Excuse the lack of posting, but as you can see above, I have a good reason.
In other news, Skip Town is getting a make-over which may take a few weeks to complete. For notification, please sign up to our much neglected mailing list, which will be springing to life before too long (fingers crossed!)
Happy New Year!
The psychedelic hues of the Winkworth Arboretum* in Surrey, UK, definitely call for some extended picnic time, preferably spent reclining on a Pratesi wool blanket** with a Son Valise portable speaker on hand. Plus, this must be the only place in the world where a dip-dyed denim shirt (from Minimal) could feasibly serve as camouflage!
*Image by Geoffrey Swain via The Telegraph.
**The blanket is apparently called “Bruce” – fantastic!
Today’s post marks the end of my mini-focus on Queenstown, New Zealand, as well as the start of a new series on long-term travel which I’m calling, as you can see above, The BIG Trip. For this, I’ll be tracking down folk who have embarked upon journeys of epic proportions – people who have well and truly gotten past the cocktails-by-the-hotel-pool stage (although that never hurts) and under the skin of their chosen destination. They’ll share the good and bad that comes when travel becomes your life (for a time at least) and the road, your home.
To kick things off is a man who recently spent two months riding the mountain-bike trails of New Zealand, slowly making his way north to south. Mischa Pringle is actually a friend from my University of Tasmania days, and besides his enthusiasm for bikes he’s also a talented photographer who quite literally seemed to be kicking himself with amazement at the scenery around him. I am seriously impressed with the portfolio of images he built up and documented on his blog Roll South, not least because he’s managed to create so many interesting, decidely un-geeky landscapes.
Mischa has kindly answered my questions for this, the pilot post of The BIG Trip. Let me know if there is anything else you think I should be asking – I’m here to serve!
Tell us about your trip in a nutshell.
I started in Rotorua (on the North island), and made my way South over a couple of months. My final destination was Queenstown (on the South Island), but the bit in the middle I left fairly unplanned. The idea was to mountain bike as much as I could, so once I’d done enough riding at each town I’d move on to the next place. I eventually made it to Queenstown without breaking any bones, so I think I can call it a success.
Why New Zealand, and what led to you making this big trip?
New Zealand is kind of like Tasmania turned up to 11. While Tasmania has some amazing, ancient landscapes, New Zealand kicks it up a notch and turns everything epic. They’re also a good 15 years ahead when it comes to mountain biking advocacy and infrastructure. A bit of cabin fever back home, a craving for riding rad trails, and the ease of getting here made New Zealand a pretty simple choice.
How did you get around? Were you on the bike most of the time or did you wimp out and hire a car sometimes!?
Travelling with a bike can be a bit misleading at times, ’cause I was actually travelling by bus for the most part. I’d unpack my bike in each town and ride the local trails, then pack it up again and jump a bus for the next town on. Occasionally I’d harbour thoughts of riding instead of taking the bus, but I wasn’t really set up for it.
What are the best and worst things about long term travel for you?
The best thing is the feeling of freedom. There’s something about being in a different country that makes everything feel a little less permanent, like you can just pick up and move on again at a moment’s notice. The worst thing is missing friends and things happening back home, but that’s generally pretty well balanced by the good times happening here.
Was there much (or any) culture shock?
I still laugh whenever I hear the word ‘jandals’, does that count?
You took some great photos during your trip. What camera gear do you travel with?
Thanks! I’ve got a little Olympus XA2 that I used while travelling. It’s a great camera to travel with, as it’s small, fast to use, and takes a great picture for what it is. For film I was using Fuji Superia 400 from the local supermarkets. I’ve since ‘upgraded’ my set-up a bit and now I’m often using an Olympus Mju and shooting Kodak Portra 400.
You must be a bit of a NZ expert by now – can you recommend any particular experiences?
Most of my experiences were on the bike, so I have to recommend Rotorua, Nelson and Queenstown. Rotorua for the most amazing mountain bike park and trail riding, Nelson for the awesome back-country riding and great beer, and Queenstown for the gondola accessed bike park, the huge variety of riding, and the stunning views in every direction! Off the bike I’d definitely recommend checking out the glaciers on the West coast of the South island. And do any walk you can find, you won’t be disappointed. The whole country is filled with amazing places and friendly people, you really can’t go wrong.
My travel itinerary has been a little light this year – which I’m sure is much more painful for me than you! But earlier this month I finally managed to dust off my passport and pay a visit to an old friend living in Queenstown, New Zealand.
It was a relaxed kind of break; more to do with quiet walks through dramatic scenery than with designer shops and hotels (although there are certainly a handful of excellent little establishments in Queenstown). Another difference was that this time I was without my usual photographer side-kick Sean. The up side was that I actually got to take some pics myself, but I’ve got to say that any success in this department is definitely due to the incredible scenery – I have seriously never been to such a show-off location!
First things first, we rode the Gondala to the top of “Bob’s Peak” (good at names, New Zealanders) where there is a fantastic view of the town below, spread prettily on the banks of Lake Wakitipu and surrounded by mountains.
In the following days, we toured local wineries and the film-set-like village of Arrowtown (“is it real?” I asked) – but even the space between destinations was full of epic scenery.
One morning I went for a solo tramp around “Bob’s Cove” (are you noticing a pattern here?) where I went a bit crazy with the botanical photographs… bear with me!
And later on, back in town, I came across the most cartoonishly vibrant, bonsai-like river island – I swear these colours have not been manipulated!
One of our last nights in New Zealand was spent on an overnight cruise through Doubtful Sound, about two hours south-east of Queenstown. It’s actually a fiord, we learned, with a length of around 40km, a depth of 421m, and a resident population of roughly a billion sand flies, which thankfully we were able to keep at bay. Most cruises cater for around 70 guests, but we managed to find a much smaller company and in the end there were only six of us, plus two staff. This meant we got to sit up front with the captain, get up close and personal with the catch of the day, and generally make ourselves at home. Once docked for the night it was SO still and quiet – a great memory.
I know, I know, he’s cute. But yes, we ate him.
I couldn’t resist sharing this exclamation mark sign from the somewhat extreme bus ride home. Says everything, really.
Finally, if you needed any further proof of Queenstown’s handsomeness, the view from the airport lounge should convince you, not to mention the amazing sight of the Southern Alps cutting through cloud on the flight home – sigh!
*Images courtesy National Library of New Zealand
Hello! I’m in Queenstown at the moment visiting a friend. Yesterday’s weather was pretty dire, so I spent some time digging up these old ski-field images – I want to BE that girl in the gingham shirt! But obviously it’s Spring right now, so rather than skiing I’ve been “tramping” about the hillsides, eating nice food at Vudu and trying (unsuccessfully) to identity various Lord of the Rings locations! Oh yeah, and I bungy-jumped off a bridge this morning! Initially I was all “adventure sports – NO WAY!” but somehow it happened and well, I’m still here.
What can you do with a city that was founded in the 20′s, transformed (high-rise style) in the 70′s, boomed in the 80′s and 90′s, but is now facing something of an identity crisis? For the many Australians who visited as kids, Surfers Paradise will always be a nostalgia-fueled experience. So it kind of makes sense, in an upside-down way, to do as QT Gold Coast has done, and create a hotel that actually embraces the time-warp factor. The funny thing is, this retro-styled haven is the most modern thing to have happened to Surfers Paradise in years!
Although the 1970′s exterior is like many in this city (read: cream concrete columns) the interior has been completely transformed with a bold makeover from Nic Graham + Associates. Clean lines, geometric patterns and above all COLOUR, recall such 1960′s trail-blazers as Alexander Girard and Herman Miller. The first two levels are devoted to several light-filled lounges, restaurants and bars which, thanks to a strong local following, enjoy constant liveliness. The guest-room decor is fresh and light-hearted, as a Gold Coast holiday should be, and accessories such as the cockatoo lamps and pineapple candle-holders have proven so popular you can actually BUY them!
At less than a year old, QT Gold Coast is the first venture of a burgeoning hotel chain that recently welcomed younger siblings Port Douglas and Sydney. It’s refreshing to see an up-market hotel actively engaging a youthful, fun-loving crowd. For us, a highlight was the DIY lemonade station delivered soon after arrival, which was just as quickly squeezed, mixed and slurped from our 21st floor balcony.
It wouldn’t be a real time-warp if I didn’t mention the hotel buffet (well, actually it’s been re-branded “The Bazaar”) which was a lot of fun, and more elegant than you might imagine. But no matter how good the food it takes a strong person to return to the table without a grossly mismatched selection of flavours occupying their plate. At one stage I may or may not have had pizza, chocolate fudge and lamb-shanks with a steamed pork bun on the side!
While I can’t deny that there are many genuine retro hotels in Surfers Paradise, for one with a swim-up bar and much nicer sheets, QT Gold Coast is hard to beat.
There is a certain, universal brand of city that takes pride in it’s tackiness, trades on it, even. The marketing for this city most likely alternates between “Wholesome Family Fun” and “GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS!” The United States has Miami, Spain has Malaga and in Australia we have Surfers Paradise – home to the “Big 3″ theme parks, other (less-big) theme parks, Schoolies Week, Meter Maids and countless bronzed pensioners.
Located about an hour’s drive south of Brisbane on an otherwise lovely stretch of rain-forested hinterland (opportunistically re-named ‘The Gold Coast’) Surfers Paradise is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Australia. Just about everyone’s family has made the pilgrimage at least once, including mine and, having not been back since, in my mind it was still 1993 on the Gold Coast – my siblings and I in matching neon tracksuits (so Mum wouldn’t lose us), freaking out over the Gremlins ride at Movie World and hoping to hold a koala.
To be honest I was happy to leave it that way, but then, in the middle of a gloomy Melbourne winter, my partner Sean suggested we go back. It would make a good photo-series, he urged, and we can play Egyptian-themed mini-golf! Having won me over, we acted fast, booked a cheap hotel room and before long were descending into the Gold Coast airport with Surfers Paradise spread narrowly below us; the high-rise buildings so close to the sea they may as well have been on the beach.
And just like that, there we were in downtown Surfers Paradise. We spent the first half hour wandering, dazed and hyperactive, peering up at the tall buildings which contrasted strangely with the quiet, off-season streets. There were a lot of souvenir shops, we couldn’t find anywhere to buy sandwiches (just burgers), and I noted the frequent use of ‘Mistral’ on shop signage (for non type-nerds, that’s the 80′s looking title font from ‘Drive’). But we had fun. Our cheap hotel room turned out to be really nice, sunny and directly across from the beach, and when we weren’t swimming we played arcade games, visited the 1960′s wax museum (creepy, DON’T go there) and yes, took lots of photos.
We also found one little oasis among the time-warp, which I’m looking forward to sharing next week. Until then, enjoy the photos, which are part of Sean’s upcoming zine ‘GOLD’.
Just when the thrill of air travel had started to dull a little, this commanding series, “Gatwick” by Lee Mawdsley, pulled me out of ambivalence. The prolific London-based photographer has captured a concrete wonderland where, with no human in sight, machines rule the day. Impressive!
It’s only now, after several twenty-plus degree days in a row that I’m ready to declare summer on it’s way! I may not be heading to Capri, but these Madewell Crisscross Boardwalk Sandals, Benah Beach Bag and copy of the New York Times’ 36 Hours: 125 Weekends in Europe will do just as well for a trip down the Great Ocean Road.
When people talk about wanting to get away from it all, more often than not a country day-trip is all they had in mind. While that’s all perfectly fine and good, for those who take their “hermit chic” aspirations seriously, this house is for you!
Welcome to the north-west coast of Tasmania, four hours drive from Hobart or a one hour flight from Melbourne. A holiday here is no mere re-location of your urban lifestyle; there are no fashionable restaurants, no Mona-style art galleries or trendy holiday villages. Instead, there are miles of wild beaches and super-green hills, farmers toiling the famous red soil, and very, very few tourists. It’s one of those rare areas that remains truly undiscovered, for better or worse.
For me however, this trip was actually a home-coming, having grown up in the area. Even so, I was looking forward to a new experience – a night’s stay at the whimsically named “Winged House“. In a race against the setting sun, we twisted our way through the back-roads of Table Cape, before finally catching our first glimpse of the house perched on it’s cliff overlooking the sea.
Designed by architect Richard Goodwin, this unique holiday home embraces it’s seclusion and welcomes the elements, which in this part of the world could mean anything! Floor to ceiling windows encourage contemplation, either in the lounge by the fireplace or from the deep bathtub at the opposite end of the house. Guests are supplied with local wine and Red Cow Dairy cheese, and these, combined with patchy mobile reception, mean there’s nothing for it but to really, totally, stop and enjoy. For more active types, there’s a rough-and-ready path leading down the hill, through the Tea Tree forest, over a stream and through the grass to the black basalt rocks that ring the coast-line. Giant, cup-shaped sponges, red anemones and pearl-like strings of seaweed are the reward.
Despite the comfort of bed, it’s worth rising early to catch the sun appearing over the horizon, casting its golden reflection on the water. If you’re inclined to explore further, the nearby village of Boat Harbour is picture perfect; it’s compact hillside collection of ‘shacks’ and crescent-shaped beach recalling Mediterranean gems, but without the crowds. Or, for a lesson in local history, venture into the rust-coloured Sisters Hills which play host to several Aboriginal caves and middens.
I may be biased, but I think this stretch of coastline is one of the loveliest in Tasmania and consequently, Australia. It’s amazing to me that such a place exists with only the locals to appreciate it, but that’s how they like it, and if you’re craving some solitude, that’s how you’ll like it too.
All pics by Sean Fennessy