Wednesday, April 20, 2005

New Zealand photos - South Island

Did I mention in my previous post that I'm putting the photos in a vaguely chronological order, according to when I went to the different places? No?

Well, just so you know, I'm putting the photos in a vaguely chronological order, according to when I went to the different places.

I hope that's clear now.


This is my attempt at "artistic vision" on a bushwalk in Picton, out to look over the Queen Charlotte Sound (I think). It was very overcast and misty when I set out in the morning, but eventually got extremely hot. The views back towards the tiny port town of Picton, and out into the distant Sound were just amazing, and I managed to appreciate them despite my very sweaty tired state.


Faceted sea

This is a view of the multicoloured bright waters that incurred my wrath, due entirely to the ridiculousness of their overwhelming beauty.

I mean, really. What self respecting sea is ever that colour? Let alone that colour when it's all overcast and gloomy?


I swear that there is at least one fur seal that can be spotted in this photo. You had to stand 10 metres away from them (which, you know, understandable), but it was still a mind blowing experience to be standing on the same rocks where fur seals are sunning themselves. Just. Wow.


Attack of the Alien Bee Horde

The bumblebees in New Zealand are freakishly huge. By huge, I mean "alien bees from the giant hive planet with a slavering evil queen" huge. I spent a lot of my time in gardens, chasing the damn things from flower to flower to get a photo, but none of them really worked out. I really like this photo because the light is so blown out.

The Wizard

I really dug The Wizard of New Zealand. A very funny guy, engaging and charismatic. He was probably the highlight of Christchurch - I went back and saw him again on my last day in New Zealand - a great note to leave on!

Parting Gift

This was taken on my last night in Christchurch. I had just had dinner at a lovely little organic Japanese restaurant and was walking along, feeling peaceful and happy. I glanced to my left, only to be greeted by a multitude of colours streaking across fluffy clouds and the remnants of a blue sky.


Drum major

I think. This is the guy who kindly helped me out when I was wondering what the hell was going on with the numerous pipe bands wandering the Octagon in Dunedin. I never did get his name, but I bumped into him later and discovered that the band of which he was part had come second in their division. So, good on him!!

Otago Peninsula EcoTour - Yellow Penguin

I wish I could say that I took this photo, but alas, I purchased it. I didn't want to use my camera for fear of setting off the flash (I didn't know how to turn it off) and scaring the wildlife.


You know, I'm sure there's a name for these ranges of mountains, but for the life of me I don't know what it is. This is the moment when the two dimensional "oooh pretty" became the three dimensional "bloody hell the scale the majesty the gorgeousity" when I stepped out of the bus.


Check out the scale. Can you see the two teeny tiny boats? Those are the big boats that hold around 300 people touring Milford Sound. Plus, how ecstatically wondrous is that mountain?


I'm so chuffed that I managed to get a clear shot of the bottle nosed dolphins who kept us company as we came back into Milford Sound after we'd wandered out into the Tasman.


Up close and personal. The glacier is absolutely astonishing, and the closer you get the colder it is. I wish I was fit enough to have climbed it, but even just standing at its face was an experience like no other.

Thus endeth the South Island teaser...

New Zealand photos - North Island

I'm hoping to get a website together to house all of the photos I scanned from my trip to New Zealand (I managed to whittle the original nearly-a-thousand down to just over 200), so I thought I'd whet your appetite with a few of them and their related tales (or comments, if I've run out of imagination and can't find tales to tell)....


Mt Ruapehu and Mt Tangiriro

I took this photo at Mt Ruapehu station, which is one of the stops on the TranzScenic train trip between Auckland and Wellington. Mt Ruapehu is on the left, with Mt Tangiriro on the right. The mountains were featured as part of Mordor in Lord of the Rings. I fell in love with Mt Ruapehu the moment I spotted her...


There's a food stop, and the first thing I saw when I hopped off the bus was this:

It was squawking, seemingly demanding to be let into the shop...I guess its presence is explained by the fact that there was a petting zoo attached to the diner, but I like to think that it just turned up one day...


Aratiatia Rapids

These rapids are created by releasing the dam of Lake Taupo. Water is released every day at the same time, and you stand on a bridge to watch this incredibly clear, colourful water cascade beneath you to fill up the valley on the other side. It's just breathtaking...

Craters of the Moon

You wander on walkways through this alien landscape, with craters and mudpools and ever present sulphourous steam. The ground is covered in vegetation that, bizarrely enough, manages to grow in earth that is constantly hot.

Huka Falls

The rushing water of these falls is amazingly loud. The water is a wonderful turquoise, due to the mineral deposits that come from the area being a thermal hotspot (ooh look, a really bad pun).



This is a view of the North Island's largest mudpool through the bushes that line it. Yes, that's what it is. And there's every possibility that the photo is upside down. But I like it. So ner.

Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Yup, that's what it's really called. Sigh. The park is huge, with sulphur lakes (including my favourite, the Champagne Lake) and mud filled craters. The air is incredibly heavy with stinky egg smells, and even on moderate days, the area is always really really hot. And beautiful. Did I mention beautiful?

Waimangu Volcanic Park

This park is absolutely a must visit. The view here is of Cathedral Rock and Frying Pan lake. The environment is so primeval, you expect to see dinosaurs peeping out at you from behind the huge ferns.



This is a view of Hobbiton (including Bag End) taken through the branches of the Party Tree. There's not much else I can say except "I went to Hobbiton! Yay me!!"


Napier is an Art Deco town, with the main business district rebuilt at the height of the Art Deco era. Why then, is this incredibly 70s sculpture in the middle of the gardens?



How could I not take a photo of this house?


This is my "postcard from Wellington" photo - it's taken from the top of the Botanical Gardens, and there's the cable car and a lovely sweep across the harbour and main grid of Wellington city. People take the cable car to work and uni. How cool is that??

And that's it for the North Island, for the moment...

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Hand in hand is the only way to land, and always the right way round

I'm still recovering from the sadness I felt when reading about Wil Wheaton's cat Felix's last days, and the emotional time that Wil and his family went through during that time. My cats got a lot of love after I read those posts, and it really got me to thinking about the role that companion animals play in our lives.

So, before the inevitable time (hopefully long into the future) that I will no longer have these cats in my life, I wanted to write a little celebratory piece about each of them.


Bangles doesn't live with me - she happily resides with her chosen human, my mother. She's turning either 20 or 21 this year, which is a ripe old age for a cat. She's all black, except for an almost perfect triangular necklace of white. I haven't seen her in years, and the last time I did I disturbed her rest amongst the luscious green leaves of my grandmother's garden, where she was nestled on the warm soil. My punishment for disturbing her was a big ole slash across the hand, but it was nice to see that even at her advanced age, she was still fast enough to get a good scratch in!!

Bangles came into my life when I was about 9. My mother and I were wandering through Redfern, doing some opshopping, and a man came out of a sidestreet, holding on his palm a tiny mewling black kitten. He asked us if we knew where she belonged, and we said no, and then he asked us if we wanted her. My mother had been promising that I could have a pet for years, so I jumped up and down and said "Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease" in the way that only children can - and she relented. I took the tiny shaking kitten and tucked her into the bottom of my shirt, where she eventually settled and purred and slept. She got rudely awakened when we were waiting to get onto the bus, and had to be put into my mother's voluminous handbag, she was wriggling around so much. The busdriver managed to ignore the meows eminating from said handbag, and the cooing of the passengers - Bangles' head was sticking out the top of the bag, her big blue eyes capturing the hearts of everyone around us.

I called her Bangles, because, well, Walk Like an Egyptian was my favourite song, and cats were worshipped by the Egyptians and thus...Look, I was 9, okay? It made perfect sense at the time.

There are so many snippets of memory: a miniscule fluffed up Bangles facing off against the giant puppy who wandered in through our back door one morning; Bangles' unfortunate habit of sleeping across my face and me waking up because I was choking on her fur; playing dangerous games of tickle the tummy with her and getting ridiculous scratches (the most serious being across the veins on the insides of my wrists. I had to bandage those suckers, and let me tell you, it looked like the most pissweak suicide attempt ever); her refusing to move from in front of the fireplace, despite the fact that tiny coals kept spitting out at her - she'd only move if they burnt her (we spent an awful lot of time leaping up and brushing the coals out of the way. And, yes, eventually we got a shield for the fireplace. She didn't like the shield much - I think it sucked up that extra mite of heat she wanted for herself); the frantic escape attempt when we had her doped to the eyeballs on kitty valium for the interstate trip to her new home - have you ever seen a cat on valium trying to walk along a very thin fence at top speed? It's painful to watch, but also painfully funny; playing Find the Bangles in the garden...


Lucky was an older cat, a big tough ballsy (literally) tom who we adopted (or were adopted by) when I found him up a tree being barked at by a gigantic dog who was slavering for the kill. I climbed up and rescued Lucky, suffering only minor bloodloss due to heavy scratching across the shoulders and arms. He was named Lucky because *small voice* I thought he was lucky to have escaped the dog (yes, yes, okay, I'm very literal with my cat names. It's a curse - or a gift. I'm going to have to stop using the "I was a kid" excuse because my naming skills are still pretty much at that level...)

He was white with tabby blotches on his ears and nose and sides and tummy. I was most excited when I met ThePenguin's cat Olaf and found that he is the spitting image of Lucky.

Lucky got the traditional swipe across the nose from the alpha cat (Bangles) and settled right in. He was the smoochiest, dribblingest, biggest cat I have ever encountered. He was also the wanderingest. He would stay with us for a month or so, covering us with drool and taking up the whole couch, and then he'd be gone for three or four days, returning covered in welts and bites and scratches and a perky "I've just shagged and fought really hard and I need a big meal" spring in his step. He'd heal and grow fat again for a month, and then bugger off for his fun. The scariest time we had with him was after a tremendous fight. He came home with his stomach ripped to shreds, bleeding everywhere, and slept for about a fortnight, in a little bundle on the end of my mother's bed, slowly getting better. He eventually went for one of his monthly wanders and didn't come back. I like to think that he adoped another family and lived well into old age.


Alf was our next door neighbour's kitten, a little white and ginger tabby cat. I take no responsibility for his naming, but do know that he was named after the television show (though it was Animal, not Alien, Life Form, of course).

Having suffered through the usual tortures of kittenhood - well, the usual tortures bestowed upon kittens when their main caregiver is 8 years old (dressing him up in doll's clothes, pushing him around in a pram - you know the things) - he started hanging out at our place, where there were no doll's clothes to be found. He suffered the swipe of domination from Bangles (there have been at least 4 cats in the world with little scars across the nose that declare them to be minions of Bangles) and happily peed in the hard to reach corners of our house for many years.

My favourite memory of the all of the three cats above comes from winter - seeing them all curled up together, a mash of colours and fur and paws and ears, purring and twitching and sleeping.


Or, if you want her full name, Lucie Moglet Carlos McAllister the Kitten Cat and Her Sunshine Band.

"Finally," you say, "a name of interest and amusement. Do tell us all, ZuckerBaby!!" Oh, alright, if you insist.

Lucie is the name given to her by the woman who originally found her. Moglet is the name I wanted her to have (based on the cat in The Unlikely Ones). Carlos McAllister came from my mother, who was obsessed at the time with one Carlos McAllister who played soccer for Colombia, spoke only Spanish, but looked like (and had the last name of) a Scotsman (red hair, pale blue skin, freckles. Strangely enough, I can't seem to find anything on the internets about Carlos McAllister to back this whole thing up, but if you do find something, please let me know!). Kitten Cat was a nickname, and has the initials KC, which leads us to the Sunshine Band.

Maybe I should have stuck with the simple names, eh?

Lucie was found by a good friend and flatmate in the gutter of a big road, and brought home shivering in a cardboard box. She was tiny - she fit in the palm of my hand. Her eyes had only just opened, and she couldn't use her back legs properly. She had to be fed with an eyedropper, and I had to rub her tummy to help her go to the toilet (I only made the mistake of holding her whilst doing this once - she was fine, but I ended up with urine all down my front. Sigh). She slept in my room, curled up in the curve of my arm next to my head, buzzing away as only kittens can. When she was able to walk and run, she would follow me around the house as I got ready for work, climbing up my trouser legs to leap onto my shoulder and deafen me with purring. She would wait at the front door for me to come home - she always knew when I was due back and would greet me with big meows and much bunting and purring.

She's a tabby, ginger, and tortoiseshell moggie, and is a very small cat. She also carries the Bangles scar of disapproval. She adored Bangles, following her around and now in her own grumpy old age she has many of the same habits that Bangles had. When the household split up, with Bangles going with my mother, and my flatmate and I moving out to seperate abodes, I had an emotional talk to my flatmate, because I knew I was Lucie's human and that I wanted to keep her. And I did, but she still carries my friend's surname as one of hers, because without my friend, Lucie would never have been in my life. And I'm incredibly grateful for that.

The first house that Lucie lived in had all tiled floors, and she loved to lie on her side and be pushed along the floors at speed - she would bounce up against the soft cushioned modular sofa and come bounding back down the corridor and flop on her side in front of me for another go. In the second house, she had a companion kitten, called Moglet, and they would play Kitty Soccer with Kinder Surprise eggs (the plastic containers for the toys, which I collected at the time) up and down the corridor at all hours. Lucie helped MightyOgbo heal from dental surgery in our third house, and also learned how to turn the heater on and up. She killed mice and left their corpes, paws and head removed and neatly laid next to the torso, in the middle of the floor for us to find. She survived my crash and burn phase in my early 20s, and played with the mist when I moved to the mountains. I remember when I had a house inspection and I wasn't supposed to have a cat and I had locked her outside but she really really liked the real estate agent and kept wrapping around his ankles and I had to attempt to lie and claim that she wasn't my cat.

She doesn't really like people - she barely tolerates my presence - but she can surprise you occasionally. She likes to wake me up by patting me on the face - gently at first, but if she doesn't get a response the claws emerge. There's nothing quite so painful as a claw hooked into the lower lip. Ouch.

She's grumpy and scratchy and dribbles when she's really happy and only lets you pat her on her terms and at her chosen time (which is usually at 3am), but she sleeps on the end of my bed and crawls across the keyboard when I'm trying to type and she's stayed with me through thick and thin. She's my girl.


Squeak is not the most elegant of cats. I joke that she's only got one braincell, and occasionally I feel that I'm being generous when I say that. I found her sitting by the side of the road one night, and as is my wont, I gave her a bit of a scratch and said hello. That would have been the end of it, but she followed me home, across two cross streets, mrrowing and tangling my ankles up until I gave in and carried her home. Lucie was not pleased to have an addition to the household.

I think Squeak was abused as a very young kitten. When I first got her, she would hide under furniture and soil herself at any loud sounds - most particularly at the sound of matches being struck. She's a very needy cat still - her name comes from the sound she makes most of the day. She's very talkative, and always sounds a little put out. She used to compulsively clean herself whenever we moved house - I thought it was psychological, but have recently found out that she has flea allergy dermatitis. She's still a little OCD about things, so I continue to maintain that she's a bit damaged psychologically. However, the discovery of her allergy, and the subsequent cure, means that she is now a very fat pod. Very cute.

Squeak is very much the lap sitting attention requiring black and white sharp clawed purrer of doom. She has the loudest purr of any cat I've ever come across - the volume that you watch telly at depends on whether she's settling down to sleep (thus purring) or is already asleep (and not purring). She's a very friendly cat and loves nothing more than scritches from visitors.

Lucie and Squeak do not get on. There's rarely any out and out fighting, but there's a lot of hissing and swiping (Squeak bears the Lucie swipe of disapproval scar) and general "I was here before you" "Yeah, but I'm cuter" "Are not" "Am too" type of bickering. I think that if one of them was to go, the other would be a bit lonely, though.


Capel was a shortlived addition to the household. A friend of mine wanted to get rid of her, and I took her in because, well, I'm a big softie and she is awfully cute. Very chocolate box-y. Her name was originally spelled Qu'appelle (I think) but I changed that to something that was a bit more...well...Vulcan. Because I'm a geek, okay?

It was not a happy household of cats with Capel in the mix. She's way bigger than the other two, and very much an alpha cat, and you can't have two of those in the house. She used her size to batter my bedroom door in every night, and would chase the other cats out so that she could snuggle down. I also discovered that whilst I'm not allergic to short haired cats (thank goodness) I am a bit allergic when some of that long long Persian fur comes into the equation.

On the other hand, cute!! I brought her with me when I moved house, but managed to find her another home through CatMatch, and I think she's very happy. She's the centre of attention and has her own cushion and everything.

It's a bird, it's a plane...

No, it's Zuckerbaby sitting on her arse. However, there are cute photos of kittens and cats to take away the pain.

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