tired . . . . . . . . . .  He spent a lot of time wiggling and jiggling 😦 We did get home safely and we both agreed it was well worth the cost of the ticket and the long day.

~~ 15 April 2016~~~