Postcard from Tupare Garden New Zealand

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Featured Image: Mount Taranaki

Featured Image: Mount Taranaki, New Plymouth

ORT_Logo  Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 1 March 2019

Postcard from Tupare House & Garden, New Plymouth, New Zealand

New Plymouth has two major public gardens, several good private ones and excellent public parks. Of the two public gardens we only went to Tūpare. We were here in mid-January 2019. Pukeiti larger and renowned for its rhododendrons is best visited in early November.

Tūpare is both a garden and an arts and crafts house on a very steep site. A volunteer guide opened the house for a tour at 11 am. I am not a garden aficionado in particular and was equally attracted by the house and the story of the property. It is somewhat symbolic of New Zealand.

New Plymouth is not well known to overseas visitors and perhaps not even to many New Zealanders. It needs introduction.


Demography, Geography and Economy

New Zealand consists of two main islands. The North Island is more populated and the bulk of the population lives in Auckland.

New Zealand’s population is only 4,885,000 in 2019. The population of the North Island is 3,749,500 and the South Island 1,135,500. Auckland’s population is 1,582,000 by contrast Wellington is 413,000, Hamilton 205,000, Christchurch 408,000, Dunedin 122,000 and New Plymouth 59,000 (accuracy approximate; variable sources)

The CIA Factbook says of the New Zealand economy :

Over the past 40 years, the government has transformed New Zealand from an agrarian economy, dependent on concessionary British market access, to a more industrialized, free market economy that can compete globally.

However, New Zealand is still dependent on agriculture and forestry as its main exports and on tourism. Hence its economy is dependent on overseas demand and is inevitably fragile. I’ve always said that New Zealand is ten years ahead of Australia in creativity and innovation, but then comes the next recession.

Taranaki and New Plymouth

New Plymouth is in the Taranaki Region, north of it is the Waikato. South are Wanganui and Manawatu. Regional identity in New Zealand is vey strong based on history.

Taranaki is centred on a large volcano Mount Taranaki (previously Egmont) and the mountain is the most visible landmark. Mount Taranaki is conical and looks like Mount Fuji in winter. Several films set in Japan have been made here. Taranaki is the large bulge on the West coast of the North Island, New Plymouth is on the seaward edge of that bulge. It is the only large town in Taranaki.

Map of Tupare
Map of Tupare

New Plymouth is a relatively prosperous community. Because of the volcanic nature of the soils, it is a rich agricultural region. And, because of the bulge it isn’t on the direct land route between Auckland and Wellington. The Port of New Plymouth is tricky of access, particularly in sailing times because it is on a lee shore.

Continue reading “Postcard from Tupare Garden New Zealand”


Postcard from Tongariro Crossing New Zealand

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Featured Image: Ruapehu over the heathland

Featured Image: Ruapehu over the heathland

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 4 February 2018

Postcard from Tongariro Alpine Crossing: one of the world’s best one-day walks

The Tongariro National Park

In the centre of the North Island of New Zealand is the magnificent Tongariro National Park, which is New Zealand’s oldest National Park set-up in 1894.

Tongariro National Park the fourth national park in the world is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1886 the local Maori iwi the Ngati Tuwharetoa had the land surveyed and set aside for the government to manage to prevent the selling of the mountains to European settlers.

When the Tongariro National Park Act was passed in October 1894, the park covered an area of about 252.13 sq km, later additions brought this up to a size of 786.23 sq km.

The park’s three volcanoes Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu — all active — are the southern end of a 2500 km long range of volcanoes. The northern end of this volcanically active zone within New Zealand, which passes through Taupo and Rotorua, is White Island in the sea off the Bay of Plenty. All three are magic places to visit and within a few hours drive of Tongariro.

The cause of this volcanic activity in New Zealand is where the Pacific Tectonic Plate is subducted under the Australian Plate.

Ngauruhoe previously erupted every nine years, but the last eruption was in 1975. Mount Tongariro has two active vents the Red Crater, which last emitted ash in 1926 and the Te Maari craters on its northern slopes, which erupted in August and November 2012. One of which put a boulder through the roof of Ketetahi Hut causing its closure as an overnight option. It remains in use on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing only as a day shelter.

Mount Ruapehu has major eruptions about every 50 years 1895, 1945 and 1995-96. Minor eruptions are frequent with at least 60 since 1945.

Lahars are another problem on Mount Ruapehu and also Tongariro. A lahar is a mudflow or debris flow (ash and rock) mixed with water and caused by volcanic activity. Lahars have been recorded on Mount Ruapehu since 1861, important ones were 1953, 1968, 1969, 1975, 1995 and 2007. The 1953 lahar damaged a bridge on the main Auckland to Wellington railway a short time before a train was due. The train derailed and 151 lives were lost.

Mt Ruapehu has two ski areas and is one of the few places in the world where one skis on an active volcano. Lahar danger and the action to take is communicated carefully in these ski areas, but research shows that less than half the skiers know what to do, when the alarm sounds. Although one suspects they may follow, when others run like hell uphill.

The main accommodation areas are Okahune, National Park and Turangi. More upmarket options are the Tongariro Chateau and some apartments at Whakapapa. Pick-ups for the Tongariro crossing are mainly from National Park, Whakapapa and Turangi but also from further afield. Continue reading “Postcard from Tongariro Crossing New Zealand”

Kashgar Sunday Market

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Featured Image Cart Parking

Featured image: Cart Parking, Kashgar Sunday Market 1995

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 4  November 2018

Kashgar Sunday Market 1995


I’d always wanted to ascend the Karakorum Highway (KKH) to Hunza and to China ever since I’d first heard of the KKH from books, and in relation to the Great Game and Sir Francis Younghusband.

I’ve only touched on the Karakorum Highway briefly in my blog articles regarding Abbottabad and Osama bin Laden, but I’ll get to other things in Pakistan eventually. It was an amazing journey. I’ve been in contact with a couple of people who have been through the KKH and northern areas of Pakistan recently. One of whom is off to Pattale in Nepal on our recommendation.

Denise and I spent over two months going up and down the KKH. Most people take only a couple of weeks. It did affect us badly, healthwise.

Why should I write about Kashgar in 1995? I remember as a teenager being critically dismissive of friends of my parents talking about travel they did over twenty years ago.

Well, Kashgar has changed and it is useful to know how it used to be. The 1990s were also a transition in world travel from remote places being difficult to get to, to almost anywhere in the world being easily accessible.

I thought things changed quickly soon after we left Kashgar and they did, but not as quickly as they have more recently. There is also a humanitarian crisis brewing in the region.

An article and pictures in the New York Times in 2006, appears to show images of Kashgar not much changed from 1995. Although from 2009 the physical changes were drastic. Since 1995, awe inspiring changes have swept through Kashgar and other areas of Xinjiang, as they have across China. It is the greatest change in the shortest time the world has ever seen.

I cite two recent blogs by Josh Summers and Lesley Lababidi below to give detailed information about Kashgar today. Continue reading “Kashgar Sunday Market”

Pattale to Pikey Peak, Solukhumbu, lower Everest

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Dorje Points at Everest Feature

Featured image: Dorje Points to Everest near Teahouse above Pattale

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 1  October 2018

Pattale to Pikey Peak

Trek 2 Pattale to Pikey Peak, Junbessi, Taksinda La & Paphlu, November 2017


In the last article Pattale to Juke, I described a visit to the Pattale Health Centre, which we are supporting and a short trek from Pattale to Juke, There and Back, in March 2013.

In November 2017, we returned to Nepal to undertake another trek to Annapurna Base Camp. Then, we wanted to return to Pattale to see what had changed in the village and the clinic after five years. And, to undertake a new trek from Pattale via Pikey Peak in a large circuit, with almost constant views of the major peaks in the Himalayas. The trek was to end in Paphlu where we hoped to fly back to Kathmandu.


Denise, Lesley, Dot and I were to go up to Pattale ahead of the others so as to spend more time in the village. Denise in particular wanted to prepare a report on the health centre for the foundation. Dot who is involved in a charity in Kathmandu was curious to see another aid project.

We were up at 5.15 am. This time with eight of us we had a jeep or 4WD vehicle to ourselves. Despite the early start, with fiddling around, we didn’t get underway until 6.30 am and took an unusual back route to Bhaktapur to avoid traffic. Once we reached the main road the traffic was heavy up to Dhulikhel when we turned off the main road.

After a short piece of good road, the road deteriorated until we reached the Japanese Road along the Sunkoshi River. This was marvelous and quick. The bridges were all completed unlike five years ago. We stopped a couple of times at reasonable places and unfortunately ate all the cinnamon rolls we’d brought with us from Kathmandu. We crossed the Sunkoshi on a real bridge this time and headed into the hills before where we stopped for lunch at a spot where there is a large market nearby.

Despite a gorgeous looking teenage girl serving, one of two sisters, the place was indescribably filthy. We barely ate anything but I foolishly asked for a second cup of tea. It was only lukewarm, probably not properly boiled and was the cause of my troubles for the next three days.

Once we got into the hills proper the road became tar and the forests and the hills were lovely all the way to Okhaldhunga. From Okhaldhunga the road to Pattale was also tar, though rising rapidly up through many hair-pin bends. We arrived in Pattale in the late afternoon — a nine-hour jeep ride — but with enough time to be dropped off for a half hour walk into town, admiring the views and the scenery.

Continue reading “Pattale to Pikey Peak, Solukhumbu, lower Everest”

Pattale to Juke, Solukhumbu, lower Everest

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Featured image: Everest and Spectacular Himalaya Range from Pattale

Entry to Pattale 2017

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 3 September 2018

Trek 1 Pattale to Juke, Solukhumbu District, lower Everest region, Nepal
Pattale to Juke: There & Back, March 2013


The reason for this article is that Nepal is changing. The major treks are becoming crowded. Some tourists want to go to less visited places. We visited Pattale village in March 2013 and in late 2017. Much had changed in 5 years.

New roads are being pushed through into regions that were once isolated. One good example of this is Upper Mustang, which was once a long walk up the windy and gritty Kali Gandaki River to the former Tibetan Kingdom of Lo and its remote villages. Part of the construction of new roads is a subtle competition in influence between India and China. But other nations are also involved in providing aid, such as the Japanese, who are responsible for part of the excellent road along the Sunkoshi River, in the middle part of the journey to Okhaldhunga and Pattale in the Solukhumbu or lower Everest region.

Also the nature of the trekking fraternity is changing as well. Indians and Chinese are newer trekkers, and now middle class Nepalis have begun to be curious about their own country.

Continue reading “Pattale to Juke, Solukhumbu, lower Everest”

ABC Annapurna Sanctuary Trek Nepal

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Awesome Annapurna South on the ABC Annapurna Sanctuary Trek Nepal
Awesome Annapurna South on the ABC Annapurna Sanctuary Trek Nepal

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 11 April 2018

Return to ABC Trek Nepal, November 2017

The basics

In Pokhara the tour agents advertise the ABC Annapurna Sanctuary trek Nepal round trip from Pokhara for from 7 days (even 6). Unfortunately many visitors do the ABC Annapurna Sanctuary trek in a week. It is much too short and if they’ve come from overseas the trek may be dangerous because of altitude. This is the same almost everywhere in Nepal for those coming with only two weeks or less for their vacation.

We planned to take 12 days for the trek. Although, I make the disclaimer — we couldn’t have done it in 7 days. We are too old and too unfit.

This article is the follow-up to our first trek to ABC in 2004 and a companion to it.

My fitness problem this time was that I developed an inflamed meniscus in my knee eight weeks before we left. Hence I spent my time visiting physiotherapists and doing knee exercises, rather than training for the walk. My knee was still sore in Nepal but my knee muscles had been well-strengthened and it wasn’t a problem.

Continue reading “ABC Annapurna Sanctuary Trek Nepal”

Muktinath to ABC Nepal

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Featured Image: Heavily modified panorama of Machhapuchhre or Fishtail from above MBC towards ABC.

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 6 March 2018

Muktinath to ABC (Annapurna Base Camp) trekking in Nepal, 2004

We went to ABC in the Annapurna Sanctuary for the second time in December 2017. I thought it might be a good idea to outline our first trek in Nepal in preparation for the photo essay of our more recent trip with a better camera.

It was a much quieter time in Nepal in 2004, because it was in the midst of the Maoist Insurgency.

In the Spring of 2004, we went to Nepal for the first time and began on part of the Annapurna Circuit. We were very ignorant but secured the services of Davendra as our guide/porter on the Internet. Davendra was tall for a Nepali, dark, friendly with a good sense of humour. He was also very patient and helped us to learn the protocols of trekking in Nepal. We had no problems securing accommodation almost anywhere.

Continue reading “Muktinath to ABC Nepal”