Monday, January 31, 2005

Ode to Wellington

The skies are overcast today, though not grey. They are white and light and fluffy, and occasionally scraps of cloud have parted, and you can see the icy blue sky peeping shyly through, not entirely sure if it's going to make an appearance, demure in its covering clouds.

There is a rainbow circling the sun, multitude of colours clear and bright against the soft white clouds. People are standing and staring and pointing and laughing. How often do we get a gift like a perfect aureole of colours around the sun?

The mountains that surround this city can be seen clearly - there is no haze on the horizon, every tree and house and curve of hillside is visible. The greens range from darkest deepest green to trashy plastic Xmas tree green to Kermit green. The mountains unfold into hills which slowly creep down to meet the sea.

The sea is a crystalline deep blue, with jade at its' depths. There is a slate grey to some parts of the water, shading out into the blue of a true love's eyes, warm and welcoming and joyful. A double line of white cuts through the water, the trail behind a ferry, foam floating on the water and then slowly, miraculously, disappearing into the blue.

The air is clean and cool. Today is warm, sunny, but the breeze is brisk and sharp, cutting through heat, clearing away tiredness, and on occasion eating hats.

I started today with breakfast (well, lunch really) at Midnight Espresso on Cuba Street, my eating establishment of choice in Wellington, and quite possibly my favourite place in the world. This cafe is painted dark, with grafitti and posters everywhere, the furniture is chipped and beaten up, the food is presented covered in the most amazing garnishes - fresh flowers, leaves, pieces of fresh fruit and vegetables. You get your water from an old school glass water dispenser, which has lemon kebabs floating in it. The coffee is hot and strong and well made, the staff are funny and friendly and have remarkably good memories. The service is often self, as food is passed across the counter and you take it to your table. Or, as there are no table numbers, the staff will wander out of the kitchen, calling out the name of the foodstuff, in the hopes that someone will claim it. The music is loud and young, as is the crowd. And the crowd is numerous - often you'll drink half of your coffee standing, whilst you wait for a table to clear. This is a fucking great place. And the food is, as you would expect from somewhere that I like, a) mostly vegan and vegetarian and b) inventive, daring and really really good.

I followed lunch up with getting chatty with a local, Miss Savage, who I had actually seen briefly when I was waiting to get my tattoo done. She took me up to Upper Cuba Street, and told me all about the planned destruction that is going to take place up there. The council are demolishing a number of buildings (meaning that residents have to move and businesses either have to move or close down) to create a bypass that links up with a proposed 30 storey complex. This will replace a vibrant, creative, arty, alternative, freaky and alive part of Wellington. It's really really sad. And there has been very little protest, because there has been very little publicity - from what I understand, it has been advertised that Upper Cuba Street is in fact currently empty, and thus no one is losing their homes or their livelihoods in this "upgrade" of the city. Very very sad.

After this enlightening, but also depressing, interlude, I went up to Mt Victoria lookout, and saw Wellington spread out below me, clinging to the sides of mountains, worshipping the sea, and the sadness I felt about the goings on in Upper Cuba Street lifted a little. I followed a walking track down into Mt Victoria itself, during which time I found a little area that had been used for the first ever shot of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (at least I'm pretty sure I did - a lot of the vegetation gave a hint of what I was looking for, and there's no damn sign that says "This is where Frodo said "Get off the road!!"). Then I walked through a little bit of the suburb of Mt Victoria, where the houses are all older style double storey terraces, wooden facades, some in the height of repair, some with the second storey held up by great metal rods. The road slopes down sharply - at the top it ends in a mysterious looking tunnel topped by the rise of trees, and at the bottom of the road I was able to walk back to my hostel.

All of today, I have been very aware that this is my last day in Wellington, and that I haven't even scratched the surface of this dynamic, beautiful, laid back, friendly city. A little voice in my head keeps saying "Take a couple more days, go on, it'll be fine, just a couple more days". But the sensible part of my brain (damn sensible part) knows that it wouldn't be a couple more days. It would be forever. And I can't do that. Not yet. I have to admit, it's hard to leave a city where the citizens thank the bus driver, without fail, every time they get off the bus. But I'm forcing myself to leave, while I still can, before the magic of a city that has perfect rainbows above it, that contains mountains and sea in one horizon, that holds art and politics and pain and joy all jumbled together, can make it's way even further into my heart.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

It's about movies, honestly...well, mostly.

I have seen more movies at the cinema during my time(s) in Wellington than I had seen back at home in the last 6 months. Odd, yes? I guess you do some crazy things when you're on holiday (oh hold me back).

I saw Finding Neverland at the Embassy Theatre (which caused me to geek out a stupid amount, as it was at the Embassy Theatre that the Australasian premiere of The Two Towers and the world premiere of Return of the King took place). There was some meeping going on as I waited for the film to start, let me tell you. I think that's why I like the hostel where I'm staying in Wellington - I can walk outside and see the Embassy Theatre.

Where was I? Small moment of Peter Jackson worship got out of control there. It's hard not to do that in Wellington though, it is his home town, after all.

Ah yes. Finding Neverland. Rocked. Bloody excellent. I cried like a big girlie crybaby (note Johnny Depp pun. Ithankyo, Ithankyo). Go and see it, if you haven't already and it's still playing wherever it is that you reside.

I have also seen The Incredibles. Best.Movie.Ever. I have to see it again, but I will try and leave that for when I come back. It is such a bloody good film, and I'm peeved to see that it did not get an Oscar nomination for Best Film, but for Best Animated Feature. Humph. I reiterate my command - go and see it, if you haven't already and it's still playing wherever it is that you reside.

However, this run of excellence came to a grinding halt last night when I saw Alfie. Now, I pretty much knew what I was letting myself in for, but it was the only movie I could contemplate seeing at the time when I wanted to go to the movies (nothing, but nothing, could persuade me to see Alexander. I present to you Colin Farrell's eyebrows [and assorted other ridiculousness]. That is all.)

Now, I saw this movie for one reason only. The luminescent beauty that is Jude Law. He is truly one of the prettiest men of all time. There was a lot of the guh, fnurgh and meep in the viewing of this film. But nothing much else to it. It's worth seeing, as it is entirely centred upon Alfie, and there is, as a result, not a scene where Jude Law does not appear. However, it's probably only worth seeing on DVD. When it's a weekly.

I will have to see the original now to compare and contrast.

I am going to commit a hint of a spoiler here, so feel free to suddenly be distracted by something else if you are really worried about finding out something about the main character in this movie.

The character of Alfie is a selfish, self deluding, arrogant, misogynistic charmer who goes through a number of shattering experiences throughout the film - all of them brought about by his own actions. Okay? Okay. Keep this in mind when you read the following:

There were a group of teenage girls at the screening I went to, and I kid you not, this is their reaction to the ending of the film: "But Alfie was so nice!! He's such a sweetheart!! She totally didn't deserve him, what a bitch, etc".

*Bangs head against keyboard foiuhgvdofhbofvhpdzh*

What the fuck? Where did that come from? Who has the ability to turn shit into gold like that? I truly despair of young women - there seems to be almost a guarentee that women have to experience shit at the hands of men to be able to spot a bastard. Even a fictional one.


Saturday, January 29, 2005

Be informed, be, be, informed

I've been also not so much with the political stuff recently, due to lack of time and resources and quite frankly being determined to have a good time and that never happens if you actually take notice of what's happening in the real world.


There's a really good round up of the horrors of January 2005 (from a US being bastards perspective) on the Bob the Angry Flower site you will find in my links bar.

You should access this site anyway, because it's bloody good. If you haven't looked at it yet, this is a good introduction!!

Friday, January 28, 2005

Pain? I laugh in the face of pain (and then I bleed very quietly)!

Okay, I realise that I haven't been so much with the sexndrugsnrocknroll in recent times. This is mostly due to a lack of any of the above in my current lifestyle, but let's not think that I've completely given up on occasionally visiting the edge (as I am no longer living on it...)

Got my official ZuckerBaby in New Zealand tattoo today.

You heard me, baybee.

Got off the bus in Wellington at 3pm, dumped my stuff at the hostel at 4pm (after saying hello to Thomas the hostel cat), dashed up to Underground Arts by 4.45pm and was on the tattooists chair at 5.30pm, tattooed up by 6.30pm.


Underground Arts is the tattoo parlour attached to the National Tattoo Museum. The guy who runs it is Steve Droog (that's what he says!!), and he is also the tattooist who did my new inkjob!!

I can't really describe the design accurately, but it's got something of a tribal design that I've had in my head for about 8 years, some very strong Maori influences, and Steve and I worked on it together which was cool. It's mostly line work, with spirals and some shading.

Steve doesn't use stencils. He prefers to draw up the design on paper, and then draw it onto your skin. He makes some minor flourishes and embellishing as he goes, always consulting before he does them.

The tattoo itself takes up a fair amount of skin on my upper left arm. It's going to be interesting to keep it out of the sun, because Steve kind of expanded a bit as he went, I think. Then again, I was almost asleep for most of it (oh yes, after the initial ouchy part, I just got into the Zen of the experience and spent a lot of time in another place. I'm sure everyone who has a tattoo has one of those places of their own!!)

And, best of all, the price came in waaaaaaaaayyyyyy under the I'm-not-going-to-get-it-if-it-costs-more-than-blah limit I had in my head. I won't be going on the LotR Wellington locations tour (it was an either/or deal), but I'm going to go to Mt Victoria, where some of my favourite bits were filmed (including the "Get off the Road!!" scene with the groovy contracting tunnel of trees from Fellowship of the Ring), so that's all good. And, as a bonus, free.

So yeah. Tattoos on both arms now. Whee!!! Steve took a photo of the design, so one day I'm going to come back to Wellington and go to Underground Arts and there will be the memory of an afternoon in 2005 in a photo album in the waiting room.

You think to yourself, look at this foolish rotund Belgian, eh? But 'is grey cells, they know the truth...

Napier is a lovely and above all genteel town. It's very seasideian. With a side order of gin and tonic please waiter (at one of the, count them, THREE Irish pubs - this is out of five pubs in the city centre. Sigh).

Napier, and it's close neighbour, Hastings, are really interesting from an architectural point of view. Both towns were devestated when an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale hit in February 1931. Napier's building were not only destroyed by the earthquake, but also by the fire which swept through minutes after the earthquake.

So the towns had to be rebuilt. During the Depression. And they were, in a ridiculously short two year period. Thus, most of the architecture is of the Art Deco school, with some Spanish Mission, Stripped Classical and hints of Art Nouveau here and there. There are also some beautiful examples of Art Deco patterns using Maori motifs.

And yes, this is why I went to Napier. I love Art Deco. It's such a vibrant, clean, distinctive style. It immediately calls up the Jazz Age and cocktails in the Bahamas with the New Woman, just before she hops in her motorcar and takes you to the airfield for a terrifying ride on one of those new fangled aeroplanes.

I have to admit, most of the time I was in Napier, I felt like I was in a seventies film adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel, perhaps starring Michael York.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Cats on a hostel's tin roof, part the second

I had to publish the last post really fast because my computer had just made a hideous beeping noise and was about to shut down and I didn't have any more $2 coins and I wasn't going to let Blogger eat another post (there was one I had written about pedestrian traffic laws in NZ that has disappeared forever - or at least until I get the energy to write it again) here's the second part...

I didn't get to meet and greet the Rotorua hostel cat - the hostel I was staying in was stupidly huge and there were more than enough people for the cat to get sufficient scritches without me seeking it out. However, I did spot the little tabby stretching luxuriously in the morning sun whilst I was waiting for the shuttle to take me on a tour.

The cat in Rotorua that I did get to have a chat with was the cat at Te Whakarewarewa - it was a long haired tortoiseshell, and sat out the back of the park's cafe. After it deigned to allow me to give it a tickle behind the ears, it did the rounds of the outside tables, standing at people's feet and staring fixedly at them until they gave it a pat. If people didn't respond to the staring it would mrroorrww in an imperious manner and then, when they bent down to give it a pat, would move just out of the way just before they could touch it. Wily animal. It's name was Whaka (which is the short name for the park) - keep in mind that "Wh" is said as a soft "F" in Maori, and say the name out loud and have a bit of a giggle at the thought of shouting that out at dinner time.

I stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast in Hamilton, which cost less for a self contained unit than the room I had been in at Lake Taupo!! But then again, there's not a whole lot to do in Hamilton (except go to Matamata/Hobbiton), so that's kind of understandable. The cat there was a crotchety old black and white long hair called KC. She really didn't like people, but did decide to own my left leg with her tail.

And those are the cats that I have met so far in Godzone ("God's Own Country"). I love the fact that the hostels and parks have resident cats, and the way that the cats own a commercial establishment and the many people who come through the same way that my girls own their home and humans.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Cats on a hostel's tin roof

Okay, the title is a stretch, but, well, it's my blog, not yours, so nernener.

I arrived in Napier today, and the first thing I noticed about this hostel (and additionally realised about the Auckland hostel) was that there was no hostel cat.

It's been a lovely reality of my trip that every hostel I've gone to has had a resident cat (or three) making themselves friendly to the backpackers. This has alleviated some (but not all!!) of my missing my pods angst.

In Wellington, there was Thomas (I think - will confirm when I get back there), an older ginger gentleman, whose favourite place was stretched across the printer on the reception desk - nice and warm. He used to live upstairs, but renovations had removed him from his old home, but occasionally he would sneak upstairs, and you would find him and put him in the lift and send him back to the ground floor to get fed and go to sleep.

He would also sit at the doors and wave people through in the morning and evening rush.

In Palmerston North, the hostel there had two resident cats, and an additional one who hung out there (neighbour's cat). These were all also older cats, and there was a short hair black and white (who would let you tickle her behind the ears and then when you least expected it go for the bite and scratch - awwwww), and a long hair black, who followed you around as you made and ate breakfast. The neighbour's cat was a ginger with only three legs. He would lie by the back door and stare at you until you gave him a scratch. I didn't even realise he only had three legs until the day I was leaving - he never seemed to move from his scratching spot in the sun.

In Taupo there was an absolutely gorgeous young chocolate point Persian with the clearest blue eyes. His favourite spot was across the reception desk when you were trying to check in or out ;) If you didn't give him a scratch, you didn't get checked in, his tail would get in the way!! I gave him a scratch in the special cat spot that makes them go cross eyed, and he tried to follow me out for more scratching!!

Carrot? What the? Oh alright then.

I have been sampling a felafel roll in every town and city that I have been to in New Zealand, as felafels seem to be the best food choice of the vegan in a world gone mad.

There are a few differences in the New Zealand take on this delightful foodstuff that I would like to point out.

1. In New Zealand, one of the standard 'salads' to go on the roll is grated carrot. Which, after the initial shock, is actually quite nice.
2. There's this whole thing with using pita bread and not rolling it but splitting it and putting the felafel etc in it. That's just weird and wrong.
3. Much along the same lines, I have had pide bread rolls split in two as the containers for the felafel etc. Also weird and wrong (and very hard to eat - the sparrows got most of that one).
4. Whilst grated carrot is standard 'salad' in New Zealand, tomato is not.
5. Most of the time the felafel is made fresh while you wait. Now that is absolutely beautiful and right.
6. Probably due to the above point, felafels are of a higher taste standard here.

The best felafel roll I've had was in Taupo, from a tiny little place that I only found on my last night there (oh woe is me). Just right and the felafels were crunchy and cooked through and warm and the sauces were fresh and the service to get this slice of heaven was absolutely fabbo. The view of Mt Ruapehu and Mt Tongariro over Lake Taupo whilst I ate it helped out a bit as well ;)

I have now made it an additional task for myself to continue sampling felafel rolls everywhere I go. It makes for a new way to orient oneself in a town or city: "Yes, I can see the museum and the botanic gardens, but where's the damn felafel house??!"

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Basalt rock dancing.

Today I took a day trip to Rangitoto, which is one of the islands in the Hauraki Gulf, just off Auckland. You can get there by ferry.

Rangitoto is a volcanic island, which has only been around for about 700 years. The name mean Blood Red Sky (I wonder how that came about, eh, boys and girls?)

Took something called the "Volcanic Experience", which was a trundling tractor pulling a series of canopied seats, around and up the island. Then we got out and walked up to the crater rim (I've stood on the rim of a fucking volcano!!) and then up again to the summit, where there was a 360 degree view of the Hauraki Gulf and Auckland.

Fucking awesome (in the truest meaning of the word).

Get the fuck off my ice, beyotch!

It's another hot day in Auckland, and I am very sweaty and slightly stinky, and a bit tired after a day of touristing.

Yesterday on the Explorer Bus was...interesting. The bus was filled with a whole bunch of Americans who were all on a round the world cruise, and their cruise ship had just docked. I guess they were seeing the "14 sights" and then getting back on the cruise ship to go to some other city and do the same thing. Strange way to spend 50 grand, but there you go.

And how do I know all of this information, you ask? Because, and I don't want to generalise here...but I will..., they were middle aged, middle class Americans. They.Would.Not.Shut.The.Fuck.Up. It was astonishing. It's like their mouths are constantly on autopilot, and the only input from their brain is to keep the mouth muscles going.

Escaped them and went to the museum, just in time for the Manaia group to present the "Maori Cultural Experience". This was songs and dance, performed by six young men and women. Much much better than at Rotorua - a lot more personal and with a lot more information. And slight differences in the standard dances and songs. Really enjoyed it. May go to yet another concert in the South Island, just to see how different it is there.

I then went to Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World and Antarctic Experience (it really is called that). I was mostly going because they have penguins there, and have recreated (as closely as possible) Antarctic conditions, so the penguins just chill out (as it were). Visitors can go through this area in a little enclosed train thing, and see the penguins eye to eye and close up. It was great. The penguins were fucking huge. And there was one that didn't like the train thingy at all, and followed us all around the enclosure, waving his wings and honking angrily.

That was fab. However, the Underwater Experience brought me out in claustrophobia, dizziness and extreme nausea, so I had to escape very quickly.

I don't think I'll do that again. Though I wouldn't mind another go on the Penguin Express.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Science fiction, double feature

Well, here I am in sunny Auckland. I can't express quite how much I wish I was in Wellington. I'm not really sure why I'm here, apart from the fact that it's a major (the major, in fact) city in New Zealand, and I really feel I should have a squizz around.

Feeling oddly flat. There were 3 million sugar fuelled children on the coach from Hamilton to Auckland, and one of the little bastards sat next to me and repeatedly jabbed me in the side for nigh on two hours. I was tempted to tell him off, but I was worried if I started telling him off that it would never end, and I would close my days languishing in a psychiatric ward somewhere...

I think I'm going to do the full tourist thing on the Explorer bus tomorrow - right now it's the mid afternoon on a Sunday, I don't think that there's going to be much going on today anyway. I'll go to yet another museum (my brain is full of much knowledge that I find difficult to access), and an aquarium and "Antarctic Experience" because, well, penguins...

There's a cool sounding suburb that I might check out today - Ponsonby, which contains the 'hip', 'alternative' etc K Rd (the name of the road is stupidly long and hard to pronounce, so it's just referred to as K Rd). There's a vegan cafe there which will serve me for dinner (I hope it's open...)

Ooh!! Ooh!! Was successful yesterday in finding the Riff Raff statue - it was made by Weta Workshop (I love them even more and more!!) Very cute. It's kind of tucked away, so you do actually have to seek it out, but it's beautiful.

Counting down the days until I'm back in Wellington. I so have the smits with that city...

Saturday, January 22, 2005


There was an earthquake in Upper Hutt (just outside of Wellington) yesterday. There's been lots of activity recently, impacting the geysers (they're going off more often and for longer) and a number of tremors have been happening around the lower part of the North Island. This is all most probably due to the quake that caused the Boxing Day tsunami. It's all pretty freaky.

Friday, January 21, 2005

"A wizard is never late..."

Hobbiton, oh Hobbiton.

Yup. Went to Hobbiton today. Had a photo taken of me next to the party tree. Gazed around at a deeply familiar vista. Looked at hobbit holes. Stood outside of Bag End and stared down at the Party Tree and the lake, the baaing of (non startled) sheep and the lowing of cows and the quacking of ducks making up the background noise...oh to be a hobbit.

The set is not dressed, and the hobbit holes close up are obvious constructions, but you can see the shadows of Gandalf and Frodo, the dragon firework blazing across the lake, the children laughing and running, the dancing, Sam being mournful over Rosie...Hear "The Road Goes Ever On and On" in your mind's ear and in your mind's eye see Bilbo leaving Bag End...

Just wonderful.

In other news, I forgot to mention the hotness of the tour guide at Te Whakarewarewa in the last post. Oh yeah, boy, there was some serious hotness going on. Big emerald eyes, an aristocratic countenance, giant smile. Gulp. Wimped out of getting a photo of him, unfortunately.

Additionally, I have discovered (thank you, Information Site of Hamilton) that there is indeed a statue of Richard O'Brien as Riff Raff in the centre of town. I'm going to wander down there after I've posted this. Should be a giggle, if nothing else.

I sent a whole bunch of postcards from Rotorua yesterday (it seemed the thing to do), so I hope they get to everyone before I get back ;) Or at all (I'm a bit worried that I put them in the wrong sort of post box).

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Bubbling mud pits and sulphurous smells

I spend yesterday on a tour of the "Thermal Wonderland" - I went to Wai-o-tapu Thermal Park and Waimangu Volcanic Park. In Wai-o-tapu there are craters emitting sulphurous burps and mud pools, but the most beautiful thing I saw was the Champagne Lake - it's huge, and bright bright blue (the water is clear, but there are mineral deposits which cause the colour), with bright bright orange deposits along the edge, and it's always bubbling (thus the whole champagne comparison). There's always thermal steam coming off stunning. The colours!! The contrasts!! The shapes!! The...everything!! I could have happily stayed there all day and not seen enough of it.

Waimangu is a park at the base of Mt Tarewara, which is where the Pink and White Terraces used to be, until 1886, when the mountain erupted, killing 150 people. The walk I did started from opposite the mountain, and worked its' way down to the base of the mountain, by Lake Rotomanu. It was wild and beautiful, and you could imagine it being the beginning of life - lush vegetation, steaming hillsides, bubbling pools, bright colours, craters and cracks in the mountain side all around you. That was by far my favourite park, with the added bonus that it seems to be less frequented by tourists - there weren't 20 million people all crowded around one fissure trying to take a photo of a wisp of steam.

Having said that, I went through about 3 rolls of film yesterday. I don't think many of the photos will do the experience justice, but I had to take them. If only one of them turns out well I'll be happy (hopefully of the Champagne Lake at Wai-o-tapu, or the Cathedral Rock at Waimangu).

This morning I went to Te Whakarewarewa, which is a Maori Arts and Culture Institute, leading into a thermal area, with geysers and mud pools. There's also a marae (meeting house) where I saw a Maori concert. It was ridiculously full of tourists, which made me very very quiet. You know, dangerously quiet...But I got over it. Went on a tour with a Maori guide, which was great. The concert, whilst really touristy, was great. They did a haka, and several poi dances, and some songs, and...lots of stuff.

I'm getting on a bus in a bit to go to Hamilton. I'm hoping that the article Neb found about there being a statue erected to Richard O'Brien (Riff Raff) in Hamilton wasn't a joke, because I really want to see that!

The Land of the Oft Startled Sheep

They're everywhere when you're travelling around New Zealand. Fluffy slightly off white balls of cottonwool on spindly legs, masticating slowly and appearing completely devoid of thought.

One of the many things that gets me about these wool carriers is where they manage to get themselves. I had never realised before that mountain goat to sheep is a fairly close lollop on the evolutionary road. So the whole sheep clinging to the side of a steep hillside at a 45 degree angle to the ground, comfortably chewing to itself, came as a bit of a shock. But it really shouldn't have.

So I get that. I now understand that sheep can, and will, go anywhere in order to graze. What really gets me is the occasional Cow of the Mountain that you see. These giant milk machines, halfway up a mountain that would give Sir Edmund Hillary the willies, calmly cudding away. How the fuck do they get up there? How on earth do they get back down? Cow Helicoptor Rescue??

I think my favourite sheep behaviour is the startled response that they have to anything that isn't another sheep or grass or a hill. This was best shown when I was in the train from Auckland to Wellington. There'd be a mass of sheep, heads down, chomping away on the hapless grass, and then all of a sudden there's no more mass, they've scattered in a chaotic mix of running, leaping over invisible fences and pushing each other in the rush to get away from the train.

Amusing yes (because I'm sadistic and cruel). But even more amusing was when the pasture was not only fenced on one side by the train line, but on the other side by the highway. The action would unfold something like this:



Stare into distance.


"Shit! It's that noisy train shaped thing! Panic!!"

Trundletrundletrundle away from train shaped thing.

Screeching halt.

"Shit! It's those noisy car shaped things! Panic!!"

About turn.

Trundletrundletrundle away from car shaped things.

Screeching halt.

"Shit! It's that noisy train shaped thing! Panic!!"

About turn.

Trundletrundletrundle away from train shaped thing.

Screeching halt.

And so on. In the middle of all of this action would be a sheep who could not believe its' luck. It had just found the juiciest, nummiest, most cuddable patch of grass ever, and it's head down, grazing contentedly.

All the other sheep are still going with the trundletrundletrundle away from train shaped thing trundletrundletrundle away from car shaped things trundletrundletrundle away from train shaped thing etc.

The lucky sheep finally realises that something is going on. It looks up, mouth still chewing, grass sticking out the side. It sees the train. Its' eyes go wide. It sees the mass of sheep bearing down on it in their panicked run. Its' mouth falls open in shock, chewing forgotten, grass clinging to the lower lip.

The panicking sheep slow down and eventually come to a halt. They begin to whisper amongst themselves. "Hey, John there doesn't seem scared of either the noisy train or noisy car shaped things. He must be really brave." "Yeah." "Let's hide behind him!! He'll protect us!!" "Yeah!!" And with that, thirty sheep attempt to hide behind and under the one lucky sheep, who, startled expression still frozen on its' face, is slowly lifted up away from the luscious grass patch it had found, little legs waving slowly in the air, unknowing protector of the herd, grass patch sadly trampled forever more.

And thus, peace is restored to the rolling hills. Until the next time the train goes by.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

My summer holiday, fit the eighth

Here I am in Rotorua, having done my tourist-y things for today. Got in, checked in, wandered back into town and booked a day and a half's worth of tours. Yay me, really getting into the tourist mindset ;) Whilst I was booking said tours, bumped into a couple that I had been on a tour with yesterday. Lovely people, but gosh they like to natter. As only older middle aged middle class British people can, I guess. But it was funny and kind of nice that they came up and said hi.

Went to the Rotorua Museum, which is situated in an old Bath House, in the middle of the Government Gardens. The Bath House is huge and beautiful and completely ridiculous, as only Edwardian follies can be. The Bath House is where people used to come to "take the cure" by bathing in various types of waters and mud from Rotorua. Marvellous. There's a whole section of the museum with all the baths etcetera still vaguely intact. Brilliant. Made me giggle, and also go "oooohhh pretty" about the tiling and all that guff.

The Gardens are so very English, with croquet pitches and bowling greens. Giggling again. Sat by a pagoda and read my newly purchased "Guide to Lord of the Rings Locations" book (yes, geek. Wotchagonnamakeofit?), and was gratified to see that I had at least seen (albeit from either a moving train or bus) a number of the locations on my journey thus far.

Am getting far too excited about the upcoming Hobbiton tour, which I'm hoping will happen in the next week or so. It's very very exciting. I've seen some pictures, and so much of it is still there. I just hope that other people are sobbing uncontrollably when they get there, because I don't know if I'll make it through Hobbiton without having a bit of a sob.

Going to do the "Thermal Experience" tour tomorrow - should be wacky. Can't even remember what it entails (apart from a volcano walk, which sounds too damned good to be true), but I'll be sure to update this blog again after the experience. And then the next day am going to Te Whakarewarewa thermal reserve,where I'll get to see a concert as well as geysers and other thermal thingies.

And then on to Auckland.

I'm not sure if I can keep this pace up for the entire trip ;)

Got some postcards today - well, I am in the tourism mecca of New Zealand, I should really take part ;) Now all I have to do is find a post office...bit late to think of that today. Ah well. They'll keep - though they may get slightly battered.

Addendum to Mr Spock post

Ruapehu? Did I say Ruapehu? I must be really obsessed with that mountain. What I meant was Rotorua.

My brain. Too much mindboggling landscape. No brain function left except to go "oooohhhhh pretty".

Monday, January 17, 2005

Mr Spock rocks the windsurfers

Well, here I am in Taupo, next to the lake (which is beautiful. The water is so amazingly clear. You can see every stone and pebble on the lakebed. Gosh).

There are three mountains in the distance - Mt Ruapehu, Mt Tangariro and Mt I can't remember its' name, but it's an active volcano. Unfortunately, it's not very clear today, so you can only just make them out amongst the clouds. But that's okay, because on the bus ride here we drove towards, alongside and around them all, and I got to ogle Ruapehu to my heart's content. I still haven't gotten a decent photo of her, but hey. It's never going to do her justice.

Taupo is...okay. Not what I was expecting. It's very much a watersports based town, and you know how keen I am on watersports (get your mind out of the gutter). The hostel is full of bronzed, buff, barely clad beach bum type backpackers. They are completely terrifying. I in no way whatsoever fit in.

So I'm running away tomorrow morning to go to Ruapehu - I'm pretty sure what to expect, and am quite looking forward to staying in the quiet YHA there and doing incredibly tourist-y things.

Yesterday was the fucking hottest day of all time. Okay, it was ranging between 27 and 30 degrees (and, as everyone keeps saying to me: "You're Australian, you should be used to that!!" And I just as invariably reply: "I may be used to it, but I don't like it."), which doesn't really qualify it as hottest day of all time - but close!!

I walked down to Palmerston North's famed Rose Garden in the late morning, and discovered the really beautiful section of the town. The Rose Garden was astonishing and lovely and full of cute birds (the sparrows were practically crawling into my lap demanding food whilst I was having my picnic) and, of course, amazing roses. Took lots of photos (who would have thunk that I would be taking photos of roses. Life is strange), and discovered a little walk that took my through some foresty/bush bits (what does one call it in New Zealand? "Trees and stuff"?) to the river. Dutifully took some photos, and then realised that I was running a leetle late for the picking up of my pack and getting to the bus station.

So I booked it back to the backpackers. I made it back in under half an hour, and on my way there it had taken me close to an hour. It was in the hottest part of the day and I was literally dripping sweat when I got to the front door of the backpackers. The owner suggested, very kindly (considering I had booked out), that I have a cool shower and get changed. Which I did (and she even gave me a towel, so that I didn't have to reuse my damp one!!), and then she drove me to the bus station, so that I wouldn't waste the benefits of having a shower.

People here (and I'm sure I'll say this an awful lot) are really quite lovely.

I went on a guided tour today (and felt slightly like I was betraying whatever backpacker cred I may have gathered) to various Taupo sights. Went to the Huka Falls (gorgeous), the Craters of the Moon (very strange and steamy and much richer in vegetation than I had expected) and another sight whose title escapes me and I can't be arsed finding it out in my Lonely Planet book because that would mean thinking. Okay, okay, I'll look it up. It's the Aratiatia Rapids, and they're very cool. Took stupid numbers of photos (I think I'm going to have to mortgage the cats to pay the printing of them off when I get back). Lots of fun, actually. Then had lunch in the park and went to the Taupo Art Gallery and Museum, and the Rose Garden (this is a strangely 19th century English tradition that seems to have taken hold here).

That was a much more "What I did on my summer holidays" post than I meant it to be. But I have run out of superlatives and am very tired now. It's really warm again today, and I have a runny nose and sore throat, which I am battling by ignoring them completely, but may go back to the hostel now and try to get my washing done and then have a nap.

I'm sure you're all very excited by that.

Anyway, am strangely looking forward to getting to Rotorua, the tourist mecca of the North Island. Should be a laugh, if nothing else.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Pak n Save - bring your own Sherpa

I have always avoided Parramatta. I don't think that it holds anything for me beyond tempting donuts that I no longer consume. I have been to Parramatta on a couple of occasions, one of them being a job interview (stupid employment).

However, I appear to have consigned myself to a Parramatta equivalent for the evening. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with Parramatta (or, in this case, Palmerston North) but it's not really the place to grip you by the ovaries and drag you out for a good time, is it?

Palmerston North is nice enough. It's inland, surrounded by farmland (but less sheep than usual, it appears), it's all very flat and, well, nice. It's also really spread out, thus my being in yet another internet cafe. I hadn't really planned on posting again, but then I walked around the entire bloody town grid (half of the time carrying my pack) and I'm hot and knackered and wanted to have a nice sit down.

At least I know that I'll be out of here tomorrow afternoon.

"But why did you go to Palmerston North in the first place, ZuckerBaby?" Because I didn't want to spend almost 7 hours on a coach to get to Taupo, that's why. Thought I'd split it out over two days.

And I'm going to come back on the way through to the South Island, because I want to go to Owlcatraz, which is a conversation area for NZ owls (erm, I suspect it is also a conservation area for NZ owls, the socialising is a bonus), and there are tours, but only Monday to Friday, and they are full day, and...I wasn't able to organise it for this visit.

On the upside, I have been to the musuem and had a great play in the Science section (which is all interactive and actually designed for kids, but hey - lots of fun!!). I also have shopped for foods in the largest supermarket it has ever been my misfortune to enter and feel that I need Sherpas to assist me to get out. Very odd.

I'm going to go back to the hostel (which is really groovy and mostly lime green) and make myself some ginger tea and sit out in the smoker's area, and read Emma for a while.

And tomorrow I'm going to walk to the Rose Garden for a brunch picnic and then off to Taupo in the afternoon.


I'm off in about an hour to Palmerston North, so of course I'm procrastinating and writing a post!!

Went to Paekakariki and Wellington Zoo yesterday. Paekakariki (on the Paraparaumu line) is very very pretty, with rolling very big mountains to one side, and fuckloads of horizon and black sand beaches to the other. Not very much else though ;) I bought a copy of Pride and Prejudice in a second hand bookstore, so it will now be the very alliterative "Pride and Prejudice I purchased in Paekakariki (on the Paraparaumu line) for a pittance".

Oh yeah, I worked on that one all of last night.

Wellington Zoo was fantabulous a) because they have huge natural enclosures, and are all about the conservation of animals and their habitats, and b) scenes from Braindead were filmed there.

I'm such a Peter Jackson geek.

I got to say hello to a lemur, and you know how happy that would have made me!!

Anyway, best go and finish packing and tidying, and check out.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

I [heart] Richard Taylor

I wandered into a cyber cafe wotsit on a whim, so I don't have my book o' tales with me, but thought I'd give a quick update on my plans, and other thingies also.

Had breakfast at Midnight Espresso again (I had dinner last night at a chinese vegetarian place, which was great!! Think I'll be going there again!), and then wandered (the short way, not the tortuous way I went yesterday) to Te Papa. Spent 4 hours at Te Papa (my brain and my feet are arguing as to which of them is more knackered), then went to sit on the harbour side park. Winds of a million miles an hour greeted me as I came out of the museum. It was brilliant!! I have such a sore face from windburn but I loved every second of it!! Sat down in the park (after taking a million pictures of the harbour and surrounds) and grinned like a fool for a while. The water was green (yesterday it was more blue) and choppy and everything was absolutely beautiful.

I am so in love with Wellington, can you tell?

I then decided to go to the National Tattoo Museum, which sounded way too cool to pass up. It's tucked away, on the way to Porirua and the Hutt Valley, and was a good walk. Just thousands of pictures, photos, prints, paintings of tattoos and tattooed people. It concentrates on the Maori moki, but towards the back goes into all sorts of tattoos. However, the thing that got me most excited was a newspaper clipping about Richard Taylor (from the Weta Workshop), and his organising a fundraising night to support the museum, as they are not government supported and are having a hard time staying afloat. I didn't think anything could make me love Richard Taylor more than I already do, but that pretty much sealed it (I could hear his voice as I was reading quotes from him! He is so my favourite geek pretend boyfriend ever).

So yeah. If you know anyone who is going to Wellington at any time, direct them to the National Tattoo Museum. It's on Abel Smith Street (off Taranaki Street), costs five bucks to get in, and is totally cool and run by extremely dedicated and passionate people. I'll prob'ly end up going again when I go via Wellington on my way down to the South Island.

So I'm in Wellington for one more day, during which I will go to Paekakariki (for much the same reason as my mother went there, I suspect - so that I can say that I went there), and then I'm stopping off in Palmerston North, and then on to Taupo and Rotorua (though if I can swing a tour out of Taupo to Rotorua, including a concert and hangi, I will be more than happy to avoid staying in Rotorua altogether). I really really don't want to leave Wellington. Ever. Again. I am completely smitten with this city.

Anyway, off to check out some tours etc and make some plans for the next week or so. Then back to the hostel to get changed and maybe do some washing, then see a movie at the Embassy and then go for dinner.

I'm having a fucking excellent time.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Just a quick one!

Well, I'm here now. Have been here two and a half days and have successfully travelled to two major cities. Weird much? Am in Wellington at the moment, using the YHA internet thingie, so really can't faff about too much.

So yeah, the trip over was intense, was terrified for most of the checking in, currency conversion etc stuff, but had UncleOgbo accompanying me, so that made it all so much easier.

Arrival in Auckland was facilitated due to striking up a conversation with a backpacker from England, who looked to me, the overorganised one, to find the bus to the hostels section of Auckland, and who kept me company until I got there.

I have a whole story about Auckland, but don't have the time - may end up doing all of that when I get back, when I have the luxury of time and cable internet ;)

Took the train from Auckland to Wellington yesterday. It was fucking awesome - even being 12 hours long!!

Today I trundled around Wellington with a friend of mine who is in the area until Friday. We went on the cable car, wandered through the Botanical Gardens, and then went to Te Papa museum for a quick look around. I managed to vaguely familiarise myself with the city, which is good for the rest of my stay.

I had a shaky moment re my bus pass, which I had organised in Sydney, but when I went to the bus centre there was a bit of a problem as it looked like it hadn't been confirmed. But it all worked out and I'm able to travel around using money I have already put down a month ago. Groovy.

Anyway, best be off to figure out what I'm doing this evening. It's two hours ahead here which makes everything a bit off kilter, but not by much. Am hoping to go to the tattoo museum and Te Papa again tomorrow, and then off to a movie at the Embassy Theatre.

More soon - including actual tales of travel!!

Sunday, January 09, 2005


I just wanted to give a quick congrats to my friends whose wedding I attended today - it's a brave step to take, and I know that they'll make it work. All my love goes out to you guys - enjoy your honeymoon!!!

So this is it

Okay folks, this is my last post from my safe home in Australia. Will be jetting off tomorrow morning, and should be in the land of sheep and hobbits by tomorrow evening. I will keep you keen people up to date with my many adventures (she goes to a museum!! She drinks a beer in a pub!!) whilst I'm away - yay for internet cafes.

Off to snooze now and get up early for last minute panic.

Good byeeeeee (or more precisely, au revoir).

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


So I'm going to New Zealand, as some of you may have gathered from previous posts. I'm really looking forward to it - though at the moment, I have to admit that the "looking forward to it" part is bullshit. I'm more...resigned to the fact that I bought tickets and ensured that I couldn't back out of the trip. Well, I could, but everyone would point and laugh, and that's never fun.

I'm not entirely sure why New Zealand. It's not like it's the number one destination in the world. Though it's prob'ly close, due to those little ole films by a certain Peter Jackson.

I guess...New Zealand has always held a particular fascination for me. My mother used to tell me stories when I was a child about when she went in the early 70s - in fact, one of the few photos I have of my mother with long hair is her standing (with flares tucked into ugh boots - oh the 70s) in front of Paekakariki post office. God only knows why she's standing in front of Paekakakriki post office, but as god doesn't exist, noone's really the wiser as to the circumstances leading up to the photograph being taken.

No, not even my mother. Her memory is really not what it used to be. Or maybe it is, and she's just always had a crappy memory.

And, really, who of my generation doesn't think of New Zealand every time they hear the words Greenpeace or Rainbow Warrior - and vice versa. That stays with those of us who grew up fearing nuclear armageddon, and fuelled our righteous indignation at the major governments, and, of course, led us to question the actions that those governments take. Oh. Sorry. Wrong meeting.

Then there's the little fact that Helen Clark stood New Zealand apart from Australia by not bowing to the will of the overlord, sorry, the US, and questioned the motivations behind the illegal invasion of Iraq - it made me love New Zealand even more, with it standing up to the greater powers of the world, and wearing it's ethics on it's sleeves and singing out "fuck you powerful nations, this little collection of islands is doing things their way".

Douglas Adams wrote a book called "Last Chance to See". The first chapter contained a description of flying over Milford Sound, and that description moved me to tears. The feelings it evoked were new to me, and resonate every time I think of New Zealand, or for that matter, Douglas Adams. That's some powerful scenery, right there.

And, of course, all Peter Jackson films ever. I got into Peter Jackson through Braindead, which remains one of my favourite films of all time. And Meet the Feebles is the perfect first date film - if your date can't make it through the film, or, heaven forfend, doesn't like it, then you know that it's not going to work out. Heavenly Creatures was the first film I ever saw Kate Winslet in, and I have been in lurve with her ever since. And, quite frankly, any writer/director who can make me actually like Michael J Fox in a movie, as Peter Jackson did in The Frighteners, has to be one of the greatest writer/directors of all time.

The first time I saw Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was on January 1, 2002. I was hungover. I was depressed. I had just moved back to Sydney after coming out of a longterm relationship, September 11 had just happened and it seemed like the world was going to end. I cried from the moment I saw Hobbiton right to the end of the movie. I sobbed and howled when Boromir died. I felt changed after seeing this film. Middle Earth was so much more real to me through the films than it had been when I had read the book (I'm not a very visual reader, if that makes any sense whatsoever). What a way to start a new year, eh? With that beauty and spirit and love. So I made a new ritual for myself - every January 1 I would see the LotR movie. Bugger seeing it on opening day, it meant more to me as the start to a new year. This year, because there was no film (sob!) I watched the extended Return of the King.

When John Howard was reelected (how the FUCK did that happen??) my immediate response, and the response of nearly everyone I talked to, was "Let's move to New Zealand". There's something about New Zealand that calls to me, to all of us, who want something more out of the world. Who want to see the beauty of life when all we're given is horror. Who want to believe that human beings are good and noble and true, not selfish and arrogant and out for personal gain.

And yes, I know it's not perfect. No country is. No human being is. I saw the Dalai Lama in May 2002, and the feeling I had in his presence, pure serenity and contentment and wonder, is the feeling I get when I think about New Zealand. When I see pictures, when I watch films, when I read about it. It touches the spiritual part of me whose existence I had begun to question, and because of that, is a place to which I have to go.

And with that, I have managed to dispel the fugue state, and am starting to look forward to the trip. Next Monday, here I come!!

That was the year that was.

I started a "2004 - what was that all about?" and "2005 - what does it hold in store?" post last night and then scrapped it as it became way way too personal. I believe I still have some iss-sues with my experiences in 2004, and it's best not to recap.

I'm also no good with the whole New Year's Resolutions thing. I prefer low or no expectations to be placed upon my life - that way I'm generally pleasantly surprised. Plus, as I slide the slippery slope to 30, I feel that attempting to enforce change through tasks is a bit presumptuous. Better to let life and experience change me. It's worked so far.

So all I will do with this belated New Year's post is say - may 2005 bring happiness, contentment and joy to all, and those bumps and potholes on the road that we all encounter make us stronger and more fulfilled.

And, just to cheer us all up, here's some pretty.

Yes, I'm shallow.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Go the helping hand

I'm running a bit behind with this, as I have been very much in the land of "lalalalalalala I refuse to believe this is happening it's too depressing lalalalalala" (which, admittedly, is the land where I generally spend my time). However, I have crawled out of my cocoon, and urge all of you to help out with the Australian Red Cross Asia Quake and Tsunamis Appeal. I won't go into details of the horror and sadness, you can find that in any news media you access. But I will say this: I marched with 10 million people around the world to protest against the beginning of a manmade horror in February of 2003. That didn't work. However, no matter what politics and beliefs divide the people of the west, we can and should all pull together to help and support the less fortunate denizens of this planet, and that will work.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?