Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Dangers of Modern Farming Practices to Our Future Generations.

Life is absolutely not sustainable as we are living it in these so called modern times. It's clear to me that modern life has little thought for the damage it is causing for our future.

Peak oil has arrived and will make food all the time more expensive, since we are dependent on oil for it's production.
Water sources are being polluted & privatised and our crops are being systematically & irreversibly patented whilst being genetically modified.

As our bodies are living tissue with bacteria as an integral part of them, foods grown in dead soil with use of toxic chemicals, pesticides & herbicides are constantly making us weaker & more disease prone as we consume them during our lifetimes.
If we care enough to leave this earth in a good way for future generations I believe the best way forward is to share knowledge and aim to plant seeds of true sustainability in each of us. To help one another and inspire change through knowledge is important.

If we can each successfully introduce Permaculture principles & what these represent to 10 people in our lifetimes & they go on to do the same & so on... Only then there is a chance that our grandchildren's grandchildren will be healthy and happy young people.
Without keeping this possibility as a focus, I for one would feel I've failed my children & their future generations in sharing what I have learnt through creating sustainable examples they can continue.

Like most parents I dearly love my children more than anything in this world and want to provide not just the best for them, but share important knowledge and wisdom gained through experiences of life.

I'd like to share these two thought provoking videos which I feel are very worthwhile watching to anybody that cares.
Because without knowledge, we're powerless to make changes for the better.

The Silence of the bees. A documentary study of colony collapse disorder - a food problem facing each and every one of us, as a result of modern farming & chemical agriculture practices:

Seeds of Death. This is quite a shocking film, but contains a lot of information to explain what is in GMO foods.
GMO in Japan is likely to increase in future, as it appears Prime Minister Abe is moving forward with having Japan be a part of TPP.

There will be NO GMO for our family & those we can persuade to be vigilant of what they eat - if we can help it:

Permaculture Inspiration & Plans For Autumn 2013 to Spring 2014.

Since completing the PDC course at, my interest and inspiration for creating a permaculture solution, as a way forward has strengthened remarkably. I can see the reasons so much more clearly for why I want to make progress, but it's also developing into a bit of a passion. Not least because I learnt so much in the space of two weeks with Tim & Dave as our tutors.

One other person I've known of for a long time, but whose work I could understand much less of before the PDC is Phil Cashman, who has recently set up permaculture-awa

Since our return to Japan & before it got too blazing hot to be working outside in the sun during the middle of the day, I have spent a couple of days at his workshops. From doing things from weeding, to observing his projects in Hayama (Kominka Home) & Wada (Permaculture Dojo) & participating in workshops, it's been an inspiration to see what he's achieved and the projects he's working on.

Below are some pictures from the last workshop which took place towards the end of July.

Above: Phil explains how to cook up a mean worm juice, ready to bring life to soil & plant growth!

Above: Here he shows the workshop participants how a worm farm works.

Above: Growing vegetables in a weed free bed of rice husks - a waste product / perfect mulch material from rice farmers!

Above: The workshop makes a brick pizza oven!

Above: Phil inspects the finished arch for imperfections & weaknesses.

And so this brings us to my plans for when the weather cools down from the end of September - till May next year.
Some of the winter season will be too cold to work outside, but I intend to do as much as I can.
It may be considered ambitious to try and complete it all, but I know if I don't I'll only wish I had next summer - so here's what I have in mind:

(1). At the North side of the house I will build a chicken run. This is intended to provide not just organic, proper free range eggs & chickens - but as chickens have a body temperature of 46 Deg C, my intention is to build a greenhouse which will include the chicken coup as part of it's structure so their body heat will keep plants warmer during the night. The chickens will be used to eat seeds, grubs, scratch out weeds and fertilise our vegetable beds, using chicken tractors too.
In addition as part of the greenhouse I'd ideally like to include an aquaponics system, where lettuce & other vegetables could be grown during colder months. With aquaponics, it should be part of the design to include breeding & keeping of fish (Or - preferably freshwater crayfish - which are apparently delicious on the BBQ!), whose faeces is used to provide all the required nutrient for the plants being grown (In turn these plant's roots will help clean & filter the water as a continuous cycle. Small pumps will oxygenate the water, possibly backed up by solar power - haven't decided on this yet).
The greenhouse is also intended to be used for sprouting seedlings, but will also be designed to be self-watering, using rain water collected from part of the house's roof. Some considerable thinking and design will need to go into all of this, but it'll be a very worthwhile project to enhance our other food growing projects.

(2). It looks as if I'll need to invest in a cheap 4WD K-Truck and be-friend some local farmers who might give us their waste rice husks, straw & bran which I can use to make compost. In addition I'll need to either get donated horse manure, or buy it by the bag-full. Hopefully the former. I'd like to also collect seaweed for adding to the compost. This soil production & enhancement is intended for use in our raised beds. Compost may take up to 3 months to produce & require turning over a few times, so again - this needs to be done at an early stage as autumn sets in. I'll need to find a suitable K-truck soon. I'd wanted to avoid getting yet another vehicle, but it's a necessity for this project I think!

(3). I feel I've learnt a lot about growing food these last two years, combined with what I learnt in the PDC course and I can see quite obvious mistakes in how we've been growing foods so far, not least lack of mulch and management of foods growing. Whilst away in NZ many of our crops were lost to weeds, which was a shame - although I'd half expected this to happen without being there to care for them. Still, it was a worthwhile sacrifice...By contrast we had tomato plants sprout from seeds of dropped tomatoes last year, which has been interesting. By far - our crops this year have been tomatoes and pumpkin! Fortunately we have been able to give much away without going to waste, consuming ourselves and exchanging for other things with local friends who grow their own foods too.

Our garden beds will be raised and built with the intention of using chicken tractors to clear & fertilise the soil, ready to planting. So our existing garden beds will be changed considerably for next year. In addition I want to make some raised beds in the section of the garden to the right of the lounge's view. Here would be ideal for growing pumpkins - as this year they've taken over almost an entire vegetable bed! This development means the chicken run & greenhouse should be one of the first projects to be tackled.

(4). By the SE corner of the garden is an old corrugated animal shed currently used for storage.
It's roof will be useful for collecting rainwater. This in turn will fill a duck pond, whose overflow will be piped to various fruit tree saplings, since duck effluent is very high in valuable nutrient.
I'm hoping the ducks will be comfortable living in the garden, taking care of eating grubs and slugs & so naturally contributing to pest control. They too will lay eggs and also act as guards of sorts for our property. Ducks also eat grass, so they will hopefully help to relieve the need to cut the grass so much in future. Ducks also fertilise the ground well. Trees should also have plenty of comfrey to provide nitrogen & mulch for their healthy growth.

(5). Phil Cashman has made some excellent solutions for worm farms & for producing worm juice, so this is something I'll be shamelessly copying. It'll be placed near the chicken coup, so that some food scraps will go to the birds and others will go to the worms, who in turn will make excellent worm juice & compost, ready for giving life to plans in our newly raised vegetable beds.

(6). During the Permaculture course we learnt that bee hives don't need regular maintenance at all. There are hives such as the Perone design which can be left for as much as a year without any interference. Both my wife & I noticed a lot more more bees in the garden this year than last, possibly due to the clover flowers all over the ground as well as the flowers on our established shrubs and newly planted flowers. These are of course important - as bees pollinate the entire garden and we've noticed the difference too. So this is one reason why I'd like to have bees. Hives would probably be in quiet area(s) of our forest. Not least, it would be amazing to have native Japanese bees & their honey if we can. It just so happens that Phil Cashman trained with the best known natural Japanese honey bee keeper some years ago. Another reason to pick his brains!!

(7). We need to ask some nearby neighbours - who have a large stash of rocks of varying sizes - if we can use these for improving the driveway entrance to our home, and as wall materials for ponds, or to replace the rocks around our existing garden firepit (Which disintegrate with heat!) yet another reason for needing a K-Truck, I think...

(8). I have heard there are locals who lend out goats to people with land that can feed them. Currently I'm using a petrol powered strimmer, which does a fast job of clearing grasses and clover, but I'd far rather the grasses were neatly cut by more natural means. Would require protection of tree saplings & other plants we wouldn't want eaten - but a much better solution than working to clear gardens. Their manure is also valuable nutrient for the ground.

(9). There will be a lot of pruning to do for not just existing flowering & fruiting shrubs but also long established trees that had been neglected by the house's previous elderly owners. Also I need to figure out why some of our young trees have died. A fig which was doing so well before has recently died. Also we've had little success with citrus trees. Have replaced those that failed with others placed in warmer locations, so we'll see how they go. Perhaps I need to care for these better. More watering, worm juice & mulching methinks...? Must also do some PH testing. I have the kit but haven't got around to this.

(10). And finally (for the garden at least!), as pure luxury - I'd really like to make a swimming pool for our family on the South Side of the house, where we had a kid's paddling pool this summer. I have fond memories of having a pool at home in the UK (Which I restored with very little financial expense from a horrid slushy bog that had been abandoned for years!). It's amazing to dive into a cold pool on a cool morning bleary eyed. By the time I would reach the other side in my old pool in England, I'd be wide awake and ready for the day ahead!

It wouldn't be a chemical pool which requires much cleaning, maintenance and expense, but a re-circulating pool whose pure well-water is purified by a well oxygenated pond (of equal volume) with plenty of purifiction plants and pond-life to cleanse the water before it's passed through a sand filter and re-introduced into the pool.
Provided it's well oxygenated, it should remain algae free, I think. This needs careful consideration, so perhaps I might build a pond (Which the ducks cannot get into, or they'll make a mess of it!) first & see about using it to purify a children's paddling pool we put out this year - and if that works, then we can dig the ground and make a proper pool for 2015, complete with roof & sliding door glass enclosure, so insects and mosquitoes can be kept out - for night-time dips!

Sometimes it's a struggle to continue working, but I do feel a renewed energy for making progress. Vision, if you will.

As long as I can keep it up, in around 5 years we should have a fantastic place that looks after us with more & more as the years go on whilst teaching our children the essentials to the healthiest ways to live... The more we do, the better it'll look after us and hopefully a small community of like minded people we share with locally.

With regard to the house, we also have a few projects in the pipeline that I'd like to complete before spring of next year - time & funds allowing:

(1) The Wardrobe for the children's bedroom / audio cabinet for dining room is nearing completion from Arnie and should be ready very shortly. This will allow us to finally complete the children's bedroom and begin to use it. During the Obon break this week I did a trip to bring the last 5 tonnes or so of traditional roof tiles from Shodoshima and with it I brought my wife's Piano, which we anticipate will also be housed in the children's bedroom. Till now these two rooms have been used for storing bedding. I recently completed some shelving in the wardrobe upstairs so the bedding can go there. Everything needs to have it's place so we can keep a well organised household. The easier it is to keep tidy, the more organised it will stay.

Two beautiful large rectangular tables made from reclaimed wood were completed by James Renyolds, a carpenter friend based near Tateyama - earlier this year. The plan is to have them both form a square and provide enough seating for up to 14 people in the dining room. For now only one table will be in there, as the other is in use in the kitchen (Until Arnie builds the island we intend for the middle there). We still need to find some suitable chairs to accompany these tables and I'm occasionally visiting in my continuing search for the right ones.

I'm also in the process of finishing painting a beautiful replica of a Skygarden pendant light to be hung in the centre of the room. Soon the dining room & children's bedroom will be finally in use as intended.

(2). I must clean the chimney flue before winter comes - We have the equipment to do this, so it shouldn't take too long!

(3). Our little boy who is still not two years old - has made a great job of demonstrating how weak the paper is on the shoji doors.
My wife needs to find suitably strengthened / plasticised paper to replace this with before the winter sets in!

(4). The entrance doors are currently wooden ones which are draughty and let in insects during warmer months. The mosquito netting is almost a joke as these are so ill-fitting with rubber seals broken off the sides. I'd like to replace all of these doors with good quality aluminium doors & frame - complete with decent security locks. Arnie would be our man to fit these. We won't be having the same company do the job as before! In addition I also need to finish the colouring on the wood they installed in our lounge. That doesn't take long at all.

(5). The earth floor in the entrance area is a source of dirt & musty smells and it's perimeter allows the entry of insects from under the house during the warmer months. This perimeter will all be sealed off and cement poured, to make a level floor. From there we'll either make a cobbled flooring with white & black cobble finish in an attractive pattern (Not very traditional, but it'll look beautiful in a sort of Portuguese / Spanish style) or if slipperyness with wet shoes is a concern, we'll do a more traditionally Japanese graveled concrete surface. I'd far prefer the cobble stones though. Longer lasting too... The house isn't about keeping to traditional Japanese design, it's about modification to our needs & tastes.

(6). The exterior earth wall white covering has still not been repaired and is unsightly. I'll repair these during the colder months when mosquitoes aren't biting any more & probably repaint the white parts. May also creosote some of the wood, for added aesthetics. I have also bought fittings for hanging a hammock outside, which I'll do soon. Neither my wife nor I have much time to relax these days, but our daughter will like it!

(7). Both Engawa walkways around the South & West sides of the house need light cosmetic restoration work & improved lighting (Which we already have stored away). Not least I want to plaster the walls on the west run (We stripped off some nasty synthetic fibre wallpaper and now it's just bare concrete) so we can put down carpet tiles, which will be cleaner and warmer during the winter too.

(8). I'd promised my wife to make a pretty letter box (Rather than have her buy a ready made one!) to put in the front entrance. Will do this too!

There are always many projects to complete. These are just some of those I hope to complete before summer comes around again. There will be late night and weekends spent working, but progress won't happen without the necessary hard labour.

One grand idea is to replace the rear South West corner of the house with a new modern large bathroom & utilities room, together with a better garden tools shed. This is a large project though - which will incur considerable expense for Arnie to do properly. The idea is that each room we complete will provide a great atmosphere and well thought out space for it's intended use.
There's a plan in progress to raise the funds for this project - which I'll reveal when it comes to fruition.
It's a somewhat spiritual business story success I'm enjoying watching slowly develop in the UK. More on this later though - as the story will be best told in full, rather than in parts.

With each improvement we make, I see my wife working a little less hard on keeping the house clean & tidy - a measure of success, perhaps. Once the house is finished I can finally get onto making buildings outside and I have big plans for this, the 15 tons of traditional tile sitting outside around my workshop area are part of the glint in my eye. There are lots of dreams yet to be fulfilled but that's half the fun of a home project like this, I guess.

Roof Repairs & Improvements to Our Cherished Classic Benz.

I'd forgotten to upload these pictures, which were taken earlier in April - before we left for NZ. Whilst the scaffolding was still up from having fitted the chimney we took the opportunity to replace the summit ridge with new 0.8mm copper sheet, suitably rolled into shape, before being sealed with heat-proof silicone & secured with self-drilling screws. The roof should now last a long time before needing any further maintenance, although I took the precaution of rigging a pulley system so that I could hoist a lightweight aluminium ladder up should the need ever arise to go back up there. Heights and slippery slopes aren't something I enjoy being mixed with though, it has to be said!

Meanwhile, our cherished old Mercedes continues to get better. The lower plastics have been replaced and I found a set of used Evo II wheels from an E500 Limited model, which grace the car well.

Recently after our return from New Zealand, during a long weekend I finally got around to fitting the sound system I'd been planning for a long time, with specially imported professional sound insulation materials and high level audio components I had squirelled away for when I'd get 3 days or so to fit them. It took this long because I wanted to make this is the best installation I'd ever completed. Every connection was as strongly attached as possible (In most cases soldered & shrink wrap was used where appropriate) and speakers installed where they wouldn't be seen. To most people it's not even apparent there's a sound system installed except for a head unit in the dashboard. I like discretion!

Now, at last there's no rattles from the interior (except squeaks from the old but comfortable leather chairs) & the sound quality is the best I've had from any car since I begun driving 25 years ago. Road noise is well insulated and I can use my i-phone by voice control, or tell the Parrot (Hifi) what music to choose from my phone whilst keeping both hands on the wheel. It's not without the occasional error in selection, but it's not too bad either. The Garmin Navi is a simple but effective solution and as a result I've developed a pet dislike for Japanese navi systems and their un-necessarily complicated installation requirements.

In addition, during the Obon break (Which is coming to an end as I write this) I fitted some new gauge faces, to bring the instrumentation up to date with Electro-Luminescent lighting.

It wafted us to Shodoshima on a single tank (700km!) of Diesel at an easy 120km/h most of the way and despite this having taken 8 hours of driving, we arrived with no aches or pains from having spent a night inside.

...Where we've been spending time relaxing with relatives.

This old piece of German engineering at it's best - strikes me as a more ecological solution to have a car that can cover large mileages, last 4 decades & if necessity were to arise in future - run on old cooking oil, than drive a Hybrid car that uses electricity made at distant power stations. With inefficient losses of energy along the way at best, never mind the difficulties associated with discarding hybrid batteries when a car like that is scrapped - I'm not sold on Hybrids really. Not even on electric cars, unless they're charged using solar power!

But really, I have to admit it. I just love this old classically engineered Benz! All being well, it should gracefully last another 20+ years. There are few cars one could expect to last that long, but this is one of the last Mercedes they built like a bank-vault, before their bean counters realised it was more profitable to build cars that would have an expected lifespan of 5-10 years - and that it would be beneficial to make them so complicated and electronically unreliable, few would want to keep them beyond their warranty covered lives!

A Visit to New Zealand for an Amazing Permaculture Design Course & More.

At the beginning of May, just as the growing season for our garden was beginning, we packed our bags, left our Border Collie with a local friend and headed off to New Zealand for a month. The intention was that I'd complete a Permaculture Research Institute course in Permaculture Design - whilst staying at &

My wife & a friend who traveled with us from Japan for the 1st 2 weeks of the trip + 3 small kids took off soon after we reached Karamea (One of the most remote North Western villages of the South Island) to visit the North Island together, whilst I begun my course in Permaculture design.

The course was very well taught and I was surprised at the quality of content & interesting variety of subjects. Tim Barker the teacher had been an intern at the Australian Permaculture research institute for some years (The most advanced of Permaculture organisations worldwide) and the curriculum was from PRI too.

A total of 6 of us took the course & got to learn many things from how to design a very effective self-sustainable food garden, to methods of making buildings from naturally available local materials.

We even learnt how to make a self-sustainable building which would collect & supply it's own water, very efficient heating and how to put together solar panel systems (DIY these are cheap to install nowadays) & we got to do & see several practical examples locally including things like hydro-electricity from a spring using the innards of a washing machine!

As part of the course we also built a rocket stove which we promptly connected to an old electric oven and burnt a loaf of bread as it cooked. Rocket stoves burn at up to 1,000 Deg C but can be used for efficiently heating a house!

With the knowledge learnt & things we saw - I feel so much more fired up now, ready to continue our eco-home project here in Japan with more direction and vision of what's possible & how to go about it.

Vision is important I think... Don't be surprised to see a duck pond irrigated from the roof of our old animal shed and a large greenhouse in the future, plus much more!

It was wonderful to see all that my old friend Paul Murray had achieved with the help of woofers over the last 8 years, having started out with just a dream of creating the project. We of course met his family there too - they're actually in Japan as well now (Seeing Sanae's parents) and we'd be seeing them again later in Japan too.

(Above picture taken in Rongo's lounge during the presentation of the permaculture projects we'd designed during our course).

- their backpackers hostel is a very special place including lots of art from people of the corners of the world who travelled to NZ & stayed there including 1,000 paper cranes hung from the ceiling made by a French girl!

Paul has been largely detached from how it would turn out (As long as the artists could convince him they knew what they were doing!) but the result is tasteful. It's by far the nicest of all the backpackers we stayed in during our onward travels.

People are very comfortable to be themselves there and often stay much longer than they intended to begin with.

Apparently over the years it's been a place people have rested and found a healing comfort from being accepted by the other occupants without judgment, etc. Hence the space for people to be artistic.

Anyway, I could see why Paul & Sanae have so much passion for their project & of course met some sweet people there during the few weeks we were there... They have Karamea's radio station there and a small cinema too. And there's always pretty girls staying too, which never fails to be a nice thing.

Dinner conversations with around 20 of us around a long table made from drift wood found at the nearby estuary was always interesting and the NZ wines were usually good too. The veggies were usually picked from their garden within hours of being on the table and on one night we had the best lamb I'd ever tasted - slaughtered from their paddock by Paul the same day to feed all of us that evening!

Paul kindly insisted I shouldn't pay for the course, nor for the stay in our own self-contained 2 bedroom holiday motel - with very 1970's styled décor!

He said I'd already paid 10 years ago when I gave him $10,000 NZ as a shareholder in his project, which was very kind. So I insisted on at least giving a gift of money for food & electricity so I wasn't a drain on their resources.

Some beautiful walks there through some old growth forests with very interesting trees covered in mosses. On our day off from the course I walked a 25km hike through the Oparara Valley on my own.

After the course Yuko returned driving by herself with both kids from the North Island having covered a total of around 3,000km over 2 weeks (They'd gone to see some of the North Island - which is apparently much more developed & less beautiful than the South).

We spent a few days relaxing together, continuing to make new friends & playing with the kids.

Together we re-visited Pete, a local naturopath (who has an amazing permaculture project himself) who shared some very interesting things about food health (& the health giving benefits of eating mostly raw foods!).

Apparently he's not been sick for 38 years, not even a cold... Assuming this is true, it's quite amazing if not inspiring!

We also went to visit some of the beauty of Karamea, something not to be missed!

Then, as people begun to leave to continue their trips we continued on our travels too, to tour some of the Island and see the natural beauty.

As the weather was due to be poor, we avoided taking the road crossing from the West to East side over Arthur's pass - since there would be low clouds & we wouldn't be able to see the views (Apparently it's rated as one of the 10 most scenic roads in the world - so we'll save that for another trip!). Instead we drove down the West coast heading South. Stopping in Hokitika we visited the amazing pancake rocks before continuing on. Nobody knows how they were formed like that.

The following evening we arrived in Wanaka, a small and trendy Winter sports resort town. The drive down had been stunning (Our progress was usually slow because we stopped so many times to take in the views & shoot pictures!).

The next day we passed through Queenstown, which had the most charming town built beside a large lake with surrounding snow-caped mountains.

That was one of our favourite places this far but needing to continue on, we headed South to Te Anau, which we believed would be one of the most beautiful areas, being a Fiordland.
We discovered as we arrived that due to a partial rock wall collapse at the end of the road that the main tourist attraction, Milford sounds wasn't accessible! Being low season there was only one company still running day trips to see the other alternative - Doubtful Sounds (Sounds are mountain ranges with channels that were carved out by glaciers leading out to the sea. It's named Doubtful because apparently Captain Cook had doubted he'd be able to sail back out if he explored it).
Upon inquiring we were told there were only 3 seats left so we promptly booked!
Leaving early the following day, we opted to find a backpackers near Manapuri, which was where the catamaran vessel would be docked. Here we stayed in a simple wooden hut with a small pot-bellied wood burning stove. The stars that night were even more visible than elsewhere.

Doubtful Sounds didn't disappoint. The first boat took us to a land locked area of the Fiordlands where there's apparently 7m of annual rainfall per year.

Here they have a huge hydroelectric power plant (Which we didn't get to see unfortunately).
A bus with a chatty tour driver took us to a 2nd boat ride which was spectacular.

We saw lots of small waterfalls cascading down mountainsides, Albatross, Penguins and Bottle nose Dolphins too. The vessel went all the way to the sea before turning around to return with exploration of some of the Fiordlands on the way. Turning some corners it was amazing how from the lack of sun's exposure the temperatures at the front deck would instantly drop some 10 degrees C!

The following day we headed to Lake Tekapo and along the way saw more beautiful vistas.

Tekapo to us turned out to be the most beautiful town of all (With a population of only 350). There's a stunning emerald blue lake whose surrounding mountain range had received it's first snowfall of the season just 2 days before we arrived!

This being our last day I'd hoped to travel to Christchurch in time to see - a homemade & very uniquely designed bike built by John Britten (Who died some years ago from cancer) which had challenged Ducati's top racing bikes in the late 80's. Unfortunately the building they'd been stored in had been destroyed in the earthquake and the bikes partly damaged - so when I called that morning to check - I was told there was no display at this time.

So as our flight was at 5am the following day we had another full day and night to see more.
After a walk at the front of the lightly frosted lake (With amazing looking snow - see picture) we took a small road to the top of one of the mountains to the café there & to take in the stunning views. Truly beautiful.
Here we met two nice NZ ladies who had hiked all the way up icy paths early that morning and also a young chap from Hong Kong.
Offering them a lift down, they invited us to their luxury B&B for coffee which had a stunning view of the lake too (& great coffee!).

Asking if there were any other great things to see in the area & being a beautiful clear day - Stephanie suggested a drive to Mount Cook.
We saw beautiful snow-capped mountains with glaciers and eventually arrived at a glacier lake, with small icebergs floating in it! Met some South American Christian missionaries there who kindly took some family pictures before bidding us farewell and continuing on their travels.

We drove on into the sunset and stopped to take pictures of daylight with beautiful colours in the twilight, before returning to Tekapo for dinner at a Japanese restaurant which had been warmly recommended by Stephanie.

Very authentic and the Sashimi was very fresh too. Yuko had by coincidence met one of the waitresses during their travels in the North Island too!

We had about 3 hour's drive and 6 hours + to kill before checking in, so the family slept whilst I drove slowly, stopping to look at the clear night sky on the way. As we'd heard of the damage still remaining from the 2011 quake in Christchurch, I drove into the centre to see by night. There were still buildings waiting to be demolished, twisted metal frames of previous offices, abandoned library and many vacant plots of land. Progress with rebuilding is slow.

We'll probably return to NZ to see more, as we really enjoyed the whole trip. Next time we'll probably rent a camper truck, as these are a relatively inexpensive way to travel there as a family.

It's a stunning country to drive in. Lots of changes of scenery around mountain corners & over into new valleys. Perhaps next time (When Akira's a bit older) we'll go during the summer, but going at the beginning of the winter wasn’t so bad as we got to see the mountain peaks with snow on, which is perhaps prettier. Someday I'd really like to tour NZ on a motorcycle. That would be an amazing trip indeed and I know bikes are available for rent too!