A Photo an Hour: 19 January 2019

Hello lovely readers! On Saturday, I took part in the first photo an hour day of 2019 via Twitter, and now I’m finally getting round to also posting the photos on my blog. So here’s what I got up to.

10 a.m. Out of bed and wearing my new slippers. Very cosy they are too!

11 a.m. Aww, my tea mug loves me.

12 noon. Made it to the post office to pick up a package before it closed, now doing a bit of shopping.

1 p.m. “Helping” Jan make the office light work… which at that point manly involved watching and waiting (my main job was to hold the light up in the air while he attached it to the ceiling).

2 p.m. We wanted to go out since it was actually sunny so I started looking up places to go.

3 p.m. Finally on the move!

4 p.m. Emmental! We reached our destination not long after that photo.

5 p.m. Back in the car heading closer to the mountains. We were in Burgdorf, if you’re wondering.

6 p.m. Still in the car. It’s hard to take photos in the dark!

7 p.m. Almost back in Basel.

8 p.m. Fooood! Leftovers from the night before plus some refried beans from a tin. It tasted nicer than it looks 😉 (Inside the tortilla was chicken, avocado, tomatoes, cheese and lots of garlic).

9 p.m. Making us both hot drinks.

10 p.m. Reading in bed.

11 p.m. It’s good night from Eeyore (and good night from me).

And that was all from that day. If it had been up to me, we would have gone out sooner and had time to stop off somewhere else before it got dark, but Jan wanted to get the light sorted, which is legitimate.

How was your Saturday? Did you do anything nice?

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Queenstown Gardens

Because we had come back from Milford Sound by plane, we were back in Queenstown relatively early. I had to charge my camera first since it had died on the plane back, so while it was doing that we went to the convenience store to pick up something to drink then made use of the free wi-fi in the hotel lobby (note to anyone considering staying at Novotel – you get 1 hour of free wi-fi per day in the lobby; wi-fi in the rooms has to be paid for! Remind me which century we’re in?!). We weren’t ready for dinner yet having bought quite a bit of food in Te Anau to eat on the Sound cruise, so we decided to go for a walk and ended up in Queenstown Gardens. What follows will include many pictures of plants! I couldn’t help it – so many of them were so different to what I’m used to!

I spent way too long trying to get a decent picture of these birds, which I’m fairly sure are Paradise Shelducks. They just didn’t want to stand still!

The one with the white head is female and the male has a black head. Shelducks form long-term pair bonds, often life-long (aww!) and tend to hang around as couples. Driving around, we would often see a male and a female Shelduck standing in a field somewhere!

In the rose garden, I took far too many photos, mainly because I was trying to play with my camera’s macro setting. Here are a few:

I love the kind of multi-coloured pink/orange ones! They looked so pretty.

The gardens are on a little peninsula, so once we got round to the other side we had a view of a different part of the lake – a part without lots of boats on it (the side where we had entered from is where all the touristy boats are moored). The view there was stunning, especially with the way the evening sun was hitting the mountains.

Back round the other side, a few more photos had to be taken before we finally decided to head off and find something for tea.

There was also a Disc/Frisbee Golf course in the gardens, so we decided to come back and play on our final afternoon in Queenstown. We hired our discs from a place in town for $5 for five hours, but the Internet tells me you can also hire them from the ice rink, which is in the park.

If you have any idea what any of the plants in this post are (other than roses – I can recognise them!) please let me know in the comments.

New Zealand was my March trip for 2016’s redo of Take 12 Trips.

Also linking up for Monday Escapes:

Packing my Suitcase

Trip to Milford Sound

I meant to continue my New Zealand posts earlier in the week, but things got a bit crazy and I didn’t have a chance.

Anyway… for our first full day in Queenstown, we had booked a trip to Milford Sound. We chose the coach-cruise-fly option, which meant we were picked up in a coach at 6.30 a.m., drove to Milford Sound (with stops along the way), had a cruise on the Sound and then had a scenic flight back to Queenstown in a teeny, tiny aeroplane. The option with the flight back is more expensive than coach both ways, but so worth it! By the way, if you choose to just do the coach option, definitely go with Mitre Peak Tours. I highly, highly recommend. (We booked through Milford Sound Flights, and the coach/cruise parts were run by Mitre Peak).

It was dark when we left, but after a while the sun started to appear over the horizon, so we begin this post’s image overload with my attempts to take photos of the sunrise through the window of a moving coach!

I tried to take more photos through the windows once it started getting light, but it didn’t work very well, so here are some from our first stop instead. I have no idea where this is! Somewhere with mountains…

I don’t even remember whether those photos are from before or after Te Anau, where we stopped to pick up more people and so those who didn’t have lunch included could pick some up from the supermarket there. Jan and I had a sausage roll and a coffee for breakfast there. And I took zero photos.

The next stop was at Mirror Lakes, which is definitely after Te Anau 😉 In case you can’t guess where they got their name, here are some photos:

We then stopped at a little stream where our bus driver said we could fill our water bottles if we wanted. Again, I don’t remember where it was (because I’m an idiot), but have some photos.

The next stop was at the Cleddau Valley cascading waterfalls. Our bus driver told us that when it’s raining there are hundreds of waterfalls… everywhere you look, water is cascading down. It was not raining when we were there, but we still saw waterfalls. I can only imagine how impressive it must look in the rain.

Our final stop was at Karangahake Gorge.
Our bus driver told us that he recently found out all the other bus companies only have two stops – at Mirror Lakes and Karangahake Gorge. Apparently this is because people get out of the bus, have a chat, finally decide to take a few photos, have another chat, look at the photos, delete then and take more. So at every stop he asked us to please take our photos then get back on the coach so we could have more stops later. At Karangahake Gorge, he told us we could only stop there if everyone agreed to get round and be back on the bus in 10 minutes. As it turned out, the last person was back on the bus after 12 minutes. As our driver was pulling out he said “And that is how we get to make more stops than any other tour!” (Once again, book with Mitre Peak tours if you can – and hope you get Carlin as a driver).
I could definitely have spent more than 12 minutes at Karangahake Gorge, it’s so impressive! But don’t take my word for it. Check out the photos for yourself:

Yeah, I may have gone overboard with the photos… that isn’t even all of them! But if you think that’s a lot, wait until you see the ones of the Sound 😉

Finally, at just before 12 o’clock, we arrived at Milford Sound! Our boat was waiting for us, and we had a two-hour cruise on the Sound, complete with commentary from the guide. I have no idea what any of the things we saw are now though (other than Seal Rock). Mitre Peak is one of the mountains, obviously, and the two permanent waterfalls are Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls, but I have no idea which is which! Supposedly whales and dolphins can sometimes be spotted following the boats, but we didn’t see any. We did see seals though, which was nice. Anyway, enough rambling from me, you’re here for the photos – yes?

There are a lot of photos, so I thought I’d split this into two. Part two = seals and stuff!

Before we started our cruise, it was pretty cloudy, so the bus driver said he assumed we’d be going back in the coach with him. It gradually brightened up throughout the cruise though, so once we got back he told us to go and ask at the Mitre Peak information desk. Our flight was indeed going, so we wandered over to the airfield to meet our pilot (whose name I’ve forgotten!). Guys, if you ever make it to New Zealand, you have got to do a scenic flight over Milford Sound!! I literally cannot describe how amazing the views were! Here, have some photos, but they can’t do it justice either. It’s something you really have to see for yourself.

(Try to ignore all the random reflections from inside the plane!)
Unfortunately my battery ran out before we got back to Queenstown so I have no photos of Lake Wakatipu. So you’ll just have to take my word that it was stunning! So amazingly blue.

So, to sum up, Milford Sound is definitely among the most beautiful places on the planet and if you’re planning a trip to New Zealand, you must put this on your list! It was an absolute highlight of our entire trip. I literally cannot gush enough about this place! Also, look how cute the seals are!

Mount Pilatus and Luzern

DSCN150523-25 May saw yet another long weekend – the final one for a while – this time for Pfingsten (Whit sun or Pentecost). We decided to make use of the time off and nice weather and take another day trip. We chose Mount Pilatus in the canton of Luzern (or Lucerne) because Jan wanted to go up somewhere high where he could get a good view. Unfortunately for him, the top of the mountain was actually in the clouds 😉 Mount Pilatus is home to the world’s steepest cogwheel railway, so we decided to buy a ticket for a circular route which involved a train from Luzern to Alpnachstad, the trip up the mountain with the cogwheel railway, back down the mountain via cable car to Kriens (a neighbouring town of Luzern) and then a bus back to Luzern proper.

On the way up, there were some lovely views of the surrounding countryside and the mountain we were on.

Down on the ground, it had been a gorgeous sunny day, but the higher the little train climbed the colder it got, until eventually we saw snow.

As I mentioned, up at the top we mostly saw cloud, and most of the routes were blocked because of the snow. However, what we did see were birds. I’m pretty sure they’re a type of crow (my friend looked them up after seeing one of my photos and they appear to be an Alpine chough or yellow-billed chough). There were loads of them hovering around, sitting on the railings and trying to get people to feed them scraps – it was like gulls at the beach, but less noisy and prettier.

At some point, the cloud below cleared slightly and we were able to see some of what was back down the mountain – there still wasn’t much of a view, but it was certainly an improvement! I also attempted to take a few photos of the cogwheel trains heading back down, but my camera just couldn’t do justice to the steepness.

Since there was nowhere to walk to and we’d seen everything we could, we decided to head back down with the next cable car. First of all, a large cable car took us down to Fräkmüntegg. There’s a restaurant at that stop and a rope park. Photos taken through glass are never the best, but have a few of the view from the cable car anyway:

From Fräkmuntegg, smaller gondolas take you back down to Kriens at the base of the mountain. They also stop at Krienseregg, where the map says there’s a children’s play area, but we didn’t get out there. Here, have some views from that cable car. Actually, the route went through the trees, so what you’re really getting is a bunch of pictures of trees with the occasional view when a gap between them allowed us to see something!

On arriving in Kriens, we walked the five minutes to the bus stop then took the number 1 back to Luzern. It was still fairly early, so we decided to have a wander around there. We’d been before when I was living in Austria, but other than the wooden bridge, the town hall clock and the city walls neither of us remembered much. We tried to find the restaurant we ate at back then – where I tried cheese fondue for the first time – but either it’s closed down or we have no idea where it actually was. What I did remember is that the lake is beautiful, and I wasn’t wrong! Also, swans. Last time we were there I remember seeing a swan building a nest. This time, they were just swimming around. We also decided to stop for a beer before heading back to the train, which we did at the Rathaus restaurant. The beer there was pretty tasty.

Fun fact – although the lake is just called Lake Lucerne in English, its German name is Vierwaldstättersee, which means Lake of the Four Forested Cantons. The original Drei Waldstätten (three forested cantons) were Uri, Schwyz and Unterwald – the founding cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy (basically the original Switzerland). They were joined by Luzern in 1332 and that’s where the lake got its name. End of today’s Swiss history lesson 😉

Luzern is an absolutely gorgeous city and well worth a visit by itself. And if you’ve got a little more time I would definitely recommend the trip up Mount Pilatus. Hopefully you’ll pick a day with less cloud at the top 😉

*I’m linking this post up to Monday Escapes with Packing My Suitcase and My Travel Monkey. You can join in here.*

Packing my Suitcase

Hiking in Taroko National Park

Our second to last day in Taiwan was spent hiking in Taroko National Park/Taroko Gorge. First, we stopped at the visitor centre to see which trails were open that day and (more importantly) which were most suitable for our very unfit selves. We decided to start with the Shakadang Trail, as it was right next to the visitor’s centre. Unfortunately, only 1.4 km of the trail was open on that day due to a rockfall further down. What we were able to see of the trail was beautiful though, and the shortish walk was a good introduction to the day.

Having finished the part of the Shakadang Trail that we were allowed on, we headed back to the car and drove on to Bulouwan Recreation Area, where we stopped for lunch. There were three different set menus, each being served with soup, rice, tofu and some other vegetables. Jan went for a beef stew with ginger while I chose the pork ribs (I had originally wanted another pork dish, but there was none left). I didn’t take any photos unfortunately, but the food was delicious. And I even managed to eat my ribs with chop sticks – not easy I can tell you! Once we’d eaten, we headed up to the upper terrace (the restaurant is on the lower terrace) where there’s a short walk called the Bamboo Trail. The walk itself is fairly boring to be honest, but there were tonnes of butterflies so that was nice.

Butterflies at Buluowan
Butterflies at Buluowan

Next, we decided to do the Swallow Grotto trail, as it’s supposed to be one of the most impressive in the National Park (the Nine Tunnels trail is even better according to the visitor information but was closed on that day). You’re supposed to wear a helmet on this trail in case of rockfalls, but we only figured out after we had walked the trail where you’re supposed to get them from! Lots of people were walking through bare-headed though – only the people from tour buses actually had helmets! I spent half the walk nervously staring at the cliffs towering above me praying nothing would fall down, but the views made it all worth it.

By the way, there are actually swallows in the grotto – it’s not just a name! They’re way too fast to photograph though, so I took one of this guy instead 😉

Taiwan

We ended our day of hiking with a visit to the Changchun Shrine/Eternal Spring Shrine, which was on the way back to Hualien. This is the shrine:

Eternal Spring Shrine
Eternal Spring Shrine

And again from closer up:

Eternal Spring Shrine
Eternal Spring Shrine

There wasn’t all that much water when we were there, but it still looked beautiful. I can only imagine how impressive it must be after a lot of rain! Behind the shrine, there’s the start of a trail that leads from the shrine to the Changuang Temple. The entire loop takes 50 minutes to walk, but we only went as far as the bell tower (the highest point) then decided to come back down before it got dark. There are a lot of stairs to climb on this trail – it was certainly the most strenuous of all our walks that day! – but once again the views from the top are well worth it. The bell tower was built to comemorate all the people who died while building the highway through the gorge (it’s pretty dangerous down there – there are signs everywhere telling you to watch out for rock falls!)

Once we were done with our hike, we drove back to Hualien, stopping briefly another walk around the market where we each bought a cold drink made with fruit and milk. There were hundreds of varieties to choose from, but not being able to read Chinese we went with some of the fruits that were on display because we could simply point at those 😉 I chose Mango and Guava. Jan’s drink also contained mango and I don’t remember what his second fruit was. While we were there, I finally managed to get photographic evidence of the duck heads that were on sale everywhere 😉

We were both tired after our long day of hiking in the sunshine, so after a quick stop at the hotel to freshen up we decided to be proper tourists and head to the Steakhouse immediately next door for dinner. I know… eating Western food in Asia. Terrible! We had tried a lot of Asian food by this point though. Jan had quite a lot of Taiwanese money to get rid of, so he said I could order anything I wanted. We each chose the set menu, which consisted of a salad (I had potato salad), a Taiwanese style soup, a bowl of what I am convinced was Heinz Cream of Chicken Soup, the steak itself and a desert. I think that’s everything – there were a lot of courses! Iced tea was also served throughout the meal with numerous refills and at the end we could choose another drink – I went for lavender tea because it sounded so interesting! Here’s my steak dish before I gave my fried egg to Jan:

Taiwan

We were absolutely stuffed after all that food! Luckily, as I mentioned, the hotel was right next door, so we didn’t have far to go before we could collapse on our bed, with full stomachs and aching legs!

We’re almost at the end of my adventure now. All that’s left is to tell you about our drive up the East coast from Hualien back to Taipei (more stunningly gorgeous views!) and our final meal in Taiwan before returning to the airport for our 11 p.m. flight.

~ I am counting my week in Taiwan as my August 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge with Clare from Need Another Holiday. This trip also counts towards my 35 Before 35, item: Visit a continent I’ve never been to before ~

Sun Moon Lake and driving through the mountains

I’m about halfway through the trip to Taiwan now. After this, there’ll be two more posts.
Thursday was another early start. The hotel we were staying at next to Sun-Moon Lake was the least westernised of the three hotels we stayed in. The staff spoke very little English and all the other guests were Asian. Understandably, the breakfast was also very Asian. I ate some kind of vegetable omelette, noodles with (I think) pickled vegetables and some slices of what we think was sweet potato. There was also toast and jam for the less adventurous tourist. The breakfast room was two floors above our room and gave a better view of the lake.

After breakfast, we checked out, picked up the car and were off for a drive around the lake. Our first stop was at the Wen Wu Temple, which was built after two other temples had to be torn down due to rising water caused by the building of a dam. I said the temple we visited in Taipei was beautiful, but it was nothing compared to this one. Everywhere you looked something screamed out to have its photo taken, and when you tired of looking at the temple, you could turn around and see a stunning view of the lake. Here are just a few of the photos I took. Sadly, my crappy little camera couldn’t do it anywhere near the justice it deserves.

It was another boiling hot day, so before leaving the temple we treated ourselves to an iced tea, then we drove on around the lake. We stopped again at a pier that I don’t remember the name of (if anyone recognises the view please let me know!). It was incredibly crowded there and, as I’ve mentioned, another boiling hot day. Also, we had a long drive ahead of us, so after taking a few photos we moved on.

Once we’d driven all the way round the lake and almost back to where we’d started, we switched the sat nav back on and set off towards Hualien. Now, as the crow flies, Hualien and Sun Moon Lake aren’t actually that far apart, but the only way to get from one to the other is via the cross-country highway, which leads through the mountains. Basically, to drive from Sun Moon Lake to Taroko National Park (or vice versa), you need to plan in an entire day. Which is why, not long after we started going up into the mountains, we decided to stop and buy some food. At the rest stop, we came across the tiniest little kitty.

Taiwan

We purchased chocolate cake, milk and chocolate mini cookies and some bizarre jam sandwich type things – two slices of white bread without crusts that had been filled with strawberry jam and somehow sealed around the edges. Then we were on our way again, occasionally stopping to admire the view. Here are a few photos I took during our drive – sometimes we were in the clouds, other times we had an amazing view of the mountains below us.

At some point on our drive, we noticed that there was some red tape across the road and a bunch of cars had stopped. We stopped too and Jan got out to find out what was going on. It turned out some workers were securing part of the mountain that had become unsafe due to a rock fall. The section of road was closed, apart from for 10 minutes on every hour when cars would be allowed to pass. We had arrived in between two hours, so we only had to wait about 20 minutes. Then, at 4 p.m., the workers stopped what they were doing (which mostly seemed to involve throwing huge boulders down on to the road!) and the queue of cars was allowed to make its way slowly through the dangerous section of road. Nature at its terrible best! That was the only incident we encountered along the way, and a couple of hours later we were driving through the Taroko Gorge then finally in to Hualien. Having checked in, got rid of the car and dumped our bags, it was time to go in search of food. A piece of paper in our room told us how to get to Hualien night market, so that’s where we headed. We bought one of each of the three types of dumplings pictured below.

Taiwan

The left one is pork and spring onion (my favourite!), the middle is some kind of green vegetable – not sure what, and the right one contained mainly cabbage and (I think) mushroom. I didn’t really like that one. We then found a kind of bar/grill place, so we decided to sit there for a while. They had all kinds of beer from all over the world, but of course we chose ones from Taiwan.

One of the bar workers offered us some shrimps (?) on sticks, so we decided to give them a try. They were coated in some kind of curry powder and tasted quite nice. I wasn’t brave enough to eat the head and tail, but after being told it was ok Jan did eat one whole. Later, Jan ordered some of a larger variety. I only ate one of those – I found it tasted bitter and not very nice, but Jan liked them. And we also decided to try a local craft beer that the bar had on offer. That was very nice! (And washed away the horrid taste of whatever that seafood on a stick was!)

Tasty beer and interesting food was the perfect way to round off our day of driving through the mountains.

~ Taiwan was my August 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge with Clare at Need Another Holiday and also counts towards my 35 before 35; item: Visit a continent I’ve never been to before ~

Look Up, Look Down – Großes Walsertal

I haven’t taken part in Look Up, Look Down for a while, and today seemed as good a day as any to join in again.
This is an old photo, from when I still lived in Austria. It was taken from up in the mountains of the Großes Walsertal (a Tal is a valley, so technically the Großes Walsertal is somewhere at the bottom, but I couldn’t tell you the name of the mountain!). Is anyone else reminded of The Land Before Time when looking at this scenery?

Großes Walsertal

This photo was taken at the end of May, and it was actually quite sunny down in the valley (although some stubborn bits of snow were still hanging on). It was freezing up in the mountains, though!

To take part in the Look Up, Look Down challenge and see all the other entires, check out Travel With Intent’s blog post.