NewZealand North Island 7/11/18 to 16/11/18

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We left Australia for New Zealand on 7/11/18 for a general sight seeing holiday. The plan is to stay a week in North Island with my cousin in Gisborne and then take two short flights from Gisborne to Nelson in South Island and stay in Nelson, Abel Tasman area  and Picton for just over a week and then take a flight to Queenstown and see the beautiful south of the South Island. The flight from Gisbourne was interesting as at the airport there appeared to be little of the security we accept these days. The process at the airport was to input your booking reference in a self check-in machine, print boarding pass and bag tags then wait at the one and only gate. When called we then just scanned our passes and went on to the plane - like a bus. The missing bits were - not showing ID, not having to X-ray hand baggage, no body search / body scan etc. None of that. We  asked my cousin why not and just got “sure this is New Zealand, you don’t need to do that here”.

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Gisbourne is a slightly sprawling city with a colonial feel. The tree lined ‘main street’ had some slightly Art Deco style buildings along it. It has a population of around 9,000 and is a the confluence of 2 rivers before they enter the ocean at Poverty Bay. This bay was named by James Cook who was the first known European to set foot in New Zealand. He did so on 7th October 1769. Unfortunately this first landing led to the deaths of 6 Maoris when there was a skirmish between his crew and the local people. Cook was able to take on some small amounts of provisions but not enough to continue too far. For that reason he named it Poverty Bay instead of Endeavour Bay as was perviously intended as a memorial to the ship’s first landing.  

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The area is quite fertile and grows fruit and vegetables along with grapes for the Chardonnay wine of the area.

Inland form the city is the locally famous gorge, the main route in and out of the area but often blocked by landslides and rock falls. There are large sheep farms into the thousands of acres supporting similar numbers of sheep. This is a very beautiful area and one of the few places I painted. 

Gisbourne has a port which is used to transport ship loads of logs to Canada or China for export and milling. Those are from non indigenous trees grown in the area and the logging trucks are on the roads perhaps 24/7. Sadly while we were there a 19 year old Maori girl was killed in a car crash with a logging truck.

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Near the port there are 2 statues to James Cook. One near the coast and one a little inland. One was given to the city by a business man who bought it in Europe and was sold it as a sculpture of Cook. It however isn’t the correct uniform and is not Cook and the wrong uniform. However it was dedicated or had a tree planted beside it by Lady Dianna from England and it appears the sculpture is here to stay.  The second one closer to the beach side is correctly Cook. 

 

 

 

 The not James Cook sculpture.

 

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Back to Halls Gap 13/10/18 - 27/10/18

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Embarisingly I have returned to Halls Gap and the Grampians. Why? Australia is such a large piece of land it is impossible to see much of it in a trip like this. The Grampians National Park is such an artist’s mecca and I had to return. My plan was to come here and then to venture out from there. One area was the Gawler Ranges some way out of Adelaide. It also seemed to need a 4x4 vehicle to get about. When I looked a the travel time I thought no, its too far away. It’s a bit like going to Aberdeen in Scotland and then thinking there’s nice sceneraly around Dover or Plymouth and deciding to take a trip there for a few days. Well, would you? Maybe not.   I have started to become intoxicated by gum trees. Not the gum but they are such varied things and a treat to paint.

I stayed in the YHA in Halls Gap and was in the company of some lovely people from around the world. The hostel is incredibly well run, well equipped, clean and tidy and such a nice place to stay. 

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They had a few free range chickens so the surplus eggs were available free for us to use. From there I took the usual day trips in my Avis rental car.  In this hostel there were two kitchens but frequently only one was in use. I noticed that the younger hostellers eat quite well. No pot noodles for them but quite large portions of an array of vegetables, meat and things. Often if there is a group of 3 or 4 of them one does the preparation and cooking and the other 2 block the rest of the kitchen while playing within their phones. 

The elephants hide, Mount Victory Road.

The elephants hide, Mount Victory Road.

One of my first trips out was - not again - yes gum trees. This one involved a bit of artistic licence. One of the trees was behind me so i just moved them around a bit and hey presto! When I was at this venue a local gent in a ute came to visit me. When he was a little way from me I heard the words ‘wrong person’. He lived a short ways off and had an Australian lady paint at the foot of his long lane. Sadly all he had was the image of her painting and no artists name. When he showed the painting to his wife she wanted to buy it and so started the hunt for the artist. That was a couple of weeks previous. My only suggestion was a reverse image search in case the lady had published it on the internet somewhere. Another gent also came along the lane where I was working telling me he was there to check a gate. I think the only checking he was doing was me! This checking me out had become quite common place and was often  a welcome diversion as it gave me quite good insight into how the area works and some local knowledge. 

I decided in this composition to move some trees around a bit so one or two were in front of me and the third was nearby. The distant mountains became a bit more distant etc etc. I suppose we can do things like that.

Three Gums in a paddock.

Three Gums in a paddock.

These gum trees are totally captivating to paint. These are red gums but there are many types of them. When the wood is cut through the wood inside is blood red hence the name. The bark is quite thin but others have thicker barks.

I have admired the work of Arthur Streeton who was in the area around 1920. He had painted such beautiful views and did these while perched on some difficult to access rocky peaks. Most of the area is solid with bush and so difficult to get to locations. One in particular I could see approximately where he had been but how to get there - I decidied not to try. Perhaps in 1920 the area wasn’t quite so trees bult up at that time.  This one is a view of what is locally called the elephants hide and is a few kilometres out of Halls Gap. I perched myself on a rocky peak. It was interesting to see that kangaroos had been there too - they are incredibly sure footed animals.

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This one of 3 gum trees in a paddock was painted near the larger other one. With both some of the trees were moved around and the landscape changed a bit to suit what I wanted. At the end of them I was quite happy with the outcome. By the way in Australia a paddock is a field while in the UK a paddock is a place for horses. There doesn’t seem to be a use for the word field here.

Pines Road near Halls. Gap.

Pines Road near Halls. Gap.

On other day I ventured along an unsealed road just out of Halls Gap. Only one vehicle went along that road all day. It was  so quiet to be there. On one or two occasions I heard a thump-thump-thump sound very near to where i was painting. This was a passing troop, herd or mob of kangaroos. one was a group of three adults jumping  a long with a degree of intent. I wonder where they were going and why. Visiting friends, morning coffee or to get some groceries. On another day while walking up a fairly main road there was a lovely dark coloured fine featured dark coloured kangaroo just beside me. I assumed it to be a female. She stood there for a  while, we exchanged glances before she hopped off into the bush. She had lovely brown eyes and long eye lashes, That was my brown eyed girl  that day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sundial Lookout seems to be a good option for a painting. This is a high vantage point to look down and back on Halls Gap. My venue was at the edge of a rocky outcrop.

 

Here I was visited by a long beaked echidna. He (or she) mooched around beside me but if I would try to come near for a closer look it would retreat into a prickly ball. I also had a young brown snake wriggle past and I definitely wasn’t going to go near it. 

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 Next I have a some weeks around the Gold Coast in Queensland before heading for New Zealand. 

We plan to say in Gisborne in the North Island for a week and then about 4 weeks in South Island. After that adventure we go back to Queensland. For Christmas and into the new year for more advenures to be revealed later.  

The plan is to return to Northern Ireland in late April 2019 as we need to be back for May.  

 

View from Sundial Lookout

View from Sundial Lookout


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Around Gold Coast. 26/9/18 to 13/10/18

I returned to Gold Coast on 25th September as our first grandchild was to be born the next day. He was safely delivered in a private hospital and all went well. Hospitals here are quite a different thing to those in the UK. This one was a cross between the Hilton and a hospital. The new father (our son) was able to stay in the room for entire period. There was a lounge area for guests/ patients and rooms were carpeted and photographs on the walls and along corridors to encourage you to buy from their chosen photographer. Part of the deal was dinner for the happy couple with the new baby looked after by the staff. At one stage chocolates and nibbles were brought into the room whereupon the nurse delivering (poor choice of word) same said thank you for choosing XYZ Private Hospital (wasn’t really called XYZ). An announcement a bit like flying EasyJet - we realise you have a choice etc. All costing thousands of dollars courtesy of medical insurance which many people have.

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We stayed in 2 rental accommodations in the area - one good and one not so. It could be said these are often not as good as the photos on the internet! The not so good was a converted garage - it was still just a garage and still with garage door visible from inside and sort of hidden by a net curtain. It was a studio and in the middle of night my wife heard something making noises on the kitchen work top - a mouse. Lights on and there he (or she) was running along the works top. Various protestations ensued about not being able to stay there or would sleepig in the car be an preferable. We stayed on. The mouse never appeared again and might have been cowering in some dark corner for the rest of our stay.

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The second was quite amazing and very comfortable. I painted down at the nearby creek here at least it was described as a creek to me by the owner. To me it was a river - but never mind.

NG Rain stopped play. The start of a cloudy day painting from the back garden.

NG Rain stopped play. The start of a cloudy day painting from the back garden.

Drivers here — well where do I begin. Most are fine at least in the rural areas they are mostly fine. In the city areas often they are are sometimes impatient and terrible. They drive up your back bumper if you are doing the speed limit (of which there are many), they undertake on the inside lane and are generally annoying. On one occasion we saw the car in front of us undertake where there was no inside lane. He used a lay-by or similar to very smartly undertake a car and caravan. Once when we were doing the required speed limit a motor cyclist who eventually overtook turned around as he did so and gave us the fingers.

Then there are the hoons - predominately male in the age group 17-25, working in proper jobs and have cars often low to the ground with exhaust pipes the size of the funnels on the Titanic. They adapt them by removing the boxes to increase the noise and the damaging effect to our ear drums. They roar around the roads often at night with scraching tyres, reving and doing donuts. These could be main dual carriageways around housing estates or just in rural areas. The seem to have become a problem especially in Queensland. 

All in all I must award Queensland city drivers as the worst I have experienced in any country I have driven. They are worse than the Italians (not that they are bad drivers). I heard some statistic that the deaths figure is double the UK in terms of per capita and that's not at all surprising.

There is the Hoon Hotline for you to report an ongoing incident or dial triple zero to call the police - but what are they going to do.  Then there is what seems to be drug induced driving - driving over central reservations to do U turns and other strange driving behaviours.

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Over the period I have attended life drawing sessions and Royal Queensland Art Society in Gold Coast. These hare an invaluable bit of training in these artistic endeavours. They have a variety of models on tap and often people are passing through the area so many of the models drop off quite quickly. Some are doing this work for the first time and just give it a go.  

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Halls Gap again and the Grampians National Park. 19/9/19 - 25/9/18

Can’t give up a good thing. Thought I would come back to Halls gap and the Grampians and see some more. 

Boroka Lookout, Halls Gap.

Boroka Lookout, Halls Gap.

I stayed at Halls Gap YHA. The Australian YHA is much like the one In the UK but a separate organisation. It’s nice to see there are a good spread of hostels around Australia as traditional YH’s are having a bad time staying in business. Certainly in Ireland they are dwindling. This one is especially well run, clean and tidy and a warm welcome to all visitors. Each visitor is given a quick guided tour.  It provided a good base for what I wanted to do. 

Lofty gums on Scarsis Road, The Wimmera, Victoria.

Lofty gums on Scarsis Road, The Wimmera, Victoria.

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Halls Gap is a small viallage on the edge of the main mountain ranges. There are kangaroos all around and they tend to enter the edges of the town around dawn. In the middle of the day I saw a small family of ducks waddle briskly across the forecourt of the petrol station. Looking for a can of Duckams oil I guess.

Always I have people drive by and wind down the window (isn’t that an old fashioned expression) and have a chat. I get asked where are you from etc and to that I have a stock answer. While doing this painting I had the land owner of the adjacent farm and then a lady in the car came past taking her 91 year old father on a birthday run out. She looked puzzled when I told here I was from Ireland. How did you find such a place as this? Quite understandable as this is a remote unsealed road and only goes to a farm at the end of it.  

All of the Australians I have met are very friendly or should I say super friendly!  They are always game for a chat and offer advice on good places to visit. One advantage of staying in a YH is there are a good array of people to speak to. One man from South Austalia gave me some good tips on scenic places to visit. I would be a fool not to listen and take notes.

Mount Abrupt from near Dunkeld.

Mount Abrupt from near Dunkeld.

Near to the end of my stay I decided to take an early morning trip to Mount Abrupt. Full of hopes for a sunny day I set off early at around 6:30am for the 45 minute drive. Around that time of day the kangaroos are quite active so it is necessary to have your wits about you and drive slowly.

 

I left Halls Gap towards Mount Abrupt with blue skies all around but at Dunkeld it was gloomy and overcast. How annoying but never mind. 

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Flinders peak then on to Twelve apostles - 16/9/18 - 19/9/19

Gog and Magog from Gibsons Steps.

Gog and Magog from Gibsons Steps.

These are sea stacks named Gog and Magog

These are sea stacks named Gog and Magog

We have now left Halls Gap to head in the direction of Apollo Bay and the Great Ocean Road north towards Geelong. Along the way we called past the twelve apostles and Gibsons steps. What on earth is that about you may ask. Well the 12 apostles is the name given to a group of limestone sea stacks along the coastline. In fact there were never more than 9 of them and one collapsed around 2005. In fact if you come back in some thousands of years (if you’re in the area) there may be more, These erode at the rate of 25mm a year (give or take) with the continuous bashing of the sea so it will take a while to produce more.  This area is a big tourist attraction and a constant flow of tour busses spilling out tourists trudged along the coastal path to see the wonder of it all. Further along the coastline is Gibson’s steps and Lough Ard Gorge and allow different views of the stacks.  

One of the extremely busy tourist lookouts at the twelve apostles site.

One of the extremely busy tourist lookouts at the twelve apostles site.

We have now reached Geelong and our rental place near the city centre. I hadn’t expected much from Geelong  but was pleasantly surprised. It’s a lovely small town or city with ease of travel around it and no congestion. 

 

We visited Flinders Peak a small mountain about 20 minutes out of Geelong. It seems to be a main place for walkers to retreat to out of the city. It is also a place for parents with unfit children to bring them to and give time  some reluctant exercise. I positioned my self about 20-25 minutes up the trail. There are supposed to be 400 steps to the top a journey of about half an hour. How many times did I hear “when will we be there” or “oh look a man painting, isn’t that  cool” mothers would say trying to divert the attention of glum faced children walking with laboured  swaggering short strides. 

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I would hear others approach with their chatter and then as they would round a corner all would go quiet as they stopped to stare at these strange goings on. What followed was the usual - addressing a young child as to how they  could draw things, or to ask me how long have you been here. My response was usually a guess as time flies. Often the tourists would take a photo of me working and I might hear the sort of click of the smart phone. I would turn around and was met with that sort of wasn’t me, honest type of sheepish look. Would be nice to be asked. 

A word on these random photographers. I’ve been asked for permission, not asked, asked to do an interview for a blog or vlog, had tourists stand purposely blocking my view to have a ‘clever’ photo of the back of me, the front of my work, them and my view, home in close to my pallet and more annoying things.

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