Tuesday, May 29, 2007

north island holiday!

I got back from my north island trip with ann yesterday, and tomorrow we go off on our south island tour, so here are the edited highlights from our trip. we flew from queenstown to christchurch for our connection and went to the antarctic centre while we waited. this is me and ann in a simulated antarctic storm - very cold & windy! inside the giant chiller room there was also an igloo, snow bike, tent and ice slide on which I got a very chilly bum!

penguin alert - this is a little blue penguin zipping past the aquarium window - they're only 30cm high and all at the centre were disabled in some way - maimed flipper, blind in one eye, or in the case of 'elvis', blind in both eyes... we got to see them being fed and snuggling together in their burrow boxes and being generally very cute.

our connection flew us in to wellington, the capital city at the southern end of the north island. this is the view of the city from botanical gardens on one of the many hills that surrounds wellington - we just took that trolley car to the top.

this is parliament - the round building - known to most here as the beehive. it was great to be around buildings that are old and made of stone after so long in queenstown. however, I did also discover I'm now a small-town-girl and didn't really like the busyness and impersonalness of the city - I like people who make sure they don't walk into you and smile and say 'hi'.

view from breakfast the day we left wellington as we dined at the chocolate fish cafe.

driving north we got to napier - this city was almost completely destroyed in an earthquake in 1929 and a lot was rebuilt in the art deco style. there are some really impressive buildings along the sea front and in the main town, but we got quite frustrated as nearly all had modern signs and solid awnings that took away a lot of the character. making up for that were the palm tress that are everywhere, rising into the sky with poofs of green at the top.

art deco with an art nouveau twist - one of the few unadulterated buildings left in napier!

beautiful sunset on the pacific coast with pohutakawa tree in the foreground - the kiwi christmas tree that's covered in red pompom flowers in december.

and on to rotorua - in the active volcanic zone. we visited a maori thermal village - where food is cooked in boxes over steam vents, veges boiled in the hot springs, baths filled with geothermally heated water and these geysers going off in the background.

this is the champagne lake at wai-o-tapu, south of rotorua - another active zone with bubbling mud pools, sulphur vents, hot lakes, amazing mineral colours and steam rising from the ground.

when we left rotorua it felt like it was time - our taxi didn't arrive to take us to the airport, our coffees were watery and we were made to pay for extra shots, and worse of all we were charged a $5 our-aiport-is-rubbish-and-we-need-to-improve-it-so-we're-making-you-pay-thanks-very-much tax!

Monday, May 21, 2007


look - I have a friend... all the way from england! this is ann, who I met at school in 'a'level chemistry class. she flew all the way out here to see us (I think our lovely country had something to do with it too). we've had 4 days enjoying touristy things in queenstown - a ride on the steamer ship, trip up the gondola and luge, wildlife park inc. nocturnal kiwi house, beautiful walks and this afternoon the shotover jet - high speed boating through a canyon going VERY close to the walls! tomorrow we're off to the north island to get cultured up in the capital, wellington, and then head to the thermal/volcanic & maori attractions around rotorua, a.k.a. roto-vegas!
check in soon for some holiday pics... and check fran's site for some great skydiving photos!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


ok, so I finally succumbed to the pressure of thousands and signed up to facebook. and all I can say is - huh?

I'm completely baffled! I've not been a big online community girl, apart from the whole blogosphere, and pretty much everything about this is alien to me. don't get me wrong, I like the communication part - being on the other side of the world you learn that different forms of communication work with different people - some like letters, some like phone calls, some like emails, some like texting, some like online messaging... so now I can add 'some like facebook', but I'm going to have to learn how it all works. at first I thought it was just some wierd canadian thing - networks, walls, groups, and tabs and pages that make NO sense to me at all! I logged on this morning to discover I'd been 'poked' and ended up in fits of giggles - a cyberspace poke foreign lands! can I edit my full name down to the name I use - no! can I find out how to feed in my blog posts - no!

I have a new language to learn. I need 'facebook for dummies'. someone tell me what it's all about, please...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

answer time
question: what's worse than flooding your washing machine in your new place?...
answer: flooding it whilst dying some clothes black!

yep, I really did manage it, I flooded our bathroom with inky black water and didn't realise til the machine started some odd beeping noises. amazingly, there are now no signs of damage, thanks to the more rustic state of our house and carpets, though it did take me 3 hours to get rid of the water, bleach the marks out of many different surfaces, and recover the clothes that were in the rattan washing basket which was nicely soaking up the murky waters. let's just say I won't be doing that again any time soon!

Friday, May 04, 2007

night beauty
I've just had the most wonderful walk back home from town. it's nightime, and the air is autumn chill and fresh with woodsmoke and wild pine scents. the moon is full and stars bright with luminous clouds scudding over the mountain tops. walking fills me with so much peace and joy, I almost want to go back down to town so I can walk back again - it wasn't long enough! I could soak up that peaceful night time beauty for hours.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

autumn glory

it's been a while since I posted and I'm going to deluge you with a flurry of photos much like the leaves cascading from the trees right now. the autumn colours are just glorious - especially cherry trees glowing in peachy oranges and rowan trees laden with bright red berries and leaves turning from golden yellow through orange and red to a deep burgundy mauve at the crown.

this is my walk into town, taken on a wet day - you can see the peaks of the remarkables in the clouds in the background. I walked this way back from town earlier in the week and had a bolshy little fantail bird come and display at me from about 6 inches away. they're the size of blue-tits with a white tail that fans out bigger than their body size, and they're not afraid to let you know you're in their territory. I'd love to have them in my garden, but they hang around in more natural environments hunting for bugs.

this is the creek I walk past, that powered the first hydro scheme in queenstown. the hydro plant started operating in 1924, although the mayor had been trying to get it started sooner the explosion of the acetylene gas power plant gave the plans a kick start! it operated 'til 1966 and the power building is now restored and you can walk up the creek next to the ruined old pipes.

after a record breaking busy april we had the weekend booked off for fran to get some well deserved rest, although bad weather around those days means he had a week off in total. on saturday we walked the 'fernhill loop track', which starts near our house and takes you into those mountains you could see on the photo behind our house. it was a stunning walk, through a mixture native deciduous beach forest with tropical looking ferns, encroaching still dark wilding pine forest, and open grassland with tussocks and flaxes laden with moisture from the low clouds.

I still find it really strange living somewhere where bright sunlight doesn't mean it's warm enough to remove layers... walking along with thermals and fleeces and a warm hat in the sunlight just doesn't compute in my english brain! in england when it's cold 95% of the time it definately isn't sunny!

we packed far more food than we needed, and a hot thermos of tea, and had a really nice time. at our lunch stop half way round we sat at a high point with a view down lake wakitipu and watched the plane at the dropzone 12km away taking off and landing and the skydivers under canopy spiralling to the ground, caught in bright sunlight against the remarkables shrouded in clouds.

the way up was a gentle uphill all the way - the way down took us along a ridge and then dropped off steeply into more wilding pine forest. (these non-native tress are rapidly taking over native forest and grassland and removing habitat for many native species). at the moment the floor of the pine forests are littered with fly agaric mushrooms as far as the eye can see - it was quite surreal to look through the trees along the floor and see thousands and thousands of red caps pushing up through the leaf litter. it's my hope that somehow this mushroom edipemic is the start of nature's cunning reclamation of lands taken by the pines!

and finally, proof that I have at least one friend...

friday night was 'girl's night out' in celebration of rachel's birthday, so along with my friend lizzy we went out for cwoffees and dessert at a funky new cafe in town, and then, after wandering round town and stepping into crowded noisy bars, inspiration hit and we went to 12bar - a funky, classy bar with cool wall paper, little booth rooms and comfy sofas for relaxing next to the wall of flickering yellow flames. definately a place to return to. and to make my night the barman called me 'luv' - made me feel all homey and english, if only he'd called a bloke 'luv' I could have been in sheffield...