A book in a day

The Cut, George P Pelacanos

It’s been ages since I’ve been able to read a book in a day. Long gone are the student days wasted away hammering a good book and now holidays tend to be taken up with activities such as hiking, snowboarding, or drinking which doesn’t leave the necessary six or seven hours needed to do a book in a day.

You can only read a certain type of book in a day. Usually it’s from a best-selling  author who writes page-turning novels that you can quickly motor through, especially if you’ve read many of their books before and know their style well. The books also tend to be a genre fiction you have a weak spot for, such as horror, romance or, in my case, crime fiction.

On this particular day, it was the perfect storm of conditions which made me able to read a book in a day. I was getting the train to, and back from, London in a day so would have at least five hours public transport time to get through most of it. I’d also just finished another book so was in a clear position to start another.

I hadn’t set out to finish the book so quickly, it was such a good page-turner that I found it hard to put down and got to that point that I’m sure all avid readers get to, when you feel how many pages you have left and decide ‘balls to it, I’ll finish it tonight’.

The particular book I read was The Cut, by George P Pelacanos. It had been given to me by one of my brothers who had also given it to another brother before it reached me: the crime fiction habit is shared by the family.

I’ve read pretty much all of Pelacanos’ work, watched the Wire and other TV programmes and films he’s been involved in and The Cut was very similar to these past works. The main character was a tough, handsome  and sensitive ex-Marine.  From a Greek background, he knows right from wrong and has a strong moral compass that sometimes wavers but always justifiably to the character. There’s lots of talk of specific music and a focus on food, drink and cars.

I was a big fan of Pelacanos when I first read a book by him, which I guess was circa 2001-2, and he seemed fresh and different to what had come before in crime fiction. Now, I’ve read so much of his work I pretty much know what’s going to come. This is not really a criticism as there is enjoyment to be had reading or watching the familiar, or knowing what will happen. There is pleasure to be had from reading a well written story that keeps you interested in each paragraph and keeps the pages turning.

I’ve wondered before how long it takes someone like Pelacanos to write such a book (which is 304 pages long in hardback). It clearly sells well so maybe he decides if he can publish one or two such books a year and it pays the bills and keeps him and his family in pants, with the rest of the time free to pursue other endeavours then good luck to him.

Personally, I’d love to make a living from writing fiction and have such a good style that you could slide out slick and professional novels that sold by the shed load, if it meant more time doing other activites such as hiking, snowboarding or drinking.
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Posted in A book in a day, Thoughts and Things

Songs that steal lyrics from other songs – Part 1: Lana Del Ray vs Belinda Carlisle

Lana Del Ray – Video Games

Belinda Carlisle – Heaven is a Place on Earth

 

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Posted in Lana Del Ray vs Belinda Carlisle, Songs that steal lyrics from other songs

New Zealand trip – Aug/Sep 2011 (part 5)

Saturday 10 September 2011

After sleeping in the campervan for a few days, it’s good to be back in a proper bed. I have a day of pottering and sorting out menial stuff (washing and cooking a curry) before heading into Christchurch with Adam to watch England versus Argentina at the Fanzone in Hagley Park.

The Fanzone has been nicely set-up with a small rugby pitch where there are a few games of touch rugby going on. There’s also a stage, two big screens and seating. The game itself is poor with England making hard work of beating the Argies. There’s a good atmosphere in the 200-300 people who are watching and there are a couple of Kiwi lads sat just in front of us who are wearing makeshift Argentina shirts who provide good banter throughout.

It’s difficult not to wonder how many people would have been here if the earthquakes hadn’t hit so hard – this match was due to be played in the new AMI stadium in Christchurch, built specifically for the World Cup but is so badly damaged that it is now unusable. Adam and I head off for a few other bars afterwards and probably drink too much but it was a good night.

Sunday 11 September 2011

Adam and I set off for Orana – a zoo in Christchurch – with the two kids and give Claire a day off. The trip is a birthday present for the two boys from the Taylors in Hull. The zoo is quiet and we get there just in time to feed the giraffes. We’re given a handful of branches and stand on a viewing platform were we’re asked to hold it up to the giraffes who then proceed to strip off the leaves and flowers with their tongues. It’s a great experience and we’re so close that you can see where the yellow pollen has stuck to the fur around the giraffes’ mouths.

Up close with a giraffe

I can’t remember the last time I was at a zoo and Orana has a nice mix of animals. We spend a good few hours wandering around the various enclosures and every animal in the zoo seems to have a feeding time where you can get close up. I get to see the kiwis being fed – a very strange looking bird as they snuffle back and forth around their pens and much faster than I expected. We move onto the lions who make such a primeval racket at meal times that it scares Noah. For $30 you can ride in a cage into the enclosure while the lions clamber all over it after the fresh meat as seen below.

Feeding time for the lions

We wander back through the farmyard section through various pens where you’re encouraged to stroke the animals. Our timing is great as a keeper comes in with milk for the lambs, so we get the chance to bottle feed them.

Feeding the lambs

From there, we head off to feed the rhinos and get very close to these massive, quiet animals that hoover up their food like giant vacuum cleaners. We get to lob some feed into the lake and watch as giant rainbow trout snaffle it up, leaving the ducks in their wake. We see the cheetahs have tea and watch as the keeper, who has bottle fed all four of them, stroke and play with them as if they were house cats. And finally on the way back to the car we see the African dogs being fed – they are frenzy of whelping and ferocious eating.

Rhinos having their tea

All this works up an appetite and when we get home we have a roast dinner.

Monday 12 September 2011

I get dropped off in the Port Hills that over look Christchurch for a day walking. Many areas of the hills are still out of bounds following the quakes but there are excellent views to be had from the various peaks you can still reach – you can see lots of the Southern Alps, Christchurch, Lyttleton and the various inlets and islands, as well as the Pacific. The weather is sunny with a bit of breeze and there are quite a few other people (by New Zealand standards) about walking and mountain biking. I walk for around three hours along nearly every path I can. I pop up at one point in an exclusive looking suburb and a Ford Sierra Cosworth hatchback with whale tail passes (the only whale tail I’ll see as it happens), in A1 condition, like so many of the old cars in New Zealand.

I’ve locked Adam’s bike up at the Sign of the Kiwi cafe on the summit road (the cafe is still closed as is part of the road – EQ damage of course) and it’s still where I left for the ride home. I hammer it down the steep hill reaching 35mph at one point, which is faster than the speed limit (35kph). It’s quite scary as there are a number of hairpins to negotiate. It’s a nice 13km cycle home though the saddle on Adam’s bike hasn’t got any comfier.

A view of Christchurch and the Southern Alps from the Port Hills

I help make a fry-up for tea, and try out some baked hashbrowns which go down a treat. In the evening we watch Whale Rider about modern life in a small Maori village.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

It’s Susie’s 19th birthday today! Happy Birthday!

One of the problems of being in an earthquake hit city is that many of the attractions, sites and even the city centre are still closed, making wandering around difficult and pre-planning essential.

One attraction that is still open is the Royal New Zealand Air Force museum. It’s in the south of the city and is a nice building coupled with a couple of hangars and a runway. It displays the air force’s history and various achievements through the years. The RNZAF has never been very big and it no longer has a combat force since it’s fleet of Skyhawks (as used by the trainers such as Viper in Top Gun) was retired in 2001.  While the museum isn’t huge there’s lots to see and the restored planes are very impressive as are the tales of the pilots from the various wars they fought in.

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Happy Birthday Rosie!

I’m up early today as I’ve a date with a large animal, species as yet unconfirmed. After dropping Claire off at work, I head along SH1 for Kaikoura. It’s a cold but bright morning and the drive on my last full day in NZ is great, through scenic countryside that opens up into a last stretch along the coast.

Kaikoura is set in a beautiful bay, ringed by snow-capped hills and mountains. It’s famous for year-round whale watching so I head here first but due to rough conditions out at sea there are no sailings today. My plan B is to go on asmaller boat to see the local albatross that live a kilometre or so from shore. I get booked onto the afternoon sailing and head off for an OK eggs benedict at a the local Why Not cafe. I also potter down to the nearby seal colony who hang around just next to a car park so easily accessible and are just a few metres from the cars, lazily lolling about in the sunshine and seaweed.

Albatross Encounters run the boat trip and there’s only me and an Aussie couple on it. Gary the skipper is very knowledgeable about the birds and has recently returned from London (“they’ve so many roads in London that if they were potato fields you’d never go hungry”). Even though we’re only heading out a kilometre from shore, there is a two metre swell which makes for a rollercoaster ride to the drop-off, through a flock of 2000+ Hutton’s Shearwater.

Gary lobs out fish livers to attract the albatross and they soon come swooping in, using ground effect so as not to touch the waves. Albatross are about the size of turkey and look like huge seagulls. There are 24 species in all, 14 of which have been seen at Kaikoura and we see four today. The birds’ wingspan is very impressive and whilst their silent flyers, they can make a racket when they’re feeding to keep other smaller sea birds away.

Poorly photographed Albatross scaring off a smaller sea bird

It’s an excellent 2.5 hour trip an we also see seals and a myriad of other sea birds. I get to sit upfront on the way back and slamming over the waves in the little boat is like a really good rollercoaster ride. The drive back to Christchurch is just as spectacular and a big tide covers the highway in sea spray. I stop off for pizza at a roadside cafe in Greta and arrive back to town to a big orange full moon rising.

The mountains and hills around Kaikoura

Typical view at Kaikoura

Thursday 15 September 2011

My last day and Adam drops me at Hagley Park for the morning. I retrace the steps I took a month ago during my first visit, through the park and the botanical gardens. There’s no snow now and various trees and flowers are in bud and the daffodils are all out in the woods. I do a lap of the redzone, past the crippled cathedral that is being held up by shipping containers and hay bales. Apparently it is to be rebuilt, which seems almost impossible.

Christchurch Cathedral

I have a nice early lunch in the Coffee House of an open chicken and bacon sandwich with good chips that look like they were made at 5 Mount Road! It starts to rain for the first time in ages, so I spend half an hour sat in the museum, watching a documentary on Antarctic exhibitions and wait for my lift to the airport.

The journey home is easy and uneventful and I’m back in the UK and Manchester has reassuring grey skies to welcome me. I’ve some great memories and full ideas of places I want to visit next time I’m there.

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Posted in New Zealand 2011, Travel

New Zealand trip – Aug/Sep 2011 (part 4)

Thursday 1 September 2011

It’s Adam’s 40th and Ethan’s 7th birthdays today and there are loads of presents and cards everywhere. It’s a day of recovery for me following the snowboarding and sorting out my washing – oh the glamours of travel! As it’s his birthday, Ethan picks pizza for tea and Claire has got two excellent cakes – a chocolate sponge and a lemon cheesecake – from a local shop.

Friday 2 September 2011

I wake up about 3am with a 4.9 earthquake. I remember it waking me and thinking ‘oh, so that’s an earthquake’ and then rolling over back to sleep. It felt a bit dreamlike. I borrow Adam’s bike for a 16km razz around Bottle Lake Park which includes a couple of kms on the beach. The Park has many mountain bike tracks as well as being a logging forest and a landfill site for a lot of the earthquake debris. As you’re cycling along through many pine trees all off a sudden you come to huge clearings where the loggers have been and the forest disappears, with just roadsigns telling you where you are.

A clearing at Bottle Lake Park

It was my first time on a bike in about 18 months and the saddle on the  bike is like a razor blade (which reminded me of this advert) and I was a bit saddle sore when I got back. It was muddy fun though. On return I make some plans for next week. Adam suggests I call one of the camper van companies as they sometimes have one-way specials to return campers to a different place that they’ve been dropped off at. As luck would have it, the first company I call, Kea, has just what I’m after, a 2 berth camper that needs returning to Auckland. I book to collect on Monday which gives me 5 days to get to Auckland. It’s a great deal, costing me only $5 a day plus $70 ferry and diesel and I have to make my own way home, which is via a $99 flight from Auckland.

In the evening Adam, Claire and I head to Chinwag, a Christchurch Thai restaurant, and meet some of their friends for a celebration meal for Adam’s birthday. The food and wine is good as is the company. When we get back, we watch a few old videos on the free music channel. It’s made up mainly of 80s and 90s rock and a few Kiwi classics thrown in for good measure. We try to guess who the members of the Travelling Wilburys are but have to resort to wikipedia to get them all.

Saturday 3 September 2011

It’s a lovely day again in Christchurch and the Canterbury museum has recently re-opened so I head there for some Kiwi culture. There’s an excellent temporary exhibition on Brian Brake, a famous New Zealand photographer, as well as a number of good full-time exhibitions on Antarctic exploration and Maori and early New Zealand life. Christchurch is the base for many Antarctic explorations and there’s lots of displays of the old technology and vehicles they used to use.

A Hagland - an Antarctic exploration vehicle

After the museum I head to look at the City Centre – or CBD as it’s called here – which is still closed following the quakes. It’s strange to see such a large space at the city’s heart fenced off and eerily quiet with even the bulldozers and diggers quiet on the weekends. Shops are as they’ve been left, with lopsided window displays and interiors abandoned as people fled the scene. There are also cracks and bumps all over the pavements from where the earth has moved.

The fenced off heart of Christchurch

The fenced off heart of Christchurch

Spend the afternoon in the local playground with Adam and the kids. Noah loves to be in the swing and pushed around while Ethan climbed all over the frames and ran around the park.

Sunday 4 September 2011

Today is the first anniversary of the first major earthquake in Christchurch. It’s also Ethan’s birthday party and we’re off to Clip n Climb with 5 of his friends. The kids have a great time climbing up the various indoor climbing walls and frames. It’s all a bit mental though with about 30 kids legging it around the place and flinging themselves off various parts of terrain. After this it’s off to McDonalds for lunch. Claire unveils Ethan’s cake and gets a great number of WOWS! from the assembled 7 year olds. You can see why here:

Ethan's birthday cake

I try a Kiwi burger, which has egg and beetroot along with the usual McDs accompaniments. It’s very similar to all there other burgers and falls apart on eating. All the kids get facepainted and Ethan ends up as a tiger. When it’s time for the kids’ bath later that night, the facepaint turns the bathwater a horrible brown, like he’s been washing  mud off.

A happy tiger

Monday 5 September

Adam drops me off early at the Kea site at the airport so I can pick up my camper. It’s a very new, only 20,000km of the clock, VW Transporter TDI 2+2 with a fliptop roof and a 7-speed automatic gearbox with DSG (twin clutch). It’s great to drive with a high position and really smooth on the roads. I head north up State Highway 1 to Motueka to some family friends for the night. On  the way I stop just outside of Murchieson for coffee and toast, made in the camper’s kitchen of course. As ever in the South Island, the drive is great, quiet roads and stunning views as ever. I stop off for a pee at a signposted site at the side of SH65 and it comes with a great waterfall only a  short walk from the car park which has it’s own rainbow (thanks to Google I know they were the Maruia Falls).

The Maruia Falls and rainbow

As I turn off the main state highway onto the Motueka highway the valley opens up into an amazing view of rolling hills and green pasture with hazy sunshine. The area is full of farms off all sorts, growing grapes, hops, vegetables of all kinds and many types of animal. It’s about 17C and really warm in the sunshine when I find the Trice’s impressive house among all the various farms and even a place with an olive grove! I also learn that some NZ house numbers are measured in how many kms they are from the sea, so the Trices are just shy of 7km from the ocean.

The Trice’s house is up steep driveway and is hilly. They have fit looking pigs (saddlebacks), sheep (Romney-esqu) and chickens (mainly bantams) with feathery legs that they rear (as well as many rogue rabbits), and it is teeming with birdlife. As I arrive Ian has to tend to a bleeding sow, who has been treated to a lovebite from the boar. A quick spray of iodene does the trick. The views from the hills are great and you can see all the way to the coast and beyond.  We have a lovely lasagna, made from lamb reared on their small holding along with a few beers and wine. Ian and Susie are keen to hear new music, especially folk, so I inflict some of my collection on them with the promise to send more on via CD once I’m back in the UK.

The view across the Motueka Valley (I might send this to Kea for their photo competition)

The view from the Trice's

The view from the Trice's

Chickens!

Tuesday 6 September 2011

To earn my board I help Susie to feed the pigs and heard the sheep and even get to stroke a tame ram, all of which are firsts for me. I learn about a Judas lamb and release the chickens and watch them scratch around the yard as we have a morning brew before heading to Nelson. On the way I stop off at Tahunanui beach for a paddle.

Paddling at Tahunanui

My boots on the beach at Tahunanui

When I arrive, Nelson is gearing up for a ‘long lunch’, a charity day when the centre of the town is closed off and long lunch tables set out. Locals can buy a place at the table with the money going to charity. People then have a long lunch at the table and generally have a good time. I take a look at the fancy but small museum. The woman at reception asks: “Are you local?” and when I answer “no”, I have to pay a $5 fee to enter!

After a potter around the rest of Nelson and buying a couple of books, I head to Cable Bay on Ian’s recommendation for a walk. Cable Bay is the site of the first telegraph line from Australia to New Zealand and is a beautiful spot. However, when I get there the walkway is closed because of the lambing season! After a stroll around the beach and lobbing a few stones in I realise there is no-one else about so decide on a swim. It looks very inviting but when I get in it’s very cold and after a few dunks and a few strokes, I’m soon out and drying myself in the sun. That’s swimming in the Tasman Sea chalked off the ‘Things I Must Do in New Zealand’.

Cable Bay

I’ve a ferry to catch tomorrow morning so head to Picton for the campsite, through Blenheim and wine country. The North of the South Island really is lovely and would be a great place to live.

Picton is the main ferry port for ferries to and from Wellington in the North Island. There’s not much to it and after setting up the camper for the night, working out how the bed is unfolded and the blackouts are inserted, I stroll into town for a pint in the Irish bar and then some really good fish and chips (Gurnard and a half scoop) I have an early night.

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Up early to pack away and it’s foggy!  However, inbetween the rising Rugby World Cup fever, the radio predicts sunny skies and 16C (+5C above average). Breakfast in the van of coffee, banana and toast and it’s off to the ferry terminal and onto the boat with little fuss and the crossing through the various Sounds to Wellington. It seems quiet on board and the journey is easy going and we catch site of a few dolphins playing in the bow wave.

On arriving in Wellington we’re soon off the boat and I park in Wellington for a stroll around the busy city centre. It’s a strange mix of people in work clothes and tourists here for the World Cup. Stages and screens are being erected on the sea front as locals jump into the harbour and catching tiddlers. I happen across the House of Representatives and a pretty, old graveyard next to the highway. However, the wind is now getting up, the clouds are coming in and my boots start rubbing as I’ve been bitten on my ankle (probably at Cable Bay) and they’re inflamed and itchy as hell.  I hurry back to the camper and get out of the city, eager to find countryside and put some miles in. It’s slow going on the highways out of Wellington and it feels much busier than I’m used to. Finally, it opens up and I pick a town on the map, Wanganui, and head for it. As I make a turn on the highway to head west, there is an amazing sunset through the clouds to cheer me up.

The views through the Sounds from Picton are spectacular

These two lighthouses greet the ferry to the North Island

Floating artwork in Wellington City Centre

I reach the quiet campsite on the edge of town in complete darkness and have fun trying to find my pitch and reverse park in the blacknees. Luckily, I miss all the trees, picnic tables and power points. After the day’s inactivity I head out for an 8km run along a flat road that follows the river where the campsite is.

With it’s bungalows, orange street lighting and flat, quiet roads, it reminds me a lot of running in Thornton and Cleveleys. During the run, I overtake a man on a bike who looks very surprised – Wanganui is so quiet I don’t think anyone has overtaken here before. There is a trainline on the run and as luck would have it I have to stop for the slow, long train on my return run. I chat to some of the other campers who are staying at the site; a few Aussie couples and a British couple over for the World Cup. At night there is a chorus of squawking, grunting and screeching from the nearby bush and river.

Thursday 8 September 2011

After a fitful sleep and being troubled by a rod on the bed at shoulder level, I make an early departure for a walkway on the map about 2okm up the Wanganui River. Unfortunately, when I get there the sign says its 6-8hrs long and I don’t have that time to spare. I look at the map and realise I have several hundred kms to still to travel before the need to drop off the van tomorrow. With a cloudy sky, I decide to do them all today and explore Auckland on Friday, so its back in the saddle and I press on for Auckland. I pass through big national parks and through the sprawl of Hamilton before reaching the Manuka suburb of South Auckland. I get one of the last pitches in the site which is full of campers of all nationalities who have arrived for the World Cup, which starts tomorrow.

A view of the Wanganui River

Friday 9 September 2011

After deciding yesterday to visit Devonport, I’m off early as the radio is warning of long traffic queues. However, the roads are quiet as everyone seems to have the day off for the start of the World Cup and are all heading for the City Centre.

Devonport is a small naval suburb which has great views of Auckland City Centre and nice beaches nearby. After getting my bearings and breakfast (which gave me a chance to send postcards and various birthday cards) at the Stone Oven Cafe, I climb the North Head hill and Mount Victoria, a small dormant volcano.

As I climb up the smaller North Head, the hill is buzzed by a naval helicopter. Both hills are old forts with gun batteries and long-deserted look out stations. They’re now home to wildlife and schoolkids. The young guys and gals from the New Zealand navy are getting fit running up and down Mt Victoria with various weights and chains. Someone has painted the tops of the air vents for the buildings here below into toadstools and it looks like SuperMario Land. Like a proper old fart, I sit on a bench on the hillside and admire the views across to the City Centre. Here I’m buzzed by a brace of swallows and massive red butterflies as big as my hand.

Supermario Land

Auckland from Devonport

Devonport’s cafes and pavements are busy with rugby supporters, a few of whom are drinking at lunch in preparation of the festivities later. They’ll have a great view of the planned firework display. There are a few flags from a couple of other countries but they’re mainly lost in the sea of black – the Kiwis are very much behind the All Blacks. I sit on the beach at Torpedo Bay, among the volcanic stone rockpools, seagulls and oystercatchers.

I get back to Christchurch via an easy Jetstar journey in time for some of the impressive opening ceremony – it was great how they incorporated various parts of the city and not just the main stadium, and how Christchurch had a mention – and the first rugby game, New Zealand versus Tonga and the much awaited Hakas of both nations.

As it seems is the norm for Kiwis, the home crowd sit in near silence throughout and most of the noise comes when the Tongans score a try. It’s odd to see the lack of atmosphere the rugby crowds bring to a game here, it’s almost as if they’re in deferential silence or are so apprehensive of losing that they can’t enjoy it. There’s no cheering, singing or chanting. There definitely isn’t any swearing at the ref!!

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Posted in New Zealand 2011, Travel

New Zealand trip – Aug/Sep 2011 (part 3)

Tuesday 23rd August

A bit of a false start as I get my days for when I’m going snowboarding mixed up. I was a bit a bit sheepish when I left the Hake Tours hostel but everyone was good about it! Go for a run around the local nature reserve and wetlands and help cook tea. The weather is really sunny during the day – about 14C.

Wed 24th August

As I’ve a spare day I make plans for a day trip to Akaroa, a series of bays and inlets on the Banks Peninsula about an hours drive from Christchurch, for a 7 mile hike up and down a mountain. Claire kindly lends me her 4×4 so after dropping her at the hospital I’m off out of town. The forecast is for 20C heat and blue skies all the way, but it’s a cold morning. The drive along highway 75 is great with flat straights, mountain switchbacks and steep descents and when I get to the Peninsula the views of the mountains and bays are stunning. I stop in Duvauchelle for breakfast, which consists of a coffee and a cereal bar as they’ve only pies for breakfast. At first I think the cafe/shop owner has picked up on my Northern accent but I find out later that pies are eaten at any time in New Zealand.

The road signs and place names here are all in French as it’s the site of the first landing of the French years ago. No-one I meet speaks French or seems in any way French and it gives the area a curious feel.  Akaroa itself is a small town right on the water. It being winter many of the few shops are open but there are still people milling around and a couple of campervans parked up.

The walk is up Stony Bay Peak, maybe the biggest mountain in the area at 806m. I start from sea level and the walk is steep from the outset and hot in the fierce (even in winter) sun.  The views are stunning throughout and as the walk goes up it passes through a heritage park with various carvings. I spend my first ever penny in a composting toilet too!

A carving in the heritage park

The endless climb has little respite and it’s not just the views that are taking my breath away. I definitely haven’t brought enough water and beginning to regret not having a pie for breakfast! The last ascent is very slippy as there is soft, sludgy snow on the ground. There’s also a lot of burnt shrub as a lightning strike a month previously had set it all alight – it makes for unusual conditions. Of course it’s all worth it for the 360 degree panaroma at the top, looking at snowy mountain ranges in the far distance, the Pacific to the East and the bays below.

The view from the top down to Akaroa

Snow and burnt shrub make for great scenery
Snow and burnt shrub make for great scenery

If the climb up was a calf killer; going down is a quad burner. The path switches back and forth down the steep descent and I’m chased down by sheep. I reach a grassy road which is still quite steep and decide to descent via the Mrs Gow method – running! [you would’ve been proud Mum :)] . The problem with this is that I don’t realise how long the run is so after about 1-2km I’m knackered but can barely stop and my legs are screaming. I think I’m going really fast until I’m passed by two nonchalant sheep who could do this all day! As the path comes to a road I manage to slow down and stop to catch my breath and I’m rewarded with seeing a stick insect on a branch!

The blurry thing at the end of the branch is a stick insect!

As a treat to myself (and not the other diners) I stop at a fancy French restaurant (Ma Maison) for lunch. They don’t bat an eyelid at my casual dress and my salty face and I demolish a plate of green lipped mussels in a white wine and garlic sauce but don’t manage to finish the fries – they’re hundreds! Drive back is via Lyttleton which was badly hit in the earthquakes and some roads and buildings are still knacked. My timings mean I hit the Christchurch rush-hour which isn’t a patch on the M60 and moves quite freely.

Thursday 25 August

Today is definitely time for snowboarding! I’ve organised the trip through Haka Tours who are based in Christchurch and do numerous adventure tours of New Zealand. On my trip are: 1 Ukranian, 1 Kiwi-Englishman, 1 Aussie-Englishwoman, 2 Aussies, 3 Americans, and Steve, the Kiwi tour guide/driver/fixer. We leave the Haka Tours hostel before breakfast and head over to Mt Hutt for my first day boarding in about 18 months. But boarding is like riding a bike and I’m back up and carving like I’ve never been away. The weather is perfect with blue, sunny skies and it’s a great introduction to Kiwi boarding. Mt Hutt is one of the few ski fields in the world where you can see the ocean from the top of the runs and as ever with this country the view is spectacular.

The view from the top of Mt Hutt

We have a two hour drive then to Lake Tekapo for a quick dinner in a local pizza place before a relaxing hour in the hot pools at Tekapo and get to watch the locals who are curling on the ice rink next to the springs.

Friday 26 August

Up early for breakfast and realise the YHA is on the banks of Lake Tekapo (it was very very dark when we arrived). The views as the sun comes up are terrific and we’re soon off for our next destination – Treble Cone.

The view from Lake Tekapo as the sunrises

Our guide Steve has had word that our original destination Ohau is all ‘bullet-proof ice’ which is rubbish for boarding on so he makes the decision to have an afternoon and full day at Treble Cone instead. The route takes us past the usual stunning scenery and vast canals and lakes that power New Zealand’s hydroelectricity. The most spectacular is at Lake Pukaki and it’s view of Mt Cook, the country’s tallest peak.

Lake Pukaki with Mt Cook the large peak in the far distance

With my confidence up we try all the runs at TC (what the locals call it – the Kiwis love to shorten names, they’re not big on formality), including some icy, mogully chutes which aren’t enjoyable. After a pit-stop, Steve shows/takes/drags me down the gun-barrell, a natural steep run that looks like it is called, with steep sides that form a natural pipe. After giving me a few pointers about how best to ride it I’m really loving it and finish the day smiling but knackered!

Our base for the night is the Purple Cow YHA on the banks of Lake Wanaka which is a great hostel and our four bed dorm has it’s own ensuite. We head for a group tea at a local Mexican place which serves good food and it starts snowing, which is great news.

Saturday 27 Aug

Powder Day! Up early to get the fresh runs. Steve is so super keen for the good snow that he gets a speeding ticket on the short run out of Wanaka! We head over to the chutes that were icy and difficult the previous day which now have 20cm of fresh snow. I tackle the run which was a struggle yesterday but today I take a higher line through the snow, knocking of plates of snow as I go. It’s amazing and on the next go back up the chairlift we notice a few people trekking on foot up to the very top of the mountain. Three of us attempt it and after 30 mins hard, sweaty slog with all our gear, make it for spectacular views and a great 10 second run of immaculate powder.

The climb to the top of Treble Cone

The views from the top of Treble Cone

It’s a hard morning’s boarding and I’m glad we rode so long and did what we did as the main lift out of the base breaks, leaving us stranded at the bottom in the cafe. At least the local Kea’s keep us entertained with their antics.

The Keas keep us entertained at Treble Cone

Sunday 28th Aug

We leave Wanaka behind and head to Cardona for another resort which has loads of runs, a great Boarder X park, and some massive jumps for the really experienced. There is also a Super Pipe and the competition for the  100% NZ Games is today which provides great views when going up the chairs. I give the Boarder X a few goes, albeit much slower than the professionals and can feel my skills improving while enjoying it.

On the hour’s drive to Queenstown we pass over the highest sealed road in New Zealand through the Crown Range for the usual epic views a quick photo opp.

The Haka Tours bus on New Zealand's highest sealed road

We’re staying in Queenstown for the next three days at the Pinewood hostel, which is nestled under a gondola and has great views of people parasending down the mountain into a playing field nearby. We head out for a legendary Ferg burger which is great but massively filling and the queues are long and then tackle a few pubs and bars in QT/Queeny, depending on how you are with brevity.

Monday 29 August

Today is our day off, where get to kick back and relax, so five of our group decide to take on the Nevis Bungy, which at 134m over a canyon is one of the longest drops in the world. I’m nervous but the views are terrific. My legs wobble as I’m stood on the platform and looking down to the river far below. On the count of three I take a big dive and sail out with a moment of OMG! but then it’s great. Apparently you have 8 seconds of fall but it’s over very quickly and when I’m being winched back to the canopy I can hear myself laughing – at what I’m not sure. Check the video out below of my jump including superman leap off the end:

Tuesday 30 August

Queenstown is served by two skifields and today we tackle Coronet Peak and the legs feel good after the rest day. It has a lot of runs for a New Zealand resort and even has a sealed access road! It’s another sunny hot day and the snow gets slushy by 3pm but Steve takes a group of us on loads of runs that really test my skills.

Wednesday 31 August

The last day of a great trip is in the Remarkables, the second range out of Queenstown. It’s cold and windy today and the range could do with some snow. It’s smaller than Coronet Peak but has a fantastic terrain park so I get up the courage to tackle a few rails and boxes, which I’ve never done before. I quickly get the hang of them and gradually get confident enough to increase the speed. On my 8th run I take a spill off the end of one, scrape my head and decide to call it a day at about 2pm. The bus is leaving the resort for the long journey back to Christchurch at 3pm so I feel I’ve learnt and done enough.

There is just time to stop in Queenstown for a present for Ethan’s birthday tomorrow and pick up a lovely baguette from the Ferg Bakery. The drive back takes us through great scenery and past Lake  Aviemore with it’s dam looking eerie in the twiglight and it’s water still a shimmering blue as the sunlight fades and provides a great end to a fantastic trip.

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New Zealand trip – Aug/Sep 2011 (part 2)

Thursday 18th Aug, 2011 (cont’d)

On the bus journey (takes 25 mins and I have the bus to myself) through the Christchurch suburbs to town there is evidence of the earthquakes they’ve had with some homes still fenced off, others demolished with back gardens, washing lines and bbqs exposed to passers by. In places the fast melting snow is putting a strain on the already knacked sewers, especially by the rivers and there is some minor flooding to roads.

Hagley Park  is deserted and is full of snow-melt puddles and forgotten fallen snowmen. The birds seem to be loving it though; mallards race past on the fast flowing water and Paradise Shellduck are climbing trees by the side of the Avon River. It’s raining on and off so I head for the botanic gardens and it’s wealth of trees and bushes and the respite of its cafe  (good black coffee, stodgy citrus cake) which has an open hearth at its centre piece that is being hogged by a group of foreigners (perhaps students, perhaps tourists like me).

The Botanical Gardens are excellent with tree ferns you can hide under when it rains and all sorts of weird and wonderful trees. The path through the gardens leads me to the far end of Hagley Park and the hospitals. Like all hospitals everywhere the entrance is littered with staff, patients and visitors all huddled around having a fag.

The walk back to the bus stop is past the museum, arts centre and Christs College, all of which took a beating during the earthquakes. The spire/turret of the arts college sits on the pavement waiting for the restoration work to be completed while other walls are propped up with giant metal structures.

After cooking a bolognese for all for tea, Adam and I head back to Hagley Park to see the aforementioned Hera who is playing in the temporary arts centre village. Under normal circumstances the gig would’ve been in the arts centre but it’s now in a temporary building in the park. It’s a lovely temporary building though with parquet flooring, nice booths along the walls and a good light rig and the sound is excellent. It’s also numbingly cold, probably about 4C, but very pleasant if you’re wrapped up.

Hera has a great voice and can play but her songs are a bit limited and dull. One song is all about her favourite dress and the lyrics go something like: “this is my dress, it is blue, it is my favourite”. Her backing band are straight from casting central: stoned-looking bassist – check, cheesy lead guitarist – check, Schroeder wannabe on keys – check, plaid shirts all round – check.

New Zealand is not immune to the rise of the hipster and there is one present tonight and he has an obligatory dandy ‘tache an odd hair cut and the ubiquitous trousers-that-are-slightly-too-short.

Getting back home, we find out Susie has got into Uni so Adam, Claire and I have a celebratory beer for her.

Friday 19th August 2011

Up early and off on our roadtrip. We head out from a gloomy Christchurch and as we leave the city behind, the sun sneaks out and the snow covered mountains that lead to Arthur’s Pass look great. I’ll probably overuse superlatives in these posts but the country and scenery and stunning and deserving of the praise. Cars become fewer and the temperature drops the closer we get to the mountains and the snow is much deeper.

We stop off at Mt Cheeseman so Adam can try his new snow chains up the snow and ice covered unsealed road to the ski resort. The 12km track is a fantastic drive through snow-laden trees and spectacular views across the valley below. The skifield at the top of the track is very small and basic facilities but the conditions  look perfect with deep fresh powder and blue skies and sunshine.  We have a quick lunch and take a few pics of the view then continue on our the journey before I get too jealous of the boarders.

After a quick pit stop at Arthur’s Pass village and a photo opp at Death’s Corner with enough time for me to stand in a snow drift right up to middle and the car to be attacked by a persistent Kea, we head for Greymouth on the west coast. As we drive the mercury rises to a warm 13C and the snow vanishes. We stop in the town for supplies and sunglasses for me and we hurry along the stunning coast for Punakaiki and our house Flaxhaven so we can catch the sunset.

We unpack quickly and even though it’s winter the weather is so good we get the bbq going and eat tea in a house bathed in orange light as the sun sets infront of us with nothing in our way except 200m of rainforest and endless miles of the Tasman Sea.

The house has a bonus of a friendly Weka patrolling the grounds and a hot tub from where we watch the billions of stars appear and a special view of the Milky Way. We guess at what the constellations are, failing miserably when Google Sky Map shows us where we went wrong.

A few beers are nursed at night while listening to a New Zealand music channel, trying to guess which Bee Gee is dead and what songs Jimmy Cliff sang.

Saturday 20th August 2011

Clear skies at night in winter make for a freezing cold morning and the house only seems to have a small, fairly ineffective electric heater but it soon warms as the sun rises above the mountain and bathes the house in morning sunshine.

Ethan and I play Frisbee in the gardens and there is lots of bird song to hear from the surrounding bush. We have an early morning stroll around the impressive Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki but the tides aren’t right for the blowholes.

The roadtrip continues up the coast to Tuarangi Bay, a lovely sweeping beach with grey sand and a couple of surfers bobbing about off shore. There’s a seal colony at Cape Foulwind that are mucking about on the rocks below. It’s hard to see seals at first but once you get your eye in they’re everywhere. Plenty of mothers and pups but no sign of the father.

The restaurant we’re hoping to lunch at has moved to town and as there is nothing but a car park and a few lovely looking houses, we head off to Westport and the excellent Townhouse restaurant. Adam and the kids have fish and chips (the fish being turbot), I have calamari and Claire has a good looking eggs benedict. There isn’t much left but a few chips and some salad as the food is so lovely and well worth the trip.

We arrive at our next house at Gentle Annie at about 2.30pm. It is on the banks of the mighty Mokihinui River, which is the largest river in New Zealand not to be dammed… yet. We take a 2km tramp along a coast path and down to the beach, again empty but for us and and a few sea birds. I roll up the jeans and paddle in the Tasman Sea (part of the Pacific) which quickly numbs my feet. Ethan is made of sterner stuff and is playing for ages in the surf, hitching up his trousers which end up getting wetter and wetter the more daring he gets. The beach has excellent drift wood and we spend a while collecting various specimens and trying to knock down sticks with stones.

Tea at the River House is a chili and again we’re blessed with a lovely orange sunset. The fields and trees surrounding the house are full of birdlife, including Pukeko, Tui, kingfisher, fantail, and a sighting of a New Zealand falcon. The highlight is seeing two tiny spur-winged plover chicks in a field with their parents.

The New Zealand birdlife seems to be much less wary of people than in the UK. Maybe it’s because there are lots less people here and much more space or maybe it’s because the people are ultra friendly and birds pick-up on that!

Sunday 21st August, 2011

Another brass monkeys morning in the bach until the sun comes out. I go for a short run on the bush tracks around the house. After following the waterfall track for a while it suddenly peters out and I’m trying to find my way through the trees back to the path. Now, there’ll be some people aware that I’ve previous of getting lost/never going back the way I came, so it’ll be no surprise that when the trees turn to bush I carry on regardless. Before I know it I’m trying to get through near impenetrable bush with massive tree ferns, spiky trees and hidden gulleys and streams. After what seems like ages (but is really only 200m or so) and a few moments of panic (glad this isn’t Australia and its myriad of  poisonous beasties) I happen across the path with a few cuts and scrapes for my troubles.

The roadtrip continues albeit briefly via the wrong track, which is a fortuitous wrong turn as we see a wild stag, to the Charming Creek Walkway. It is a tramp along the Ngakawau river to the Mangatini Falls, which are very impressive. Just before the falls is a wobbly swingbridge which is fun/scary to walk across, depending on your disposition. The Walkway is an old coal train line, the trains have long since gone to be replaced by a cable car and gondolas which bring the coal down from the mine straight to the railhead.

We eat our lunch sat in a sunny patch on the now disused railway line. The 7km or so walk goes through forest and clearings, tree-tunnels and actual tunnels, following the river below which has car-sized boulders in it and is very blue. There are some nice looking beaches and spots but they’re inaccessible with two little boys in tow.

On the road to Hanmer we stop for coffee and cake at Reefton at the Future Dough Company Broadway Tearooms and Bakery. The lady is closing up but I pile on the charm and she agrees to stay open as long as ‘you sit in the back so I can lock up the front’. The coffee and banana cake are excellent as is the display of ornamental salt and pepper shakers, which include everything from a pair of pink elephants to giant bunches of celery.

As we leave Reefton in the sun, I take the driving through icy Lewis Pass and back into the mountains, the temperature dropping and the snow returning as we leave the sunny and mild west coast. Again, the state highways are a mix of long straights with twisty turns and the odd hairpin thrown in. The views range from the spectacular to the amazing and we even see a pair of old Ferraris heading the other way.

We arrive in Hanmer just as it is getting dark and cold and our house is quite new and enormous. Adam and I head off for supplies – a trip to the bottle shop then the Fish and Chip shop. While waiting for the fried food we have time for a cheeky beer in the Monteith’s Brewery Bar. I try a very nice, but icy cold Winter Ale. The barmaid keeps saying ‘choice’ – not sure if she’s saying if it’s a good choice or not.  The two handsome Gows are quickly chatted up by a local lady but we make our excuses and leave when she tries to guess our accents as being scouse?!

The house is very large and well appointed – it even has Sky Sports so we’re able to catch 30 mins of England hammering India in the 4th Test before another early night.

Monday 22nd August 2011

It’s so cold again in the mornings and the light and airy house is frozen. The water in the taps is so cold that it’s impossible to gargle when brushing your teeth. The car has a fur covering of ice and we pop into Hanmer for a coffee before a visit to the famous hot springs. It’s a lovely way to spend a couple of hours, relaxing in the open air with heated pools and the snow-covered mountains and blue sky above. Adam and I have a go on the waterslides which includes a new plughole ride which is good fun. The kids have a great time with both Noah and Ethan relaxing in the pools, the former practicing his swimming technique while the latter lies on his back and does a good impression of an otter.

Lunch are some excellent pies from the town bakery, eaten in a small park on the main road sat in the 16C sun with chaffinches and sparrows buzzing us for our crumbs.

The journey back is via Culverden so Ethan can claim his winnings from being the victor in the hair growing competition. The ice creams are lovely and we sit and eat them in the sun in a small park just off the highway. We are serenaded by a bird (looked like thrush but difficult to tell as left the binoculars in the car again) sat at the top of the a very tall tree going through his entire repertoire of songs, chimes, whistles and clicks. The town is a popular spot on the journey to and from Christchurch though we have the park to ourselves.

We then journey the hour back to Christchurch past vast winerys and the through suburbs and the end of a great trip.

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New Zealand trip – Aug/Sep 2011 (part 1)

Saturday 13th Aug, 2011

The journey starts in Manchester airport, trying to get a glimpse of the Emirates A380 that will be taking me to Dubai. However, for a plane so big, it’s very shy and you can’t see more than one of the massive, 15 million quids worth of engine at any time. Like the plane, business and first class are shielded away from the hoi poloi up a sweeping staircase at the front of the plane.

The aircraft is comfortable and a lot more spacious (though leg room is the same as others) than other planes. I get a window seat but there is little to see as we leave the UK, with clouds covering the  continents we cross. It’s a multicultural load on board and the cabin crew speak a multitude of languages. There are a few bottle-fed tots in cots but thankfully no screaming ab-dabs and the flight passes by in a blur of Hollywood films and a decent lamb curry. I take my boots off to find a nice air-conditioned breeze flowing underneath the seats, or maybe that someone has left a door open somewhere.

The flight is smooth and quiet as we make our way in the dark over empty Middle Eastern desert and then the Red Sea, with the lights of the various towns and resorts clearly visible from the 39,000 ft and at 595 mph.

Sunday 14th Aug, 2011

As we approach Dubai, orange snakes appear below, the long thin and seemingly empty highways lit-up with street lights, with the desert sand trying it’s best to reclaim the tarmac.

The flight touches down at Dubai International sometime after midnight on Sunday and we disembark quickly through the usual long faceless tunnel of a terminal to reach chaos – long queues of bleary passengers being funneled into the security scanners. It’s a bit like the London Underground in the morning; no-one really is really in charge and there are a lot of tired people trudging forward to something that you can’t see but it all seems to work. I wonder if this is where Ethan had his paddy last time the NZ Gow’s traveled back to the UK and were whisked to the front of the queue?

I finally get to the Mahramba lounge in the airport at about 1.30am. Due to a clerical error (my own) I’ve an eight hour stopover at Dubai so I’ve booked a lounge for 22 quid for four hours. The lounge is comfortable, with free food (a couple of decent curries and samosas, some dodgy looking pasta, and some passable sandwiches, cakes, etc) and drink (beer, spirits, wine, soft drinks, etc) free wifi and comfortable chairs and sofas to rest on. After sampling a few complimentary Heineken’s I manage to get some sleep for an hour or so.

It’s interesting to see the different cultures and nationalities in the airport. There’s a man dressed in white, Ghandi-esque robes and flip-flops, there are ultra-polite Japanese and plenty of Europeans, all sat in the lounge enjoying the buffet. Apparently it’s 25C outside (at 2am) but it’s cooler inside, if not a bit sweaty.

When my time is up in the lounge I go in search of the free showers in the concourse below. There are two sets at either end of the vast terminal but I need a towel so I root unsuccessfully around the myriad of shops for a while, asking a member of staff if any of the shops sell towels. She misreads my economic situation and my disheveled appearance  and sends me to the Hermes shop; clearly she thinks I’m a classy, wealthy international jet-setting type who will only dry himself on the finest silk scarves. I wait until she leaves me to browse before scuttling off to a far, forgotten corner of a gift shop and find a dusty hand towel for 4 quid.

The showers are quite clean, and quite busy but they have large individual cubicles and plenty of room. They are a God/Allah send and bring me around a bit.

After the showers I treat myself to a heavenly cappuccino from the Segafredo counter and then it’s time to board the Christchurch plane (an A777) via Bangkok and Sydney.

For this leg of the journey I’m sat next to a nice man who lives in Poole and is off to NZ for his son’s 21st, and a Serbian woman who we can make out is off to Sydney for the first time. For the entire flight she will not read a book or look at the inflight films and TV. I have no idea how she keeps sane!

After a six hour flight of films and food we fly in over the lush green fields of Thailand, with it’s many waterways and paddy fields visible as the sun starts to set. I’ve no real idea what time or day it is and we have just an hour in Bangkok airport. It is enough  time to go a way on the many travellators and marvel at the aiport’s impressive and disorientating monotony – each section is the same as the previous one. There are plenty of toilets at the aiport and a couple of duty free shops but not many other facilities for the short stoppers.

Monday 15th Aug, 2011

The flight to Sydney takes eight hours and feels like the longest of the journey. We travel over empty Australia and the sun rises at some point, sending the clouds orange and red. We fly high over the forests and bush on our descent into Sydney airport for the 45 minute stop. There are free showers at the airport (though I don’t bother this time) and the terminal is comfortable with plenty of cafes and shops. It’s enough time to buy a breakfast beer, eat a forgotten Yorkie I find in my bag, and check on the weather in Christchurch via the free wifi; it’s not good news, with almost the whole of New Zealand enveloped in snow. All airports bar Auckland and Christchurch are closed and as we prepare for take off the pilot warns that if the weather is bad we may have to return to Sydney.

The pilot kindly flies us around Sydney as we leave Australia, so we can see the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, various stadium and some of the lovely looking beaches. The three hour flight seems a doddle after the long journeys before. There are fewer passengers and it’s the end of the road but the beginning of an adventure for everyone. The people are milling about the cabin and asking where everyone is going; one Kiwi is returning to Christchurch for the first time since the earthquake. She was brought up in the city and got married in the Cathedral in the 60s. She wonders what it will be like now. They’re all asking how England is following the riots.

As New Zealand comes into view, the mountains of the west coast are visible and snow-capped but the rest of the centre is cloud-covered. We’re soon over the snowy fields of the Canterbury plain and the Kiwis on the flight are all taking in the view from the plane windows. I guess they don’t often get the chance to see this part of their country covered in snow.

They’ve done a good job keeping Christchurch airport open in the snow and we are one of the few flights to land without problem to a deserted airport. After last seeing my luggage in Manchester it appears on the conveyor belt and I’m ready to take on NZ. After being complimented by the Bio-Security man over the cleanliness of my ‘tramping’ boots I stop being a traveller and become guest as Adam is there to greet me and I get a nice ride in his plush new (to him) off-roader through snow-covered Christchurch.

I get a really friendly welcome, especially from two excited little boys who are eager to see who has won the hair-growing competition (Ethan by a whisker!) and claim their ice cream reward. After sorting out presents for Noah (who had a birthday recently) and Haribo and Galaxy chocolate for Claire and Adam, we have pizza for tea before I flake out at 6.30pm, which is a new record for apparently for earliest to bed for new visitors!

Tuesday 16th Aug, 2011

I’m awake at 9am and there is snow everywhere as about six inches of the white stuff has fallen overnight. This is great news for my impending snowboard trip next week . We have a snowball fight in the  garden before breakfast as the kids are on a snow day from school. With a well-aimed snowball, I manage to break a snowy overhang off the roof and onto Ethan. He takes it with good grace.

New Zealand is covered in snow, even the North Island and the news shows parts of Wellington building their first snowman in the city for 40+ years. The weather here even makes it onto the BBC news in the UK. It sleets and snows most of the day, and Adam and I make an excursion to the FreshChoice supermarket for supplies. The chain has a catchy jingle of Think Fresh, Think Choice, Think FreshChoice. I hope  they didn’t pay a lot of money to whoever thought that up.

Beer is expensive, especially with the rubbish exchange rate at the moment, and I pick up a bottle of Copper’s Brewery Old Pale Ale – it’s Aussie but cheap at $4.99 for 750 ml. It’s kinda lagery and OK. I’m in bed for 9.30pm and still trying to get the bodyclock worked out.

Wednesday 17th Aug, 2011

I’m wide awake at 6am as people are getting up for work and nursery. Unfortunately, Ethan’s school is still closed despite the snow melting and it raining most of the day. Adam drops us at Northlands Mall so I can get a haircut and we can get out the house before cabin fever sets in. Ethan is allowed to spend some pocket money in the mall but we have a difference of opinion on what he can spend it on (it turns out he’s had and lost the same argument with his folks in the past over the same toy). He eventually sees my side of it and comes back to normality after watching me get a hair cut, my first in about six months and I’m really glad to get rid of all that hair! We have lunch in a NZ coffee shop and I try a New Zealand speciality – a flat white – which is ok, though let down by the coffee side of it.

After pottering around a few more shops we get a taxi back from Pak n Save where there is a bit of a kerfuffle as an old lady has collapsed and is being treated by the St John’s Ambulance, which is the NZ paramedic service. It’s pouring down now and the Christchurch fields are waterlogged. We spend the day playing cards and Lego and waiting for everyone to return home.

I try a NZ ale tonight, Wigram’s Morning Glory Golden Ale breakfast beer (juvenile names for beers is not just a UK phenomenon) which is very sharp but not bad. It would certainly wake you up in the morning. At $6.99 for 500ml it ain’t cheap (that’s about 3.70 UK [I can’t find a pound sign on this NZ keyboard!]) but it’s brewed in Christchurch so I might see if I can manage a tour of the brewery. I manage to last until about 10.30pm tonight but it’s all I can do to keep my eyes open at this point and it’s an early bed again.

Thursday 18th Aug, 2011

Ethan is thankfully back at school today and I’m up just as Claire is off to work. Noah seems to have inherited the early-morning grumpy Gow gene but Ethan is dressed for his only day at school this week and they’re out the door well before 9am. I’ve been shown the bus stop and I’m planning a visit to the Canterbury museum but it’s still closed following the earthquake so I’m off Hagley park to check out the Christchurch Arts Festival pavilion. The Arts festival is happening at the moment and Adam and I are planning on seeing a band tonight – Hera (Christchurch resident from Iceland I think, think Sixpence None the Richer, sugary, slightly twee pop with xylophones and kooky lyrics) – but I need to get out and explore, despite the heavy showers (and occasional sunshine).

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Posted in New Zealand 2011, Travel