Eric Lindsay's Blog February 2009

Sunday 1 February 2009

Cyclone Ellie

Cyclone Ellie is a category one tropical cyclone about 200 km off the coast off Innisfall. Expected to make landfall between Cairns and Townsville, around Hinchinbrook Island area Monday morning. Updates during the day predict landfall later Monday morning. By midnight it had weakened to an ex-cyclone, crossing the coast at Mission Beach around midnight. Heavy rainfall expected between Innisfall and Mackay.

It rained lightly yesterday, and overnight. We had about 100 mm in the rain gauge by morning. 6 p.m. and the rain is bucketing down.

We wasted a bit of the morning taking Whitsunday Terraces balcony furniture inside so it is not thrown around by the winds. Between furniture and packing, we are down to zero available space. All too typical in a small apartment, especially with many boxes of books packed. I disassembled a small glass table so I could fit an outdoor lounge inside in the morning.

The TV channels are all out of action, both free top air and satellite. Static on one channel suggests that this is a single point failure. Probably the resort distribution amplifier, or perhaps the cable runs failed during the rain.


What is fair? What is unfair? Fair's Fair by Bart Wilson. Experimental economists play the Ultimatum Game, to see how humans react to what is fair. An equivalent single word to the English term fair, dating from the late 18th Century, does not seem as clear in many languages.

The actual experiments are the interesting thing. Variations on the first player being offered a sum on money, on condition a second player accepts a share. The first player determines the amount to be shared. The second player knows the amount of money, and the share being offered. There is no communication between the players. No agreement, no money.

An evaporating windfall is hardly the equivalent of market forces, whatever it says about society.

James Surowiecki in the New Yorker responds Is the idea of fairness universal? Bart Wilson responds Is fairness cross-cultural, or not?

How to Save the Banks

An op-ed piece in the Financial Times by Peter Boone and Simon Johnson says To Save the Banks We Must Stand Up to the Bankers. Basically, you have been bad boys who need to stand in the corner and be supervised.

If you want to end up with the economy of Pakistan, the politics of Ukraine, and the inflation rate of Zimbabwe, bank nationalization is the way to go.

Audio via Terminal

Audio control from the terminal according to Rob Giffith writing about OS X audio controls. The new Terminal utilities are afplay for music playback, afinfo for information, and afconvert to convert music formats. Not much in the man for each, but there is internal information you can access using -h to list the internal usage details.

Murder No Show

Media should not depict crime for profit. I have been saying that to friends for ages. If you want the protection of a company structure, then your company should be subject to stricter laws about what it can and can not do. We know companies basically act like sociopaths. I think depicting crimes for profit goes well beyond anything reasonable. If repeated advertising affects behaviour, then showing repeated crimes will affect behaviour.

Young Australian of the Year Advocate Jonty Bush says TV's Underbelly glamorises murder. She is an activist and executive with Queensland Homicide Victims Support Group, where disagreements with breakaway members did not lead to violence.

Adobe Flash

Flash is so slow I leave plug-ins off when I surf the web. Every time I check web site with plug-ins enabled, I hit something that spikes my CPU to near 100%. This is not what I expect from a web site. Plus every pathetic advertisement in creation seems to be Flash, so I am very pleased to miss all of them. However I do like viewing the odd MP4 movie.

Adobe's Chief Executive Officer Shantanu Narayen said putting Flash on an iPhone was a challenge. I most devoutly hope it remains a challenge. Apple CEO Steve Jobs said last March that Flash runs too slowly for the iPhone, and a slimmed-down version, called Flash Lite, is not capable enough. Personally I would like to see Flash disappear. I don't want to run a proprietary adware-delivery system on my computer.

Wolf Rentzsch ClickToFlash turns Flash off, but lets you use it if you need it. It is a free, open source WebKit plug-in for Safari on Leopard (OS X 10.5). The original author remains anonymous. I do not frequent web sites with Flash, but when I tested, it did block some advertising. Put a nice discrete notice up saying Flash in place of them. You can also Whitelist sites (via Terminal command line).

Ghost in the Universe

Reconcile science and secular reason with folks who see fairies in the bottom of the garden? That seems unlikely. The decreasing number of people who have multiple gods are not well tolerated by the followers of the One True God. Those who leave the One True God may be considered apostate, especially by Muslim sects. Every intolerant One True God seems different to the next, and each has their own collection of false Prophets.

A more rational explanation is believers are delusional, tricked or liars.

Science requires you be willing to give up belief. Sir Karl Popper proposed that to be science, predictions that could be disproved must be invoked. If it can not be disproved, no science involved (although there may be scholarship and reason). Even scientists do not like giving up their old belief. The major real merit of science is that it works, whether you believe it or not.

Monday 2 February 2009

Birthday Packing

Birthday today, as Jean reminded me this morning. I had forgotten, in the rush to pack and do last minute tasks.

My bag was packed. However I had to unpack it and put everything in plastic bags, with a plastic bag around them all. The ex-tropical cyclone Ellie had left widespread rain all about the area. No way the bags are not going to get drenched while waiting to go to the airport and on the plane. The luggage areas are basically open air, and thus open to torrential rain.

Weather overcast, temp 27C, humidity 40%, 75 mm rain since yesterday on our Whitsunday Terraces balcony.

Weblog Publishing

Brent Simmons explains his new weblog publishing system and what went through his head while writing it. Change from MySQL and PHP (which didn't excite him) to plain text and Ruby (not on Rails). Publishes as static pages using rsync. It is a small content management system with templates and snippets. He gives a clear outline of the benefits of static sites.

He points to Webby also.

It actually sounds something like what I started outlining in Bash shell some considerable time ago for my web sites. Same general solutions to the file system outline (similar problem after all). I never completed the outline, as it always seemed easier on any particular day to just write the HTML direct.

I recall writing a very simplistic web page generator to do the html for my web page. I did a separate table generator (not that I use tables often). I also did a simple photo handler that took a folder of photographs, fixed up the names, and generated thumbnails and web page sized images. Then it generated a bunch of links from thumbnails to the larger photos, together with the alt and image size attributes. I really should try to put some of that stuff together a bit more. Of course, I have totally changed the way I write web pages, so it would all need to be altered.

The whole thing was mainly to try to understand why web page tools did such a lousy job. The answer, doing it right is complicated. Especially so if the person writing the web page does not understand how a web page works. So there are a lot of text editors that helpfully colour code things, which is handy, but not essential. There are a bunch of web site tools (like Dreamweaver or FrontPage) that produce something that looks good, but is not actually correct. There are a few (like iWeb) that both look good and produce valid code, but do not produce fluid sites with lean html. I do not know one web site production tool I actually like ... or can even tolerate.

Highway Drowned

We scheduled a taxi for 1 p.m. from the Whitsunday Terraces reception. We feared the rain would make a closer pickup in the street a bit damp. We had to put the bags in Jean's car between showers. We drove to reception, unloaded the bags, I took the car back and parked it, and dashed back to reception.

The taxi made an extra trip around the town in the rain before returning to pick up an additional person where it had picked us up. Myrtle Creek was already close to flowing over the road. Hamilton Plains was half flooded, but only about 10 cm deep. None of the creeks along the bruce highway were flooding the road, although most had burst their banks. Despite this, we arrived at Whitsunday Coast Airport in plenty of time.

The flight from Brisbane went overhead. Then it went overhead at a much lower altitude. I was out in the rain looking at the clouds, and did not catch even a glimpse of it. The plane returned to Brisbane with its load of passengers.

It did not seem likely that the only flight, the 2:45 p.m. flight DJ1114 to Brisbane was going to be available.

On the Road

The plane could not land. Folowed by various difficult to hear announcement from the very small Virgin Blue staff at the airport. Exit the holding pen and collect bags from the rain exposed trolley outside (there is a roof, just no sides). Form a queue. The airport isn't large enough for a whole plane load to form a queue. All you can form is a mob.

People going only as far as Brisbane go to the front of the queue. Triage. Get rid of the easy cases. That was us. Our next flight was Tuesday. Take your bags to the bus just arriving at the other end of the terminal (that is only about 40 metres). We were on the road to Mackay, 150 km south of Airlie Beach, before 4 p.m.

Bus driver is the regular on the Mackay run. Plays his nice DVD of water ... with fish in it ... on sunny days. We note numerous 4WD vehicles parked on the edge of the highway. The locals are out fishing the flooded creeks for barramundi. Today is the second day of the barramundi season, and they bite well in flooded conditions.

The rivers in Mackay had not risen to flood level yet, and we reached the airport before 5:30. Good time for that drive. The Virgin Blue staff were not expecting 38 bus passengers determined to dump their bags.

Mackay airport does not have a lot of facilities, but more than Whitsunday Coast. The food service place is larger. Jean picked up some ham, cheese and tomato focacia. They microwaved the interior to get it hot, and then put them in the sandwich press. Since I had not had lunch, I thought it was delicious. Airport prices of course, $13.90 for two.

While at the airport, we heard that the road to Airlie Beach had been cut by flood water around 5 p.m.


Uneventful DJ960 flight to Brisbane. This was our first flight in the new, small two seat + two seat E190 Virgin Blue use for lighter flights. It looked like it took less than 100 passengers. Seemed comfortable enough. By then we may have had kind words for the Wright Flyer.

Our luggage was wet. Soaked through. The handle of my bag felt like a wet bath sponge. It had started at Proserpine airport, but somewhere between the bus and Brisbane, they had really picked up the rain. All the luggage loading facilities for planes are out in the open, so there is little chance for dry luggage when you have rain. Mind you, Brisbane is a city intent on saving water, after a prolonged drought.

The taxi from the airport cost $43. Jean had picked up a cheap room at the Park Regis at North Quay, across the city from the airport. We had figured on arriving late afternoon, having dinnr, checking out the place. Instead we arrived at 9 p.m. The On Quay restaurant had just closed, no room service, and the one time a mini bar would have been welcome, there was none.

Park Regis Suites North Quay

We deliberately check some of the better class hotels and self contained apartments when they have specials, to see which we might like for future visits. The distance to this one bit us somewhat this time.

The Park Regis Suites, 293 North Quay, Brisbane had some obviously great views straight along the river, overlooking the bridge.

The suite had a bedroom with an arch entrance offset from the large living area. The air conditioning was a bit of an afterthought, occupying the space where one might expect a fireplace. A lounge and a large armchair around a low coffee table. TV, DVD player, a mini stereo.

The kitchen area had a small stainless steel fridge freezer, a microwave, a glass cooktop, and a single drawer dishwasher, all in a small space, but with deep countertops. There was a glass top kitchen table with four chairs, so that is where I typed this.

To my annoyance, the bathroom had shower gels containers instead of hand soap. Continuing the Brisbane theme of saving water, it also had signs asking that leaking taps be reported.

Tuesday 3 February 2009

Departing Australia

We arranged a 5 a.m. wakeup call, too early when no breakfast was available. So we were ready in the lobby well before the taxi arrived to collect us at 6 a.m. for the drive to Brisbane airport international terminal. This time the taxi was $40, but we were at the airport around 6:30 a.m.

I did not have to queue to get some Australian currency exchanged for New Zealand at Brisbane airport. The local banks back home had not had any New Zealand on hand. Instead I found an money changer without a queue. All the same company. All the same lousy rate of NZ$1.126. Instead of changing all my cash, I changed about a third, in the hope of doing better in New Zealand. NZ$550 for A$498.22. Differences are a $9.77 fee.

Queue to get rid of baggage. Queue to get breakfast at Subway. Queue for security theatre. Queue for the queue to get in the queue. Queue for Australian passport inspection at immigration prior departure (they were actually quick and friendly). Queue at Gate 77 to board the plane at 8:20 a.m. Queue for the loo. Queue to get off the plane.

To New Zealand

Pacific Blue, offshoot of Virgin Blue, were our airline for flight. They were using a regular 737-800, which looked tiny next to the Qantas 747 Jumbos.

The flight was full. Took off on time. Talkative young NZ bloke in the aisle seat, but he managed to sleep through much of the flight. Jean demanded a chicken caesar wrap for lunch.

We arrived at Christchurch around 3:15 p.m. New Zealand time, after a three hour flight, with a three hour time change. As we came in to land, we passed over the impressive food bowl area of the Canterbury Plains. Their gentle gradient of 1/50 makes them idea for agriculture. The plains stretch 160 km, and are generally over 50 km wide.

Immigration were quick. However the exit X-ray for Quarantine showed Jean's boots. There was a fair wait until someone was able to take a look at the boots and declare they were not going to harm New Zealand products.

Bank of New Zealand gave their rates 0.8299 in terms of NZ currency, of course. A much better exchange rate. Take the reciprocal of the figure, and find it is NZ$1.205, about 7% better than in Brisbane. Change A$1000 and get NZ$1192.91. Differences are because there is a 1% fee, or NS$12.05.

We were met by a nice driver from Southern Connections who drove us to the Hotel Ibis at 107 Hereford Street in central Christchurch right next to the magnificent Cathedral Square and near the Avon River and the Art precinct. We passed the extensive Botanic Gardens and through the 450 acre Hagley Park on the way.

The driver remarked that Christchurch, the largest city on the south island, was planned in Britain as a Church colony before being built. It was named by founders Lord Lyttleton and Sir Robert Godley after the College in Oxford. Three of the first four ships of the new colony arrived within a day of each other, a tribute to their seamanship, while the last was delayed a few weeks by sail problems. The original landing site was named Lyttleton, and is a major port.

Christchurch New Zealand

Hotel Ibis arrival was around 4:30 p.m. After we checked in, Jean recalled she was expecting delivery of a mobile phone. Down to reception. No package for Jean. Nothing from the delivery company. Back to the room. Jean phones company. Finally gets local number, but the tracking number Jean has is not in the correct sequence. They will be closing soon also. Tries to phone Lyn, who sent it on Friday. No luck.

We went for a walk in the still bright evening light. Seems strange that it is not dark here until after 8 p.m. Walk through Cathedral Square taking photos. The Anglican cathedral was planned as the centre of the city, and constructed between 1864 and 1901.

Trams take tourists for scenic rides. The trams look just like the ones I remember from when I was going to primary school over 50 years ago.

Down to the Avon River, where there is a statue of Robert Falcon Scott. You can even go punting on the river, as we noted some tourists were doing. The ducks start waddling towards Jean, looking hopeful. Memorial arch, dedicated to the fallen of two World Wars.

Dined at the Hotel Ibis $20 bistro night. Great food. Jean had a giant rib eye steak. I had the lamb chops. Everything on the menu was plain food nicely served. I loved it. We had a very nice fruity Montana Sauvignon Blanc with dinner. So sue us for not having a red.

Evening in Christchurch

Wrecked is the only way to describe us. I went out for a walk before dinner. Found out first hand why new shoes are not great at the start of a long trip. New is relative. I had them aside in a closet for years, but I simply never wear shoes at home in Airlie Beach. So they were never worn in.

Although I walked off the edge of my map, I never found a bottle shop to get Jean a pre-dinner drink. I did find a Dick Smith store (closed), several bookshops, including a three floor Smiths. There was a Coffee Club near the hotel, so that pointed to alternative meals for Jean. I was delighted to find a Roneo shop! Yes, an actual shop with the name of an ink stencil reproduction method. I sort of doubt they actually stocked Roneo these days.

After dinner my searching (initially via phone book) for a bottle shop worked better. Across Cathedral Square was Liquor Express. The street it was on was broken by the cathedral, and I went to the wrong end first. On the way back I found an internet shop with cheap WiFi access. At Liquor Express I bought us a couple of bottles of the Montana we had for dinner, plus a couple of their chardonnay. Heading back to the hotel I took a shortcut, and found yet another WiFi access point, just out the back of the hotel. Jean used the more costly Ethernet in the room anyhow. Not that I blame her.

Wednesday 4 February 2009

Christchurch Morning

Electroluminescent night lights do not like getting wet. We always carry one when travelling, for unlit bathrooms. Ours got wet and when we first tried it was very dim. That gradually changed to being dual tone light and dark. By this morning I guess all the rainwater had evaporated, and it was back to being bright all over.

We had a Continental breakfast at the hotel, instead of wandering around looking for someplace open.

Jean managed to track her missing parcel by phoning the express delivery service. At least, the express delivery place claim it is on their truck this morning. Seems it has been in transit since Friday, and was stuck on the north island until Monday.

As we waited for collection by our day tour, the delivery service truck arrived at the Ibis Hotel. I pointed Jean out to the driver, and she took delivery of the parcel. I rushed it up to our hotel room.

Our Day Tour

Edoras Day Tour by Hassle Free Tours. Their Landrover collected us around 9 p.m. The driver and guide was Rex, probably older than us, and an absolutely wonderful tour guide. Not a moment went by without him being informative about what we were seeing. His timing was also great, legacy of over 400 such tours. Our group were all much younger than us, and consisted for two Swiss men, two German girls, a British couple, and two separate Japanese tourists, one with a Very Serious Camera. I got a fair bit of stick from Rex for being the only one in the group not to have seen Lord of the Rings.

Rex drove past the wonderful park that occupies so much of Christchurch. It is the third largest such park in a major city, beaten in size only by Central Park in New York, and Hyde Park in London.

We headed out of Christchurch inland across the spreading patchwork fields and past windbreak tree hedges of the food basket that is the Canterbury Plains. Sheep, of course. More cattle per field in denser populations than anyone from Australia expects. At one point we saw alpaca, smaller than lamas. Deer are also farmed for venison.

Our initial aim was Mt Somers. On the way you could clearly see how two successive waves of glaciers had bulldozed out the river valleys that scored the flat plains we had travelled through. We had a snack stop and toilet break while Rex collected our lunch.

Edoras Day Tour

Remote Mt Potts High Country Station was our access point to Mt Sunday. This seemingly untouched low mountain was transformed into Edoras, capital city of the Rohan from Lord of the Rings. The mountain peak is surrounded on all sides by taller mountains, shrouded in low cloud.

We had an adventurous drive through cold clear mountain streams and up a steep goat track that turned out to be more a cow path. Eventually we could go no further, and set out on foot for the peak. It was around a 15 minute walk. With the aid of her walking staff, Jean managed to scale it.

The view was wonderful. Our guide Rex produced various photos from Lord of the Rings, and showed where each scene was shot, relative to the surrounding mountains. I hope some of my photos show this relationship.

Edoras was purpose built over 9 months for the film, shooting totalled only about 8 good days, and then the whole thing was torn down, and the land restored. I saw only one surveyors nail and one anchor bold hole to give evidence on any building ever existing. Of course, some of the buildings existed only inside computers, and others were mainly plywood and polyester rocks. The magic of make believe.

So we saw the Misty Mountains, and the backdrop to Helms Deep. We learnt that the dwarf was over six foot tall. His short, non-speaking double got a heap of work. The army got to play a lot of extras. I bet a lots of Maoris were Orcs. There were over 20,000 extras used in the movies.

Some of the young men showed their strength by carrying two prop swords and a battle axe to the peak, where they acted out movie parts. Our guide Rex posed some of the people in the position of the actors, so we could photograph them with the same backgrounds. The props Hassle Free Tours provided included Aragorn's Sword, Eowyn's Sword, and Gimli's Axe.

Leaving Edoras

Hassle Free Travel have a base at a former sheep shearing shed at Mt Potts High Country Station. There we had a wonderful, albeit late, lunch provided by the little shop we had stopped at on the way. I had no idea a giant slice of chocolate cake would be provided. It went well with the sparkling wine.

The base camp had the various props we took along. It also have a nice bench seat with Gandalf and his staff seated on it, not unlike Ronald McDonald.. I photographed Jean next to this unlikely Gandalf. They had a nice Flag of Rohan. There was various Edoras merchandise for sale. Jean bought one of the LotR location guides, as some of our other tours will feature these locations.

Our guide Rex did not talk non-stop during our return. Instead he played some interesting background DVDs about LotR. We did take a different route back, which gave a chance to see more of the countryside and indeed Christchurch itself. We arrived back at out hotel around 6 p.m. after a most enjoyable tour.

Evening in Christchurch

We collapsed. Around 7 p.m. we roused enough to search for dinner. After all the food on the tour, we settled on sharing a kebab in a box from a souvlaki place around the corner from the Ibis hotel. It was pretty good too. Plus we had the remains of the bottle of wine from dinner the previous night.

Jean worked on the contents of her parcel. A pre-paid mobile phone. Alas, the magic incantations for actually getting it to connect seemed not to match the reality of doing so. I have no idea why mobile phones are such a pain to use, but I do have a pretty good idea why hardly anyone likes mobile phone companies.

I went out again to check the Whitcoulls, but it seemed more like the numerous 24 hour convenience food stores nearby. We figured we would try to find a supermarket over the next few days. We want a cooler box, in case we want to carry a lunch with us sometime. I would like a few wine glasses, as hotels tend not to always have them on hand. I also wanted some sort of stiff board, like a clipboard or a kitchen cutting board, as a stand for my computer. when a desk was not available.

Thursday 5 February 2009

Morning in Christchurch

We were up before our alarm. Being impetuous, I managed to snap my shoe laces. I found a sort of replacement at one of the 24 convenience stores across from the hotel, but sports laces are a bit large. Being lazy, we had a full breakfast at the Ibis Hotel bistro.

A driver from Nationwide Car Rentals met us in the lobby at 9 a.m. and drove us over the scenic route out of town to their office near Christchurch Airport. Our travel insurance covers most excesses, but we did take the glass cover, since you never know when some vandal will take exception to your vehicle. By 9:45 we were on the road in a slightly battered silver Nissan Pulsar CLY299 with either a 1.6 litre or a 1.8 litre engine and 111134 kilometres on the clock. It was a strange experience to sink down, down, down into the low slung seats. Luckily despite the size it had plenty of boot space for our large suitcases.

We headed along route 1 south west parallel to the coast along the Canterbury Plains through Rakaia and Ashburton. At Rakaia we crossed the longest bridge in New Zealand, the 1770 metre Rakaia River bridge, built in 1939.

We stopped at a supermarket in Ashburton around 11 a.m. to collect some plates, some (plastic) wine glasses, some crackers and some breakfast cereal, and a proper pair of shoe laces (except for being the wrong colour). Jean got a large date scone as a snack, and somehow it got to 11:40 a.m. before we departed the area.

Driving Inland

We continued through Rangitata and inland to Geraldine. The Nationwide driver had suggested stopping at some favoured cafe here for a meal, but alas we could not find the place. We did manage a welcome toilet stop.

Route 79 took us through curved roads to Fairlie, Kimbell and Burke's Pass. There were some great places for scenic photos of distant mountains. Then we came upon the magnificent blue waters of Lake Takapo. We made a lot of stops to photograph the water and the surrounding mountains. One side track took us to the tiny Church of the Good Shepherd. The altar windows frames the lake and the mountains, but as there was a wedding in progress, we could not check this. Naturally I also photographed the small hydroelectric dam at Lake Takapo.

We stopped for fuel at Lake Takapo. The Nissan Pulsar took only 17 litres, but at NZ$1.75 or so, that cost about NZ$31. For some reason diesel is very cheap, at just over a dollar. In Australia diesel is more expensive than lead free. I was worried about the fuel tank showing full with only 17 litres of fuel. However on reflection, we had probably done only 230 km (actually 234 km), so that would fit a fuel consumption of around 7 litres per 100 kilometres.

We continued across the Mackenzie Basin for another 50 or so kilometres through even more twists and turns. I was delighted to learn that James MacKenzie and his collie dog Friday were sheep stealers. MacKenzie and Friday rounded up 1000 sheep and set off overland in 1855.

The glacial Lake Pukaki was just as blue, but even larger. Another hydroelectric dam. We continued along the western edge of Lake Pukaki into the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park. The mountain scenery is magnificent. We stopped a lot for additional photographs.

Mount Cook Village

Mount Cook Village is at the dry head of Lake Pukati. The Hermitage Hotel has amazing views of Mount Cook through a mountain pass. It took us a little while to find a spot to park near reception when we arrived at 4:30 p.m. Even the parking lot and the glass sided elevator had an amazing view. We soon had our key to one of the self contained chalet 200 metres away. At the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre we confirmed our tour booking for the following morning.

We checked the Snowline Lounge, then went through the Alpine buffet restaurant, to the Panorama Restaurant. We decided we could not do justice to the fine looking $54 buffet at the Alpine, and made a 6 p.m. booking for the Panorama Restaurant instead.

The area beside the chalet for our parking spot was conveniently near the doorway, up a narrow steeply rising alley with sleepers and vegetation close to the sides. Since Jean had done all the driving to get here, I backed the car into this, so it would get easier to get the luggage out later. No way a passenger could open the door in any place I could position the car. We settled in, and had a small celebratory glass of wine.

Panoramic Dinner

It was soon time to walk up the path back to the hotel for dinner. Our selections from the Panorama Restaurant were outstanding, as was the view of the 3754 metre Mount Cook. The meal was preceded by a complimentary sample of sliced roast duck on Asian noodles, and followed by a small pastry.

Jean had poppy seed scented venison Denver leg, served on capsicum and kumara enhanced potato mush, accompanied by a pumpkin crêpe. I had lamb loin with a vegetable soufflé, details of which I do not recall.

We followed the main meal with the dessert special, a small rich chocolate dish, almost like a fudge, with a small expresso coffee icecream, and some tiny cubes of a rich citrus jelly. We had a Sacred Hill of Central Otago, The Wine Thief Series, Pinot Noir 2006, to complement the meal, and asked the restaurant to hold the remaining wine for our return. It was certainly the best meal we have had this trip, this year, and probably the best in the past several years. We made a booking for the following evening also.

We collapsed soon after returning to the chalet. I stayed up only long enough to type these notes. I did however discover we were within range of a WiFi hotspot from a previously unknown restaurant a little distance up the hill from us.

Displaying Maori Words

Displaying any subtleties of Maori terms is a classic problem for Unicode internationalisation of language tags. Although Maori is transliterated into ASCII text, the long vowel sound of many Pacific languages is usually indicated by a macron. Since I do not know the correct pronunciation of most Maori words I have quoted, I have settled for surrounding them with a span element, with a lang attribute indicating Maori. In the same way that a few paragraphs ago I tagged crêpe and soufflé as French. Native speakers or voice synthesisers noticing this may use the correct pronunciation.

Friday 6 February 2009

Morning at Mount Cook

We were up just before 7 a.m. We lurched around for a fair while rather like zombies. Eventually we headed for the Hermitage Hotel, with our packs for the morning activities.

It was not until around 8 a.m. that we lurched into the Alpine Restaurant for a Continental breakfast. Rather than return to our room, we used the strange Japanese style hand washing shelf in the hotel bathroom to clean up after breakfast. We had seen one of these unusual bathrooms previously near a Japanese restaurant in Sydney. I went back a little later to take a photo of the plumbing arrangement with my iPhone.

While Jean waited for the bus, I took some photos of the Hermitage Hotel from a distance. There was also a nice location to photograph the statue of Sir Edmund Hillary, so I took some snaps of that.

A while later some Kea, an olive green New Zealand Alpine parrot, came along, so I added a few photos of these. You are warned against feeding these protected but destructive parrots. Not apparent in my photos, when they fly they have rust to orange patches on the underside of the wings, and on the back where their wing feathers usually hide it. Unfortunately stouts were set loose in New Zealand, and have reduced much of the original bird life.

Although the shuttle and the bus arrived some time before the tour, we did not set off on one of the Glacier Explorer vehicles until around 10 a.m. There were about 45 people in the group by then, the majority with a Japanese tour. The Hermitage Hotel seems to be exceedingly popular with the Japanese and Koreans. Many of their staff appeared to be Asian.

Glacier Explorer Tour

Tasman Valley area was only about a 15 minutes or so bus ride, much of it over a narrow, gravel road. Mount Tasman, named after Dutch explorer Abel Tasman for whom Tasmania is also named, is around 3490 metres. The Tasman Glacier is 29 kilometres long, the longest glacier in temperate regions. It is however receding around a third of a metre per day.

The walk around and up the terminal moraine that trapped the Tasman Glacier lake waters seemed to change distance with each announcement. Estimates varied between 25 and 15 minutes. Jean did not find it easy walking at all on the moraine, and was last to arrive at the actual glacial lake.

The tourists were spread among four rubber boats, two 15 seat and two 9 seat. We were put at the front, protected by the windscreen, an this proved mostly a good position from which to take photos. Our boat handler and guide was Alan, an Australian. He had on short cargo pants and a T shirt. Most of the rest of us were bundled up in long sleeved shirts, warm pants and had jackets. Jean had two jackets. Then a life preserver went on over the top.

Luckily the boats were not named Titanic II to V. We were soon zooming out to various small icebergs at the near end of the lake. The ice chipped from them was wonderfully clear, and the ice retained cohesion far longer than I expected when taken on board. Given how the ice sheets and icebergs are covered with rock and ground up rock, the clear appearance of the broken off ice was a surprise. These suspended rock particles are what gives the lakes further down their milky blue appearance.

The freezing and movement of the glacier was such that the icebergs were actually granular, made of numerous small granules of ice bound together. In fresh water, about 10% of the ice showed above the surface. The lake water is only a fraction of a degree above freezing, except for the top ten centimetres or so. There sunlight increases the temperature to perhaps a degree and a half. So the icebergs melt more rapidly just below the surface. They then rise a little, so you have a wide flat platform indented around their edge at water level. You can see strata as they rise.

We were lucky enough to see a small iceberg turn over while we were nearby. Nearer to the glacier, a large iceberg had calved off the glacier surface only that morning. There the blue of the new ice was very apparent. Over the next day, sunlight will erase the colour, leaving it white.

Return from the Ice

The Glacier Explorer tour was wonderful, although we both got a little sunburnt. We were not sure a hat would stay on while in the boat. As the lake is surrounded by mountains, the opportunities for photography are great. However eventually it was time to return to the dock.

This time Jean was determined not to be last back at the bus, and set a fair pace to keep some of the younger tourists in sight. She was most certainly not the last to return.

We remained at the Hermitage Hotel and had lunch at the Sir Edmund Hillary centre cafe. The hotel had given us four $10 off cards, so we used two of them to cut lunch cost to $13. Jean's warm salmon quiche pleased her, while I had a toasted ham, cheese, onion and tomato panino. Jean had a green salad on the side, but we were soon to discover both means came with a salad anyhow. Orange juice and Coke were both on the expensive side, so having some food discounts pleased us.

We walked back down the track to the chalet, where Jean promptly went to sleep. I went out and did our laundry at the nearby laundry hut. We had only four days of washing, but we are uncertain about exactly when it will next be convenient to do laundry.

Evening at Mount Cook

Jean arose at 5:25 p.m. and started looking forward to dinner. We again have a 6 p.m. booking at the Panorama Restaurant that so impressed us last night. Alas, today is the Waitangi Day holiday, when price at many tourist places rise by 10%-15%. This was the case here. However we had on hand two $10 discount vouchers to reduce the price rather well.

Jean had the Mount Cook Manuka hot smoked salmon fillet on potato, egg and chives stamp accompanied by a Dijon mustard sauce, garnished with cucumber and watercress salad. In view of the size of breakfast and lunch, I restricted myself to an appetiser. Smoked and tea marinated venison loin with dried fig - prune salad finished with juniper berry froth.

It was once again a superb set of flavours, and shows how well the Panorama Restaurant does food. We inspected their cookbooks, but decided that even the simplified recipes they provided were beyond our capacity and likely effort. A pity some of our food loving friends do not live closer.

Saturday 7 February 2009

Leaving Mount Cook

Again we were up without the need for an alarm. We partly packed the car. We took our cameras with us to the Alpine Restaurant for a Continental breakfast prior to departing. Took more obligatory scenic photos. After we had the car packed, I took the key back to the hotel for checkout.

Upon my return to the chalet, I rushed straight past a car that was in the way. Jean had to yell at me to make me realise it was our hire car.

On the Road

Back alongside Lake Pukaki for about 55 kilometres, until we can pass through the tourist town of Twizzel, built large for the hydroelectric scheme many years ago. Twizzle had a number of large trucks and bulldozers as a central feature of a park on the outskirts. We refuelled at Twizzel, but the car only took 9.68 litres in its 50 litre fuel tank, at a cost of NZ$13.25.

Another 38 kilometres brought us through Omarama. I think we unsuccessfully checked the supermarket here for a clip board.

Through the barren hills surrounding 971 metre Lindis Pass and along a twisted turning road for 100 kilometres or so to the next town. We stopped for photos, and I took several through the window. There was much evidence of hydroelectric power schemes, with massive electricity transmission lines. Then the Lindis Valley into Central Otago region.

We reached Tarras, near the top of Lake Dunstan. The eating place we stopped at seemed to only have large meals. After our buffet breakfast, I did not need a large meal, so we left. Jean had somehow managed to pack a sandwich with leftovers from breakfast, and was happily munching that from time to time.

We drove along the side of Lake Dunstan. Past the old gold town of Bendigo, where we saw our first wineries. Across Lake Dunstan we could see the town of Mount Pisa.


Our travel agent informs us the Cromwell area is home to many wineries, such as Wooing Tree, which we saw as we approached the town around 1:45 p.m. The town is near the junction of the Kawarau and Clutha Rivers, and was once known as The Junction during the 1862 goldrush. When the Clyde River Dam was built, the old commercial centre of Cromwell was flooded by Lake Dunstan. The town centre was rebuilt to the north west.

Cromwell started very well for me, with some giant fruit (a pear, an apple, and two others whose identity escaped me) indicating the entrance to a park. Naturally as a giant anything enthusiast, I stopped for photos. We were later to discover the back of this park contained a skate board park.

We soon came upon a supermarket. Although we could still not recall what we wanted (except for a cutting board as a desk for my computer). we entered. Somehow we managed to recall we needed plastic breakfast bowls, for cereal. We also recalled we needed a cooler bag for our drinks. Both were available and cheap.

On leaving the supermarket, I noticed a charity selling a sausage and onions on a slice of bread as a fund raiser. Before we left Cromwell, that was my small snack for lunch!

There was more. On the outskirts of Cromwell we saw an orchard place and Juicy Cafe advertising fresh fruit ice cream. Made of mixed berries and regular ice cream. That almost sounded healthy, so we shared a small tub of this mixture before leaving town.

We drove around the small township of Clyde, where Clyde dam and hydroelectric plant harness the waters of Lake Dunstan. There was a lookout on a turnoff from Route 8. Then we followed Sunderland Street to another lookout and into Clyde. Across the bridge over the Clutha River below the Clyde Dam, we were able to follow Fruitgrowers Road and get close to Clyde Dam and the hydroelectric plant.

We were able to stop to take photos of the Clyde dam and the electricity generation plant from both sides of the river. I just like a nice dam and power station. One amusing business name in Cylde, The Dam Pub. The town has been there for some time, as shown by the war memeorial to the fallen from WWI and WWII. Originally a herb preserving plant, the thyme processing factory is now a herb museum. Thyme now grows throughout the arid desert area, out-competing most native vegetation.

The entire area is covered by hydroelectric plants. Aviemore, producing 220,000 kW. Waitaki, 107,000 kW. The largest is Benmore, with 540,000 kW. Ohau produces 264,000 kW. New Zealand is a wonderful place for hydroelectric power. Although, as always with hydroelectric, were the population larger, it would be totally inadequate.


Centennial Court Motel was our destination, a few blocks prior to the Alexandra town centre. The room seemed most comfortable, with two large leather look trigger recliner chairs. Alas, there was no desk for our computers.

Jean sent me to check the surrounds. The motel were kind enough to give me an extensive list of places to eat in town, their own restaurant being closed that evening. They recommended Oscar's, nearby. They also gave me a nice map. I took my spoils back to Jean.

Further walking led me to Oscar's, whose menu seemed suitable. I also found a newsagent, who helped me avoid buying a clipboard as a computer table, by pointing to some stiff cardboard covered notebooks that seemed likely to fulfil the task of desk substitute. I bought one, and a local paper.

I continue walking, to follow our directions for the meeting point for a tour the next day, and located the boat ramp for our river cruise. It was a fair walk, but level, and not beyond what Jean could handle. We did not want to be using the car and leaving it at the boat ramp.

I also checked part of the town centre, plus the menu at a pub with a large number of motor cycles in front. A Liquor Shop was able to check they did not have Sacred Hill Wine Thief Series Pinot Noir. I noticed they did have a Montana Reserve Pinot Noir at $26.

I was surprised at the number of motor bikes around. I asked some bikers my own age. There was a rally of 1200 motorcyclists in town, with another 1200 expected later. There certainly were some impressive motorbikes around. Jean thought this was cool, as she has wanted to take up riding some sort of large motorcycle.

When we went to dinner, I neglected to note Oscar's had lamb shanks, not lamb shank! Two large lamb shanks per serve, not one, on a bed of potato and pumpkin mash, with a side of vegetables. We amazed ourselves by pretty much getting through it all. We shared a New Zealand beer. The price for the two of us was most reasonable. I am still somnolent from overeating several hours after, despite attempting to walk off the meal.

Sunday 8 February 2009

Morning in Alexandra

We do not trust alarm clocks in motels. The one in our room was off. When I tried to set it last night, the alarm section was most inconsistent. In particular, no obvious way to switch the alarm off. We did not want a midnight alarm, so we switched it off again. Despite this, we were awake before 7 a.m.

The bathroom had one peculiarity. The bathroom heater was mounted directly above the sink, pointing straight down. The only shelf for your toiletries was directly above the sink. The shelf and its contents rapidly reached a temperature too high to touch. This was not good positioning. Although perhaps New Zealanders are used to the cold and never feel it enough to need a heater.

Breakfast in the Centennial Motel dining room at 8 a.m. After the copious quantities of food last night, we restricted ourselves to the Continental breakfast.

We walked down Centennial Street, the main street leading to the town centre, until we came to Dunorling Street. Although this street diverges, if you go straight ahead, instead of the bridge you reach the boat ramp where we meet our skipper from Clutha River Cruises. As it happened, we sighted the large rubber cruise boat being towed by a 4WD pull into a petrol station as we walked by.

We continued our walk towards the boat ramp, stopping at the information centre beside Pioneer Park in the centre of town to use their facilities.

Clutha River Cruise

Clutha is the highest volume river in New Zealand, and around seventh in the world. Near the bridge at Alexandra, the Clutha is joined by the Manuherikia River, while downstream is Lake Roxburgh.

As it happened, we were the only passengers on this 10 a.m. cruise. We have great service from out guide and boat skipper Steve.

We cruised around 14 kilometres downstream, through the narrows of Roxburgh Gorge towards Lake Roxburgh. Along the way, the hillsides get more and more desolate in this arid region, soon resembling a lunar landscape. While there is now some scrappy vegetation, when the miners arrived around 1860, all the vegetation had been burnt by Maori in pursuit of moa.

Mining shelters from the 1860's gold rush were rock, nothing but rock. Tiny stone huts, often partially or totally under larger rocks. These shelters disappear into the rock of the hillside, difficult to see at any time.

Historic mining site at Doctors Point was our stop for a walk. This was a large site. You can see the remains of the general store. Numerous miner shelters. The walk is somewhat steep and the rocks are loose. Jean had to work at getting through this site, but our guide was willing to take it easy. This was a really interesting walk, added to greatly by the knowledge Steve had of the site, and his obvious enthusiasm.

Water for the metal basin sluices, and the rock sluices, came from around 17 km away. The miners lacked machinery to raise water from the Clutha River so close below them, so they built clay lined canals that carried water in (for a fee). The water dropped a mere one foot per mile, despite crossing gorges in suspended canvas tubes. A number of dams helped control and regulate the water flow.

We had a small bite to eat on the shore of the river. Other visitors had arrived in a boat. Some of them had knowledge from their family of some of the history of the site. Our guide was interested in adding to his already excellent background information. We chatted for a while before making a somewhat faster return trip than our voyage out.

We returned to the boat ramp around 12:30 p.m. Jean was not impressed at the walk up the river bank to the flat area of the town.

Back in Alexandra

There is a clock on the hillside of Knobbies Range to the east, overlooking the town of Alexandra. It is eleven metres in diameter, with a 5.6 metre minute hand, and a 4 metre hour hand, each weighing 270 kilogram. It is powered via a reduction gearbox from a 3/4 horsepower synchronous electric motor. The lighting of the hands is via 150 torch bulbs. The clock is supported by six vertical steel columns, around 7.3 metres long. The clock was built by local Jaycees, over 42 working bees, and 1264 man hours, and completed in December 1968.

Alexandra has very little rainfall, with locals saying 200 mm a year and guidebooks suggesting 330 mm a year. The area around the town looked arid. However the sky looked weird. An angry grey brown, that may have foreshadowed rain. We eventually decided it might be partly smoke from the Australian bush fires.

We walked back to our motel in the noon heat. A number of cafes were open, and running specials for the bikers still in town. I checked the New World supermarket for Jean, and got her some Brie as a midday snack.

I could not resist later visiting the Dick Smith store near the motel. It still stocked an impressive number of dial-up modems, probably because this is a spread out rural area. They also had a nice range of handy gadgets new to me. We do not have a local Dick Smith store (only an agency), and I can usually only spend a limited time wandering at leisure when Jean and I visit a major town. I can see I will need to take a wander through some such store back home. I did not know I should have looked for a USB extender for the computer Jean is taking to Lyn. The store did have some suitable ones.

Evening in Alexandra

Jean decided we would get ingredients for dinner and lunch at the New World. Half chicken for dinner. Ham, cheese and bread rolls to make a lunch for on the road tomorrow when we will be short of time. A few muffins for snacks. Some cans of Coke for my bad habit. Since I had discovered a regrettable number of socks with holes in them, I got a half dozen pairs of socks for the rest of the trip.

The dining plan seemed to work fine. Plenty of food, and we were still working on the second of the bottles of wine I had bought in Christchurch.

Jean sent me off to organise a WifI connection for her computer. She has been spending the evening checking her email, and looking up news reports of the Australian fires. I worked on bringing these notes up to date. I have a bad feeling about tomorrow, and an even worse feeling about the following day.

Monday 9 February 2009

Leaving Alexandra

The hotel clock blinked 12:00 at around 5:30 a.m. Once again I switched the hotel clock off. It had acted in a suspicious manner all during our stay. However we were showered and packing well before our own alarm was due at 6:30 a.m. Hot breakfast at the hotel, and on the road to Roxburgh through rolling but dry sheep country before 8 a.m. It was even a good road. I think the car started at around 111710 kilometres.

We made good time, however the overcast soon turned to rain so our speed decreased. We had no navigation problems and were refuelling (less that 24 litres, despite the fuel gauge showing 5/8 empty). We collected the fuel in the major town of Gore at around 10 a.m. I note with amusement that almost directly east of Gore is the smaller town of Clinton. You can not make this stuff up!

We reached Lumsden by 11 a.m. By this time we knew we would have no problems with our schedule, so we hung around for some time. However the rain did not decrease. If anything, it simply got heavier.

Towards Te Anau

Mossburn was the last town we passed through. I tried getting a disposable raincoat. The FourSquare supermarket (a tiny place) suggested trying 400 metres up the road. We were headed up there to use the public toilets anyway. No luck at the cafe (with some tourist junk). I tried the garage, for completeness. They were amused, but suggested I try the cafe across the road from the FourSquare where we started.

Jean meanwhile had already started on the bread rolls and ham and cheese we had in the small brand new Sistema fold up cooler bag. However perhaps if Sistema had made a few modifications, so the bag didn't open when you lifted it by the handle, and so the width remained constant when closed, Sistema may have sold it for $14.95 in an upmarket store, rather than at $3.99 in a supermarket. Most amusing part of the paper label, was it declared a fabric cooler bag was Lead Free!

I had my share of the real food. Then I returned to the cafe to buy an ice cream. Who could resist an Orgasmic organic Chocolate Climax with Saucy Ripple? Naturally it could hardly live up to its billing.

We returned to the thriving heart of Mossburn, 300 metres back, and I checked the other cafe. Full of people queueing for meals. It seemed very popular. Lots of tourist trinkets. It may well have had the raincoat I wanted, however the queue at the cash register made it obvious I would not get service in the time we had available. We continued towards Te Anau.


At the second turn off to Mavora Lakes Road, about 1:10 p.m., 29 km down the road, we stopped on the gravel verge behind an unidentified four wheel drive vehicle. This contained John von Tunzelman, our tour guide. We followed him to a nearby house, as a safer place to leave our hire car. Then we all set off in the rain in his four wheel drive, along a gravel road to South Mavora Lake. This is one of two lakes fed by the Mararoa River, the other being the larger North Mavora Lake.

John was a former deer hunter who had worked for the Department of Conservation as a head ranger. One of his assignments had been to oversee Peter Jackson's film production crew for Lord of the Rings in the Mavora Lakes area. He spent six weeks with them to ensure filming did not cause problems for the environment. He soon discovered that the film crew were most responsible, so most of the assignment John could spend observing how film makers operated.

John took us to the locations used to film Fangorn Forest and Nen Hithoel. We visited the Orc Hobbit chase scenes area, and walked around the log where the Hobbits hid. John also showed us the location where Gandalf whistled for his horse Shadowfax. The Lake actually stood in for the river during the film. John also showed us the location of the filming of the heap of burning Orc bodies. Of course, this was accompanied by many stories of events during the filming. So we have a lot of photos that may make better sense if I had actually seen the movies.

John also had his own stories of working as a ranger. Two dangerous trees near a camp site, and a work crew about to fell them. One could be dropped safely into the forest. The other had to fall across the camping area. Only one small tent in the way, with bicycle tracks around it. They picked up the entire tent still erect, and carried it safely out of the way. Then they felled the tree. Chainsawed a large section out of the middle of the tree, and returned the tent to the gap in the fallen tree. Alas, they had to continue working elsewhere, and never did see the reaction of the returning campers.

John was wonderful value as a tour guide, as well as being helpful and friendly. He and his wife run a bed and breakfast in Te Anau.

Te Anau

We followed John into Te Anau, and he kindly led us right to our self contained apartments, Campbells on the Lake. John told us it was a nice place, and it certainly was. Twelve one bedroom units, with nice lounge rooms and a self contained kitchen. Reception handed Jean an Ethernet cable, and told us WiFi was also free (try the front of the lounge).

Since there was no restaurant or food service, we drove through the rain to a supermarket a few blocks away. We stocked up for a few breakfasts, and dinner that evening. Before long we were back at the apartment, getting stuck into our wine. We also had a proper dinner, for pie sized portions of dinner.

The rain eventually stopped, as John had promised. The clouds and moisture provided a wonderful sunset from our room at Campbells on the Lake overlooking Lake Te Anau. We took photos.

WiFi reception from the Zenbu network was much as promised. I logged my iPhone in and quickly checked outstanding email. Then I read some of the news of the Australian bush fires. Must be serious. Even the politicians have stopped sniping at each other for the moment. I caught up with some email, but mostly I do not attempt to check email (or anything else) while travelling.

Tuesday 10 February 2009

Early Start at Te Anau

Downloaded GPS Kit from the Apple Apps Store to my iPhone, in the hope of geo-locating some photos. I could not get a GPS location from our room, but 2/3 of the sky would have been out of view. I also took advantage of the WiFi when I arose to pick up Australian news. We had breakfast in our unit.

I took some photos out over the lake again in the clear early morning light of the rising sun. It provides a nice contrasting view to the sunset photos of yesterday evening.

We were driving to Milford Sound by 7:45 a.m.

We were delayed a while in leaving by the need to wipe the rain and condensation off the car windows. Naturally we had no cloths for that purpose. The car had 112023 kilometre on the odometer, and we were keeping a close eye on distances, as there is no fuel at Milford Sound.

It was cold in the morning, but wonderfully clear. We had to run the car heaters for most of the trip to keep the windows clear of condensation. My feet didn't warm up until after we ended our drive. Jean did all the driving.

I tried to photograph the light on the small clumps of cloud flanking the hills. There were some wonderful light effects there, perhaps too subtle for the camera.

Every now and them we plunged into dense rain forest. The amount of light dropped dramatically. So did the quality of my photos. Then we would emerge to mountain scenery, complete with snow or ice, or something that appeared cold and white.

I find the concept of snow in the middle of summer to be truly bizarre. Then I reflected that these areas are twice our home distance from the equator. Indeed, New Zealand is halfway to the South Pole. We passed the 45 degree sign on this trip. Plus we live at sea level, whereas much of New Zealand has real actual mountains. The landscapes were formed by genuine glaciers.

Fiordland National Park

Milford Sound is a mere 120 kilometre drive, partly through Fiordland National Park. The guides say allow two to three hours. There are several good reasons it is a slow trip. You will probably stop frequently for photographs. We certainly did. The road is very steep and winding after you get halfway to Milford Sound. Passing is close to impossible for long stretches, and there are many tourist buses and campervans on the road. In addition, there is a long, single land road tunnel with a 15 minute wait for the lights to cycle.

Concerned about our available time, we did not stop at Eglinton Valley to check the Reflecting Pools. Upon our return, the wind had disturbed the water and they were no longer reflecting. The ducks didn't help any either.

We reached the parking lot at Milford Sound at about 9:55, with 15 minutes to spare before ticket collection. However the walk from the parking lot to the boats was ten minutes.

Milford Sound

Real Journeys

Back in Te Anau

Fuel at Te Anau, at 112267 kilometres, taking 24.41 litres, and costing NZ$44.70. We had not been sure where the petrol stations were, so when we saw it across from the supermarket, we went across. We also got some more supermarket pies for dinner, taking the lazy way out.

Back at Campbells on the Lake, I did our laundry while Jean rested from the drive. The laundry took until about 5:45 p.m.

My walk along the foreshore and the central shopping area of Te Anau showed a pleasant and tidy town, with heaps of tourist facilities. Apart from the obvious boat trip booking agents, there was a seaplane anchored a little offshore, advertising sightseeing trips. The town had several garden parks with seats for tourists to sit and eat. There were a number of eating places, as well as bars. It reminded me a lot of Airlie Beach, but perhaps more upmarket.

I also spotted the cinema that shows their tourist film about the Fiordland area. Several people had recommended that film. However it was too far for Jean to walk that evening, and did not open in the morning until 10 a.m. What I should have done was bought the DVD.

We waste a fair amount of time on the free internet. As well, we transferred all our photos into our computers. To my annoyance, I discovered my Kodak Z740 digital camera could not handle 4GB memory cards. I had to rearrange how I used my cards, reserving the 4GB cards for the Canon TX1 camera. Unfortunately, I do not use the Canon as much as the Kodak (I hate LCD displays as viewfinders - they are useless).

Wednesday 11 February 2009

Leaving Te Anau

Manapouri was our first stop, although a diversion away from our destination. This is a little lakeside resort village about 20 km south from Te Anau. It is not on Lake Te Anau, but on Lake Manapouri. It was a very pretty little resort town, with tourist boat rides. We took some photos of their lake. Our odometer was showing 112270 kilometres.

We took a the Hillside Manapouri side road that rejoined the road to Mossburn. Deer were the thing Jean wanted to see along the way. We sighted several fields full of deer along the way, and were often able to stop to photograph them. They always seemed to keep their distance, unlike some other farmed animals. I blame Jean, for muttering venison whenever she saw a deer.

My camera exhausted the second set of two Lithium AA batteries while on the road. I started the trip with 4 packs of 4, so I have no rush to get more. I was caught short on batteries on a previous trip, and was determined it would not happen again. I also keep a set in my pack, in case of a sudden loss of battery power.

As we approached Mossburn we could see the nearby windfarm on top of the ridge. I sighted at least 16 wid turbines. Being in the Roaring '40's, New Zealand is a good place for wind turbines. Wind is also a good match with hydroelectric power, as water can be turned on rapidly when the wind dies down.

Stop at Mossburn at 11:30 a.m. for a snack and rest break. It proclaims itself deer capital of the South Island. We took another short cut here onto the road to Queenstown.

To Queenstown

Garston was our lunch stop, with an odometer reading of 112403 kilometres. Our lunch consisted of leftover ham and cheese (well, a cheese-like pre-sliced substance in individual serves). There was a pleasant park at this small town, with nice views as well. We did not leave Garston until 1 p.m. We were taking it slow, with many stops for photographs.

Fairlight had the railway station and tourist shop for the end of the Kingston Flyer steam train run. Naturally we stopped to check the station.

Kingston, and the southern end of Lake Wakatipu. Here was the home of the Kingston Flyer steam train, nestled next to an impressive hill side beside the lake. The Kingston Flyer was making an impressive amount of steam. It was hauling three carriages. It made for a wonderful performance as it pulled away from the station and headed for Fairlight. The station is also very neat, with a nice bar as well as the ticket sales and tourist shop.

Devil's Staircase photos. This showed the numerous twists and turns of the road along the edge of Lake Wakatipu towards Frankton and Queenstown.

We stopped at the Halfway Bay lookout to take photos of this shallow bay halfway along Lake Wakatipu between Kingston and Queenstown.

Frankston. We were scanning the side roads to find when we reached the area of our map. Then we came to a total halt. House on road. Well, more accurately, a decent sized wooden house on a very large flat bed transport organised by King House Removals. Must be a fairly frequent things to move wooden homes here. The house could barely fit around some roundabouts and bridges. Police escorts were pulling oncoming traffic entirely off the road. Many delays due to this, until it pulled off the road on the outskirts of Queenstown.


Queenstown overlooks Lake Wakatipu. It seemed almost as if every house clung to a steep hillside in quest of a water view. We had some trouble following the Google map Jean had printed out. However my wild guesses eventually led us pretty much straight to the Buena Vista motel.

Traffic was incredible, and we had some trouble getting the car to the right driveway. We eventually realised it was parents collecting school children from the primary school a short distance down the road from our motel, the Bella Vista.

New staff member could not initially find our booking, but with a little help from the owner soon got us our room key.

Paragliders were jumping off the peak above us, which was served by a cable lift. Two landed in the small park next to the motel while we were moving the car in. When I went for a walk later I counted seven in the air, and watched another two land.

Searched Queenstown for suitable food. Finally found a Four Square supermarket where I could get fixings for breakfast. Luckily that was not too far away. Unfortunately, I found it only after walking all over Queenstown, including down as far as the lake.


Expensive meal at Brazz Bar dinner, on Athol Street and Ballarat Street, off to the side of the main street of Queenstown. Jean had lamb medallion with eggplant, capsicum, chick peas and yoghurt sauce. I was heaped and gigantic. I had tapas. Breaded fried camembert with cranberry sauce, and beef skewers with mint yoghurt. There were three skewers, and seven camembert. I should have stuck with one dish.

Found some Sacred Hill Pinot Noir in The Wine Thief Series at Betty's Bottle shop on the main street, so we bought two bottles. I had asked at their other shop in town, without finding that particular Sacred Hill. Indeed, I had asked at most bottle shops in town.

Thursday 12 February 2009

Skippers Canyon Road

Skippers Canyon, a gold rush area in the Mount Aurum Recreational Reserve, was our morning tour. Adam of Nomad Safaris met us promptly at 8:30 a.m. at our hotel with a 4WD. He also picked up four more people from a British tour group in town.

A short distance by road, past the Shotover River jet boat terminal below the road bridge. These are the famous jet boats you see so often in tourist photos. We climbed the heights surrounding Queenstown, and ran into cloud.

We eventually turned off on a dirt road. This became a worse dirt road past a sign warning hire cars were not covered by insurance past this point. It eventually became an outright dangerous mountain track. The road into the Shotover River valley was cut by contractors for the gold mining companies along 14 kilometres of steep hillside and sheer cliff through the mountain. It was all built by hand, with the 14 kilometres of track taking 7 years to complete.

The short Hells Gate through rock took the road crew three months. A short distance further on is Heavens Gate, about the length of our Landrover. This took a mere one month to cut. Bus Scratch corner has an overhang such that any wider than average vehicle is scraped along one side trying to maintain its tyres on the road.

The road has no crash barriers. At many places you look directly down a drop of from 100 to 400 metres to the river valley far below. For historical accuracy, the road really can not be modernised. Just the drive itself is an experience. Especially if you meet a vehicle coming the other way.

Skippers Canyon

Some interesting points along the way. The Cricket Pitch. Maroi Point.

We passed a few homes of hardy individuals. One gold mining pair moved to the edge of the canyon to be closer to town, and lived there until in their eighties.

There have been about 20 hotels along the way. The Welcome Home Hotel lasted from 1908 to 1942, despite being burnt down and rebuilt in 1930. The decline in gold mining eventually closed it in the late 1940's, when it was demolished. Today only a chimney and a few foundation steps remain.

There are former bungee jump points. Pipeline bungee crosses the canyon at a height of 102 metres. It was replaced by a point offering 135 metres. Just a coincidence that a pipeline happens to have sufficient framing strength for bungee jumping, plus a convenient foot way across.

There is a old Australian mining dredge lying rusting in the river. It was imported, but without the bolts. The miners made do with welding. However the adjustments that suited Australia were not able to be altered once it was welded together, and it never did work correctly. It was eventually destroyed by a flood.

Lord of the Rings

Ford of Bruinen shows fording a stream and being caught by a flood wave in Lord of the Rings at one location we were shown. I photographed Jean in front of the same scenery. Our tour guide Adam explained the water was too deep for horses. The actual river was photographed elsewhere, and the water and riders added to the scenery.

Skippers Township

Jet boats on the river. We saw these several times. They can plane in 10 centimetre of water.

We crossed the 1900 suspension bridge that gave access to the former township of Skippers. Parts of the old settlement are being restored by the Department of Conservation. The Upper Shotover Public School 1879-1927 restoration is a fine completed example at the site, dating from 1992.

Mount Aurum Station homestead is at present being restored by a crew from the Department of Conservation. They spend about two weeks at a time on site doing repairs.

When we broke for morning tea I was pleased to notice two new picnic tables on site had been donated by Nomad Safaris. Adam also took all the leftover picnic supplies over to the work crew.


Panning for gold, like the old prospectors. Except we did not have to carry all our supplies in on our back or by horse. Adam dug up some riverbank rocks near the end of the Skippers Canyon Run jet boat hut. We tried to imitate how he swirled the water around to throw off the lighter rocks. It sure is hard on the back, even for one pan full. One of the group had some tiny specs in the bottom that looked like gold.

The jet boats came by. Gave their paying passengers a bit more of thrill by trying to splash us poor downtrodden prospectors. Luckily Adam had warned us of their little tricks, so we pulled back from the edge of the river. The jet boats sure put on a spectacular performance. The water where they did this trick is really shallow.

Afterwards it was the interesting and potentially terrifying drive out of the canyon again. This time we did meet traffic coming down the one lane track. The lack of clearance made things interesting, with very little room for error when backing to a wider part of the track to allow passing.

The cloud had lifted somewhat, so we stopped overlooking the Queenstown area for some photographs. Since it was still misty, this was somewhat lower than the usual lookout spot. Still a spectacular view.

We returned to Queenstown around 12:30 p.m. Basically we collapsed at the Bella Vista motel. We ran the heaters until we were warm again, and tried to dry out our shoes. Later in the early afternoon we managed to walk into town for lunch.

Speights Ale House

Speights Ale House was where some of our fellow passengers had raved about the British style fish and chips. So we went there for lunch. It turned out to be just around the corner from Brazz Bar where we had dinner last night. Speights was less expensive, and if anything even more filling than the nearly overwhelming quantities at Brazz.

Jean had the Blue Cod with chips and salad, and a glass of Speights Pilsener. I had Porter flavoured sausages and mashed potatoes, with caramelised onion, and a pint of Speights Porter. The bitter burnt malt beer went well with the traditional English bangers and mash. Had we not still been full at dinner time, we would have returned for dinner.

We eventually staggered around town taking in the sights at the short mall and the other relatively quiet street leading from the lake.

Evening in Queenstown

Rain threatened, and clouds were low over the town. Most outdoor activities seemed less than likely. Jean took a nap, and I tried to bring these note up to date with help from the latest photos.

A deli and food market nearby had been pointed out to us by Adam. I went there, but arrived only a few minutes before it closed at 6:30 p.m. I did manage to get a banana to go with our breakfast cereal, and a bread roll.

We had a late dinner (for us) of the remains of a half sausage from lunch, on the bread roll. Plus a small glass of the Pinot Noir. Jean also had a little of the Brie I got for her yesterday. I had a chocolate drink. New Zealand motels are absolutely marvellous about supplying chocolate drink mix as well as tea and coffee. I wish Australian motels managed that.

My Kodak Z740 camera was some five hours slow relative to New Zealand time. I finally remembered to change the time in the camera to suit where we are. My Canon TX1 was three hours out (the time zone change for New Zealand). However without the manual, I could not figure out how to make the appropriate change to the menu.

Darwin Bicentennial

Darwin was born 200 years ago. The Origin of Species was published 150 years ago. Darwin was rightly fearful of the reaction of Church and society to the concept of evolution. In most Western societies (the USA being a conspicuous exception), the God hypothesis is dead. Evolution adequately explains the origin of species, including humans. Evolution also adequately explains the origin of a universe in which stars and planet and humans can evolve. In most hypothetical universes, there will be no observers.

This being so, there seem a lot of people determined to believe in fairies at the bottom of their garden. Delusion, deluded, or fraud? I neither know nor care. Provided they do not insist I live as their particular invisible friend has decreed.

Friday 13 February 2009

Leaving Queenstown

Late arising, around 7 a.m., despite an early night. We seemed slightly more organised as a consequence. Emphasis on slightly. We were away from Queenstown at 8:30 a.m. headed towards Cromwell and ultimately to Haast on the West Coast. Odometer reading 112473 kilometres. We filled the car with petrol at Frankton, just down the road.

We stopped at the Old Shotover bridge reconstruction around 9 a.m. and took some photos. Although pedestrian only, it is an impressive structure, much higher than the new concrete road bridge. We were surprised by how biting and cold the wind was across the bridge, and were pleased to get back to the warmth of the car.

Further out of Queenstown we came across the A J Hackett bungy jump operation at Kawarau Gorge. This includes a modern concrete building (a bit of a maze if you enter via the elevator) with souvenir shop and bar. There is an impressive range of free viewing platforms from which to watch insane youngsters pay lots of money to leap off a perfectly good bridge. Luckily my heart and Jean's cyborg hip implants prohibit either of us from even contemplating such activities. It did not stop us taking photos of the impressive scenery.

On the Road

Our three hour 210 kilometre journey actually took over 7 hours, and was over 250 kilometres.

At Nevis Bluff we encountered a road crew preparing some impressive cliffs for blasting to clear potential rock falls. The sign said a 20 minute display. It was at least that. At least they were not doing the actual blasting as yet, which starts in a week and lasts eight weeks.

We drove into the popular tourist town of Wanaka, and found it nigh impossible to get a parking spot. We finally found a 30 minute parking spot. Traffic was busy. We settled for getting a Subway club take away to share, and making our get away as quick as we could.

We eventually ate our take away submarine sandwich overlooking Lake Hawea about 12 km up the road at around 12:30 p.m. Far more peaceful, and way better scenery. However the wind off the lake was cold and constant. There were several large rocks on the picnic table, as aids to tourists seeking to hold down paper wrappings.

Further up the road the scenery just kept improving and improving. We made several stops to take photographs. Jean even risked a steep embankment to get good views of the lake. She then had to scoot down the embankment by sliding on her backside, since it was too steep for her to walk.

Further along, we left Lake Hawea on our right, and again reached Lake Wanaka, on our left. It sure is a long lake. We were still taking photographs after 1:35 p.m.


Makarora was our ice cream stop. Jean played it safe with a wimpy pale chocolate ice cream. I was daring, and had my very first Kiwi fruit flavoured ice cream. Strange, but good tasting. I do not expect to ever have another chance to have Kiwi fruit ice cream.


Haast World Heritage Hotel is our location for the evening. On Route 6, past the turnoff for Haast. It has a pleasant aspect, and we were settled in our room around 4 p.m. Alas, the washing machine in the guest laundry was broken, so no laundry for us today. We are three days from running out, so no big deal yet.

Internet connection is via a satellite, however reception explained that on cloudy days it was slower than dialup, as you would expect. One computer in reception, one in the foyer of the bar. I checked the WiFi connection while at reception, and my iPhone could only fleetingly pick up one bar from the antenna nearby. Give that a miss.

The dining room was not open on Friday for dinner. The Frontier Cafe Bar is open from 11 a.m. until late. I suspect they may mean until real late. I was able to sample one of their draft Speights ales, and get a copy of the menu. Looks fine to me.

Haast is not on the national power grid, being supplied via a hydroelectric station about 35 kilometres away. The hotel handbook warns of power outages. Reception say power is mostly fine. The hotel say that as a result of this power supply situation, they do not supply bar fridges in the room. Horrors! We were forced to drink all the white wine before it got warm.

I was also amused to note that daily newspapers do not arrive until the afternoon of the day of issue. This sound just like some remote areas back home in Australia, except that it was often next day, or even once a week. It also appears that the National Newspaper is actually the Central Otago Times. Not exactly what I expected for the term National.

We shared a dinner at the Frontier Cafe, since I had been forewarned they were gigantic. I had tomato soup, Jean had fish and chips. The combined meal nearly defeated the two of us. Luckily we arrived early, at 6:30 p.m., as the bar was already almost full. Nice food, washed down with Speights Ale.

Saturday 14 February 2009

Haasta La Vista

North Coast drive for us, with a tour deadline before 1 p.m. So we were up early, after an early night. We strode to the Haast World Heritage Hotel restaurant right on 7 a.m. One harassed looking person was just opening the door as we reached it. The chances of a cooked breakfast rapidly evaporated. We decided we would make do with a Continental breakfast. It turned out that the cook was also the receptionist, as I found out when I went to settle our account. We got the car packed and were out the door before 8 a.m.

The car odometer showed 112741 kilometres. Fuel was something we needed, and the petrol station was just opposite the hotel, and it was a 24 hour station (at least, it had a 24 hour card operated pump). There was a queue. A queue consisting entirely of 4WD vehicles towing trailers that held jet boats. Each of which needed fuel for both vehicle and boat. Blocking them were two motorcycles. We finally got fuel and were away from next door to the hotel by 8:15 a.m.


The road north turned out to be mountainous and twisted. The two hour estimate for covering 176 kilometres seemed less and less likely. This seemed typical of New Zealand. Our first photographic stop was at Knights Point lookout at 8:50 a.m.

By 9:20 a.m. we were only at 112801 kilometres, so we were averaging about 50% slower than estimated. This also seems typical for New Zealand. At around 9:30 a.m. at Bruce Bay, Jean turned the car over to me to drive. She had not slept well, and was feeling tired even when we left.

Fox Glacier turned out to be only 4 kilometres off the road, when we reached the turnoff at 10:15 a.m. at 112866 kilometres (so we had done 120 kilometres in three hours). Jean was enthusiastic about seeing the glacier. So we drove the gravel road to the parking lot. Yes, the parking lot was 4 kilometres ... well, closer to 5 kilometres actually. On the way, we passed a sign saying the glacier extended there in the 18th Century. Another sign showed where the glacier had been in the 1930's. I let out a silent cheer for global warming.

The walking trail to the glacier said 5 minutes. That was to a point at which you could photograph the glacier. We continued on for a considerably longer distance. Eventually topped a rise that gave us an even better view of the glacier, and the long slope we needed to negotiate on rough ground. We headed back to the car, rather slowly. Well, very slowly. We managed to get away from the Fox Glacier turnoff around 11 a.m.

We went straight past Franz Josef Glacier turnoff around 11:40 a.m. No time for another 40 minute or so walk.

White Heron Sanctuary tour

Whataroa is 176 km up the road from Haast. We had a three hour White Heron (Kotuku) Sanctuary at Okarito Forks tour scheduled for a 12:45 p.m. sign in. Not only did we arrive in plenty of time, we had sufficient time to get a meat pie each for lunch, at the general purpose store across the road. Lunch is a very important concept for Jean, and thus for me also.

Whataroa was an interesting little place. The Maori stone and wood carving store there had some wonderful examples of Maori art. I do not understand the culture, but there must be a fascinating story behind each piece.

The White Heron Tour started with a 14 kilometre drive through pleasant rural countryside. The driver was no conversationalist, but he played an interesting and well done CD explaining the tour and giving examples of various bird calls.

Jet boat ride down river to the sea was next. It was not intended to be an edge of the seat experience, but there was plenty of shallow water, rocks above the surface of the river, and a twisted and winding river. So the ride was fun, if you like banking into turns and sliding across the water. I loved it.

The short boat ride up the heron sanctuary river was sedate, especially by comparison. After creeping along for a while, we moored at a jetty and followed a well maintained boardwalk for 500 metres through rain forest. Plenty of tags explaining which tree or fern was which. The White Heron Tour guide (our boat driver) was very well informed. No question seemed to stump him.

There was a large two level hide just across the narrow river from the white heron colony. Plenty of room for the six of us on this tour. The only colony of nesting white herons (Kotuku) were sharing this small stretch of the riverbank with white Royal spoonbills. There were also some black little shags or cormorants drying their wings in the sunlight. Some of the rare white herons were wading by the river bank. Most were nesting in trees. They were of several sizes, from fully adult down. One was caring for two young. I certainly hope some of my numerous photos work.

The return trip was the reverse. More photos of the rain forest along the boardwalk. Fewer of the wake of the jet bot (a New Zealand invention, for shallow water streams). We were actually back at the White Heron Tour office by 3:37 p.m., so the tour is actually closer to two and half hours White Heron said than the three hours our travel agent suggested. The White Heron Tour was very enjoyable.

Then on 100 km or so to Hokitiki for the evening. Do I need to mention curved and winding roads, with the odd lake for scenery?


Google maps took us right to the waterfront location of Beachfront Hotel Hokitika on Revell Street. I managed to accidentally park in just the correct place for access to our room. The room in the new wing was rather nice, with the promised water view over the beach to the Tasman Sea. It was also a large room, not crowded despite a King bed and a large single, plus a large wardrobe and a long sideboard. The room not only had a desk and chair for business use, but two comfortable lounging chairs.

The dining room looked good also. Today it had a mildly expensive, choice or two of each item set menu, or a very expensive Valentine Day special menu. I did not think either totally appropriate. Jean was so tired she would eat anything, anywhere, as long as it was easy and now.

We had dinner next door, at a small pizza cafe place. Steak for Jean, a BLT for me. Their house red was pretty acceptable, and they had Speights Golden Ale. Still more food than either of us could manage to eat. Plus the price was about the same as a single two course meal at the hotel.

The hotel did not have a guest laundry, but did offer a $10 bag wash. That was even easier than doing it ourselves. Less time taken for us.

I took a wander around the tourist town of Hokitika later. More jade factories and outlets than I thought possible. I also noticed two shops selling books. A Kiwi experience promised live kiwi. The local cinema offered the remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still, and I was tempted. But too tired from the driving. Instead I sat up writing these notes.

Sunday 15 February 2009

Leaving Hokitika

Rough and Tumble country is our destination today. We follow the coastline with the Southern Alps to the east. The Beachfront Hotel Hokitika had Eggs Benedict available for breakfast, so we indulged ourselves. Did not get away until around 9:45 a.m. We refuelled just outside Hokitika (113034 kilometres), with a mere 19.34 litres, fairly late in the morning. As I was doing the driving, there were very few notes taken of the trip.

We took in Strongman Mine Memorial views, a short distance along the coast. While not scenery, we were both taken by the Penguin warning sign at the lookout.

There followed numerous scenes of majestic and deserted ocean beaches, or jagged cliff views, or rocky outcrops in the water. New Zealand is so boring. Just endless splendid views, one after the other. Transit times are long, as you keep stopping the car and leaping out to photograph one great vista after another.

Then there are the various wildflowers. Had my macro photography been better I would have taken many more photographs of the colourful flowers lining each road.

There were hill sides with great scars where some of the earth and rock had slipped and fallen don the hill.

Alas, some of the beaches were rocky, with pebbles and grey rather than golden sand. However the sheer number of beaches was impressive, as was the amount of driftwood.

We stopped around midday for a walk at Punakaiki, for the pancake rocks and blowholes. A ten minute walk takes you though lush greenery to numerous viewing platforms of the slabs of pancake like rocks. Horizontal layers of grey rock, pounded from below by swells across the Tasman sea. sculptured rocks, with holes showing the sea beyond. Great natural arches, through which the sea surged. Canyons through which the sea raced. So taken by this natural wonder was Jean that she even posed for a photo.

There was busy information centre and cafe. However as they were serving a bus load or two of visitors, we did not pause, despite wanting to collect a lunch.

Irimahuwhera lookout was our next stop. Named for the crimson rata flowers, this was another place to view cliffs and sea coast and unspoiled beaches.


Westport is our last refuelling stop. But first we needed to divert to Cape Foulwind. On the way, we drove a street or two to the seaside at Carters Beach. We needed to find some place for lunch since it was nearly 2 p.m. Luckily there was a cafe open there, and it served us some toasted sandwiches. The walk up at Cape Foulwind did not seem justified, so we skipped it in favour of photos from the parking lot.

We finally got back to Westport to search for a petrol station. The first one was full of refuelling tankers, so we continued on. We did not find one before the town exit, so we had to turn around. There was a petrol station without tankers, and took we took on a princely 14.01 litres for the ongoing journey.

We passed through Waimangaroa, Granity, Ngakawau, and Hector. Apparently we did not even notice some other small towns.

Rough and Tumble

Rough and Tumble bush lodge was reached at 113264 kilometres. The road in is interesting, in a country sense. A mildly obscure turnoff to Seddonville, a small town, through the town and past the farmhouse. About 4 kilometres of dirt track. Shortly after the entrance to Rough and Tumble you come to the ford. Luckily there was little water running - rental cars are mostly not great on fords.

The resort is a magnificent rustic appearing wooden and stone structure, located on a beautiful spot on the Mokihinui River. Dense rain forest surround it. I followed several narrow walking tracks where the bright sunlight was soon lost in dappled green shade. Bird life was there, but too fleet for my photography.

Our host Susan met us and showed us the facilities. They gave us the wheelchair capable room, as they had been warned Jean had some mobility issues. They also were well aware of Jean's allergies.

The bush retreat is wonderfully isolated. Mains electricity, and wireless internet, but no close neighbours. Naturally we made use of the internet, via both iPhone and computer. Solar heated plumbing. They even put a bathtub a short distance down the path, inside its own little wooden fence, with a view out over the river. Beware of low flying helicopters, which use the river for navigation.

There were only four guests during our stay. A wonderful young couple renewing their wedding vows after seven years. They had been hiking and bush camping for much of a week, and this was their luxury finale for their trip.

The retreat has about seven room, each with a loft with extra beds. The construction looked deliberately primitive in parts, but was very comfortable.

The food was magnificent. Their chef Dwain treated us to rare crayfish as an entree, followed by salmon steaks, and a rich chocolate dessert. Individual variations to cope with dietary issues were no problem for them. We waddled away from dinner.

This was also perhaps the first time this trip where we deliberately socialised with other people. We tend to be solitary, but host Susan and the other couple there were so interesting that even Jean stayed and chatted for a while.

Monday 16 February 2009

Leaving Rough and Tumble

We left Rough and Tumble Lodge as late as we could. Maureen appeared early in the morning, before I went exploring the kitchen. Maureen was later to produce fine cooked breakfasts of omelette for us all (I had poached eggs, and I do not like omelette). Maureen demonstrated some themes of her music on the keyboard of my iPhone while we were chatting over breakfast.

Later we caught up on email and news from home, to the extent we had time. The other two guests prepared for their fishing expedition. Eventually we could find no excuse to put off our departure from this peaceful scene, so we packed the final bags in the car. We did stop a fair bit for photos of the drive way and the ford. It was about 11:20 a.m. before we were really back on the main road north, the Karamea Highway.


We had a travel time estimate of 55 minutes for the 50 kilometres to Karemea. About 50% more than that would be much more realistic. The road twists and turns diabolically for at least half the distance. I tend to drive such roads faster than Jean does, but we averaged less than 50 kph over the twisted section. Jean was on note taking detail, but she says she spent so much time clinging to the door handle that she could not take any notes.

The Last Resort at Karemea was able to give us our room when we arrived before 1 p.m. Soon after unpacking we wandered over to their restaurant for lunch. After the large breakfast, some toasted sandwiches were all we wanted to tackle. Fresh country ham, not sliced pre-packed. Very nice.

We walked up the main street to the information centre and the little supermarket and general store. One store was painted horizontally in very bright colours, looking very like a rainbow. I have no idea why. At least we could get some milk at the Four Square supermarkt, although not any orange juice. However Jean found all this exertion too much, and promptly went to sleep once we returned to the hotel.

I walked the main street the other direction. Eventually I came to a cross road, with a much larger distance to anywhere else, and nothing much in sight. Luckily there was a pub there on the corner, so I was able to get a refreshing ale.

There were some interesting sights along the street. A backpacker hostel done in bring horizontal stripes of colour. Must be something of a theme to the area. There was a small museum, but although open when I walked up the street, it was now closed. I later found its hours were 1-4 p.m.

Chicken pieces with camembert cheese, wrapped in filo pastry, and served with a plum sauce, over a salad with mixed fruit included. That was dinner at The Last Resort.

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Kahurangi National Park

Kahurangi National Park is north of Karamea. After breakfast we took the Karamea Kohaihai Highway north. The Oparara Basin turnoff was dirt and a long way on dirt, so in our hire car we could not look there. We continued north along the narrow bitumen road past dairy cattle and dairy farms. We could tell they were dairy farms from the cows on the letter boxes.

Kohaihai in the National Park has campsites, and a number of walking trails. Some of these trails seemed more than a little excessive to us. For example, in a mere three to five days you could walk Heaphy Track the 82 kilometres to Collingwood. We decided we would instead drive our hire car the 400 of so kilometres of the long way around ... tomorrow.

We looked at the start of the shorter walks. The tannin soaked Kohaihai River meandered down to the beach, and its dark waters were still ... and deep with insect life. The resident mosquitos noticed us, and gathered in numbers. The numbers would have been far greater had we not used insect repellant. We gathered up some quick photographs, and beat a hasty retreat.

We drove back to town, and visited the beach and the estuary. It seems every river here is coloured black with tannin.


Nothing to do now but have another fine lunch at The Last Resort. Invigorated by her lunch, Jean promptly fell asleep. While I had to do the laundry. Since this was another bag wash place this consisted of taking a bag of dirty clothes to reception and telling them the room number to which to charge it. As a result of the dereliction of duties by Jean, I also get to write up these notes the way I think they should read, rather than accurately. This is aided and abetted by listening to Anna Russell while I type.

Alas, my scheme to get Jean to visit the local museum went astray rather rapidly when it turned out that the museum was closed on Tuesday and Thursday. Jean seemed to think this only what should be expected. Likewise, my plans to photograph the cows in the domain failed when the last cow was crossing the road back to their normal fields just as I wandered that way with my camera.

Evening in Karamea

Power fluctuations. Before we went to dinner the power failed for a few moments several times over several minutes. It all seemed steady when I reset the motel clock.

Dinner was great. Jean had the local speciality, whitebait, which is apparently over $100 a kilogram at the markets. I had another of the camembert coated chicken pockets in filo pastry with plum sauce. This time I asked for a small portion. I still failed to have room for dessert.

We had been back in the room for some time when the power failed at about 8:30 p.m. About ten minutes later we heard a small generator starting. Probably so the kitchen could remain working, and keep their commercial freezers operating. The power came back well before 9 p.m., but continued to fluctuate at times. Not enough to stop the clock, which I had again reset. I hate seeing clocks flashing midnight at me.

Navigation in Blog (HTML)

Forcing semantics on unwilling HTML markup has led to the use of the List element as a container for navigation links. Links in navigation are generally a list, right? I use lists for both horizontal and vertical navigation menus in most of my web pages.

Initially my blog navigation for dates was a succession of links in a paragraph. Using a paragraph is certainly not reasonable. A list of the months of the year is not a paragraph. Therefore, a paragraph should not be used as the block element containing them.

However, sticking a list element around a link makes for slightly fussy and error prone HTML markup. Plus, a link is an inline element, not a block element. In contrast, by default each item in a list appears on its own new line. You must specifically style a list not to consist of items each on their own new line. If the style sheet is not available or disabled, menus generated with lists tend to appear cumbersome.

Using lists is similar to (but not nearly as bad as) the markup problems you encounter with hand writing tables in HTML. It is way too easy to make a mistake. If I were generating my web pages from code, I would probably change to using links within lists.

<li><a href="#date">Date</a></li> 
<li><a href="#date">Date</a></li> 

A div is a general purpose block element. The use of links is fairly clear to anyone doing web pages. It is precisely the same as having a number of links within a discursive paragraph. I do not see a major problem in simply using a div to contain a succession of dates. True, it does not precisely fit the semantics of a menu (there is no specific element for that), but it makes the HTML easier.

<a href="#date">Date</a>
<a href="#date">Date</a>

Navigation in Blog (CSS)

Styling the navigation simply consists of whatever special appearance you need for the div.nav class. Colours, top and bottom margins, and experimental shadows.

Since I use generated content to insert the Month and Date wording (and to remove them from the bread crumb navigation trail), I do need to use selectors to indicate how each individual div is styled with the div.nav. The major problem with this approach is that you do need to understand how the HTML and the CSS interact. In particular, the CSS is specifically targeted at all the navigation divs, then the first, the second, and the third div within the div.nav. Disturbing the order of the divs, or inserting an extra div would require a stylesheet change.

div.nav div { text-align: center; }
div.nav div:before { content: "Month: " }
div.nav div+div:before { content: "Date: "; }
div.nav div+div+div:before { content: " "; }

You should look at the actual page source to see these lines of code. You should also read the actual stylesheet.

Wednesday 18 February 2009

Leaving Karamea

We need an early start. The drive today takes us from Karamea on the west coast to Collingwood, also almost on the west coast. You know, Collingwood, that place that was 82 kilometres away if you walked for three days. However if you prefer to drive, it will take about 400 kilometres, and you just about reach the middle of the island trying to get there. Plus you seem to encounter most mountain ranges that are available. We are not looking forward to all this driving.

We left Karamea at 8 a.m., after a continental breakfast at The Last Resort. Our host there still did not know why the power had been out the previous evening. Our odometer showed 113362 kilometres. It took us until 9 a.m. to reach Mokihinui Bridge, our turnoff to Rough and Tumble Lodge. There are an extraordinary number of twists and turns in that road. Around 26 kilometres of travelling closer to 50 kph than the very fictional 100 kph speed limit. I was also trying not to throw Jean around the car to the same extent as when we first covered the road.

We stopped at Waimangaroa (113444 kilometers) for a comfort stop at 9:30 a.m. Our Westport refuelling stop was at 113462 kilometres, and we really did not manage to leave Westport until close to ten.

Travel Route 6

Logging trucks were the most interesting item after the usual set of majestic mountain ranges, vivid green forests, and river beds that actually contained rivers. We saw two logging trucks at 11 a.m., when coming to the end of 7 kilometres of winding road at 113535 kilometres.

Earlier we drove under a cliff. Not a tunnel, an overhang where the cliff was actually cut away for the road, and the entire massive side of the cliff formed a roof for the road. I sure hope the bolts in the thing keep right on working.

Murchison was the main town we could reach around lunch time, at 11:38, and 113561 kilometres. Jean took over the driving here. We collected some sandwiches for a later stop. There were fir plantations all along the road. We made our lunch stop at 113597 kilometres, at a picnic table 7 kilometres before Glenhope. Alas, the mosquitos were out in force by the riverside.

Kuhatu was reached at 12:56 p.m. at 113697 kilometres. This was our turn off from Route 6 towards Collingwood.

Motueka Valley Highway

We turned off Route 6 and took the Motueka Valley Highway following the river along the valley floor through to Mokueka. Jean had turned the driving over to me again at 1:30 p.m. We reached Motueka around 1:50 p.m.

We were 82 kilometres from our destination. Alas, this was also one of the steepest and most winding roads we had encountered. Tremendous views of the valley floor far below. Most places on the road lacked stopping points. Those lookouts where you could stop required a long hike to a viewing place. It took until nearly 3 p.m. to reach Takaka, but now on a less winding road. We did not complete the drive to Collingwood until 3:20 p.m. Google estimated 5.5 hours for the whole trip. It took us over seven hours.

We have to go back through Moueka on our way to the midday ferry on Friday. It will obviously take us more than an hour and a half just for this short starting section. Then we still have nearly 200 kilometres more to go. An early start indeed will be needed.


Rum! We had to do some shopping for breakfast supplies, plus orange juice for Jean and Coke for me for our forthcoming libation. We visited Farewell Spit Eco Tour offices, opposite our hotel, to check details of their tour. We also ordered the $10 boxed lunch, since we did not want to cope with organising our own lunch for what seems a seven hour tour.

The main street is short, and everything in it conveniently to hand. We broke out the rum on arrival back at our room. Jean then collapsed into the only satisfactory bed (out of four) in our two level motel room at the Collingwood Beachcomber Motel at Golden Bay. Jean thought the steep stairs to the Queen bed in the loft were likely to have her risk a fall in the night. The second single bed downstairs was sagging too much for our old backs. So I picked the single bed upstairs, being less likely to have problems with stairs.

I went out and checked the town. There is a most interesting little museum right opposite the motel. Also a collection of photographs and descriptions of the history of Collingwood. It was named for a contemporary of Lord Horatio Nelson, as Collingwood was his second in charge, and brought the battle to a winning conclusion, after Nelson was killed.

We had an unsatisfactory dinner in the nearby pub, which seemed the major place open. Slow service, relative to the meals demanded. Jean was not impressed by her Fisherman's Basket. My roast lamb was pedestrian. The Montana Pinot Noir was fine. If we had not had so many wonderful meals elsewhere on this trip, perhaps we would not be critical. I think I will make do with something else for dinner tomorrow.

We were back at the hotel by 8 p.m. Guess what? Jean was soon collapsed again. Ever mindful of my duties, I stayed up to write up this account of our drive.

Thursday 19 February 2009

Collingwood Morning

Sleeping well was not to be. I went to bed too early, slept fitfully, and was awake again way to early. I also thought the single bed was too short. Not that I am very tall. I guess I am not used to short beds. However I think the major problem was something I had eaten recently (or just eating too much for the whole stay in New Zealand) was causing problems.

While I was able to eat some Weet-Bix for breakfast, I did not feel like I was going to keep food down well. From either end.

I reluctantly decided I would not be able to take our scheduled tour. Luckily Jean was feeling cheerful and fit to go.

Farewell Spit

Onetahua is the Maori name for Farewell Spit. Farewell Spit is at the northernmost point of the South Island of New Zealand. The spit is 35 kilometres long. The Farewell Spit Nature reserve is a bird sanctuary and wetland. Vehicle access is available only to supervised tours.

Farewell Spit Eco Tours were our tour company. They were formerly the mail delivery to the lighthouse. Their office in in Tasman Street, Collingwood includes some interesting historical relicts of the lighthouse. There is a very nicely restored brass lighthouse mechanism, showing the intricate but large gearing system. They also had a piece of the Fresnel lens reflector originally used by the lighthouse.

The tour time is tide dependent, but around 6 to 7 hours. From the gate of the reserve, you visit Fossil Point, to view New Zealand fur seals. There are fossils among the rocks, and sea life in rock pools nearby.

The lighthouse is another 30 kilometres of sand dunes and panoramic ocean views away. Tours have around 45 minutes at the lighthouse. They climb to the lighthouse. You can view the Maori pouwhenua, placed by the local iwi.

In addition, the tour visits Cape Farewell, the most northern point on the South Island. This is outside the actual spit.

There are light refreshments (muffins, hot drink) at the lighthouse keepers cottage. Lunch needs to be ordered the day before (if tides permit a lunch stay on the spit), or take your own.

Browser Error Messages

Error messages should be more prominent in browsers. If someone sends a page as HTML from their server, but the page contains an xmlns, why not say it is being served wrong? If a page has an inline tag outside a block element, why not say the page is wrong?

The error reports could be on an activity page, or an error console, but bad pages on the web should be the subject of an error message. How else will anybody doing web pages get the message if they are never told they do not understand what they are writing?

Friday 20 February 2009


We were up prior to 5:15 a.m. (when the alarm was due). I got soaked by rain while packing the car, despite merely having to put four bags in the boot. We had our own breakfast supplies, and used them, so we were away by 6:15 a.m. The delay was partly hoping for rain to ease. Unlikely, since it had rained continuous since 2:45 a.m.

It was dark when we packed the car. It was dark when we left. Google said we faced a three hour trip. Locals at Collingwood said it was four and a half hours. In the rain, we simply did not know. Plus we were headed for one of the most horrible twisty hill roads I have ever seen. Luckily by the time we reached the hill, the sky had lightened just a little. That helped. So did being able to follow a local bus part of the way, which about doubled the speed I could otherwise attempt on the hill.

Wet Roads

One hour into the trip we had covered 59 kilometres. Just before 8 a.m. we were able to refuel at Riwaka. This was shortly before Motueka, the first town we expected to encounter.

Two hours into the trip, and we had covered 104 kilometres, and reached Ruby Bay. Four hours, and we had reached Renwick, 239 kilometres from our starting point. We knew by then we would actually be early at the Inter Island ferry and the Nationwide car rental return at Picton. That was because we had allowed six hours for a three hour trip.

We refuelled the hire car before returning it. Asked at the garage where the Nationwide car place was. Garage guy said he did not know, and we should try the ferry terminal. As we pulled out of the garage, there was the car rental place two doors down. So much for local knowledge.

Car place checked the fuel. Not full, they said. But we just filled it two doors back. The car rental guy and I drive back, and manage to fit just less than $7 of fuel (about 4 litres) in the tank. The tank shut the gas pump down within a few seconds of being inserted. Which is what probably happened to the (very new) attendant at the garage. We got more in only by withdrawing the nozzle to defeat the auto shut off. This resulted in fuel spilling on the concrete apron. Rental guy flags the car as having a fuel filler problem, at my request. We had problems with the fuel input at every garage.

Inter Island Ferry

Big ferry. An enormous ferry. It was loading buses and freight trucks and semi trailers. Plus cars and motor bikes. Seems the Picton to Wellington ferry is pretty popular. We had lunch in the ferry terminal. Travel advice. Avoid their meat pies. We were early, but Jen had managed to get us transferred to one ferry earlier than originally scheduled.

A grey day, with grey sky, and grey seas. We sat inside in relatively comfortable seats near the bar and ignored the world outside. I was amused to hear the insail movies included The Day the Earth Stood Still.

There was another hire car awaiting us at the Wellington ferry terminal. A Nissan Bluebird. It seemed more comfortable than the first Nissan. Figures, doesn't it? Since we will hardly use it, but have no other way to our next destination a few hours away. We return the hire car four days later.


Our motel was 83 by the Sea. Helpful person at the desk checked us in. The pre-paid did not show up as being per-paid, but was in their computer system. The current managers were locums for motels, which was an interesting occupation.

I managed to get the laundry done. Alas, although the drying took some time, it left some things still damp. Damp was to be a factor in this North Island stay at the end of our trip. Jean got onto the internet using Viola. Between the internet and a phone book, we managed to find locations for some probably nearby Dick Smith electronics stores.

The motel recommended Pearl, a few doors away, for fish and chips. We overdid it with fish each, a serve of chips, a few potato fritters, and a pineapple fritter each. Just managed to eat most of it. It was good food.


Voila did not work this time for Internet access. Jean was able to connect, but neither my computer nor my iPhone could get access. Just got the Voila login page again. Perhaps it is checking and refusing to allow anything except the first connection for the login.

The previous example of something similar to Voila we encountered had a separate login for each room. This was Zenbu. It did not care how many different computers you used, however only one could use the connection at any time.

Saturday 21 February 2009

Drive to Norsewood

Jean drove to Norsewood, when we finally got away from 83 by the Sea. We had ordered a hot breakfast and a continental breakfast. We shared the hot breakfast. After the fish the previous evening, we ended up taking much of the continental breakfast with us. Jean had made colour screen captures from Google maps, so we knew pretty much how to get out of town. The drive was mostly uneventful, although rain made us slow. One incident was the windscreen wiper coming loose. I had to try to replace it in the rain, and finally managed the wiper, at the expense of getting thoroughly wet.

Sign at shop. Home made pies - World famous in Greytown. Sign on church.

What is missing

New Zealand road safety sign. Hover over the message text to see. Drink drive.

At Masterton we found one of the Dick Smith stores we had on our list. A helpful Ubuntu enthusiast there helped us find a compact USB port expander and a USB keyboard to give Lyn. The USB expander was sufficiently compact and a reasonable price, so I got an extra one for my Apple MacBook Air kit. We also got some hot cross buns. I was somewhat surprised to see the buns so much before Easter.

We continued through Eketahuna. Woodville is listed as the windfarm capital of New Zealand. We got as far as Danneville around 1:30 p.m.

Farside Farm

Farside farm around 2 p.m. Somewhat later than expected. It took a while to unload the car, but we managed to just get our bags in ahead of the rain. There was the usual hissing confrontation with the gander and two geese, but their hearts were not really in it. The geese soon left us to victory in the field of battle, and wandered off to establish their firm hold on other territory, by terrorising Fluffy the barn cat and any hentams in the way.

Jean got started checking Lyn's computer system. As mostly expected, there was no single factor of compatibility. A decade and a half old Macintosh. We could not read the floppies, and it could not burn CDs. No serial ports in common. No USB. File transfer would have to be the long slow way, via email over a slow, limited hours dial up line.

I got sent off to keep out of the way. I also needed a walk. The town of Norsewood is small but interesting, and caters to tourists. They have an excellent local heritage museum that I spent considerable time looking through. I could not resist a chocolate and mixed berry ice cream from the local shop. The shop also has the community fuel bowser.

There were a whole heap of trolls around town. I do not believe I found all of them. There is a sheet at the local tourist information office listing clues to where to find trolls. Lyn thought the troll race went through town on Sunday, but the annual troll laden wheelbarrow race was actually still a week away.

After that we sat around chatting until it was time for us to drive to the local pub to get dinner. Lyn's name is known, so we just had to say she wanted fish and chips to get the correct size serve for her. I had a local Tui ale (we passed their founding brewery when driving to Norsewood) while waiting for the take away. We had Hawaiian style hamburgers (ham and pineapple added), and they were very nice. More ham steak than sliced ham, to go with the rest.

Sunday 22 February 2009

Moving Sheep

Lyn moved the sheep from their paddock onto the front lawn. No fuss. She opened the gate and called them. They were a little hesitant because they could see me. However after a while the first came through, and the rest soon followed. Those in the middle and at the end of the flock seem not to want to be left outside, so they came at a rush, running and jumping through the gateway.

As a result, we could hear sheep walking back and forth past the building for the next few evenings. There were also the usual dominance games between Marlon the ram, and the gander. The gander was a clear winner at this. However Marlon is a young ram.

Racing a Mobility Scooter

Lyn's mobility scooter can clearly set a good pace on the way to Norsewood. I do not think it could outpace me, but it does make me work. Especially as Lyn and I chattered as she drove the scooter. We just needed a few additional supplies from the local shop.

Monday 23 February 2009


Sheepskins were the topic of the morning conversation. Namely whether tanners Classic Sheepskins at 22 Thames Street, Pandora (a Napier suburb), had actually completed the tanning of Lyn's three sheepskins. Lyn made several calls before finally being assured that the sheepskin would be ready.

Until the last of these phone calls, we did not know what we would be doing today. Jean spent considerable time setting up Lyn's computer. She also introduced Lyn to some of the things she needed to know about Microsoft Windows. Jean also needed to work out what extra equipment was needed to help move Lyn from a 13 year old Macintosh to a much more recent Dell notebook computer running Windows. Most of Lyn's peripherals were not compatible with anything recent. The only real advantage we could see to Windows was that several companies nearby supported it. Plus some of Lyn's friends would know something of it.


Hastings is what Lyn calls both the seaside town of Napier and Hastings, as they are only 20 kilometres apart. Us strangers had a hard time figuring this one out. We also did not have a map of either of the towns. Luckily eventually one of Lyn's maps was found to contain at least the town centres. Jean was having back problems, and was not thrilled about driving.

Napier looked very complex and convoluted. Luckily the map Lyn had actually showed Thames Street, and even showed exactly where Classic Sheepskins were. It was a straight turn off the main road, if we could manage to follow the main road through Hastings. Jean decided do the hard part of the navigating first. We left after lunch, and the drive took well over an hour. A wrong turn at Hastings put us on the wrong road (it led to Napier, but via a different route) but we corrected for that before the city outskirts.

Reaching the correct location of Classic Sheepskins seemed almost an anticlimax. They have neat stuff, like tanning tours. The sheepskins were ready, and looked beautiful. One spotted, two mostly dark with great markings. Lyn very kindly made a gift of the spotted skin to us. The sheep was not named, being destined for mutton. Ruth was mother to Patches, which was mother to the former occupant of this skin. Our previous sheepskin from Lyn, Hamilcar, was from a sheep that took ill.


Hastings had a regular grid street layout. That seemed easier to cope with. Between phone book and notebook and map, we had a list of several places that may stock a computer printer. We visited Harvey Norman and Dick Smith, other stores being scarce. Luckily Jean managed to drive to both without too many problems.

A Brother HL2040 seemed the only black and white laser printer still being sold in the array of multifunction stuff. We bought it at Hardly Normal. Lyn bought a spare toner cartridge. A printer cable was also needed, as we had forgotten to search for one at home for Lyn. The hire car boot was getting pretty full by this time.

We eventually got back to Norsewood, and were able to refuel the now fairly empty hire car at the community fuel bowser at the local store. Jean had the printer all unpacked and self testing soon after we reached Lyn's home. Luckily common printers do not tend to give a lot of problems these days, and this one came with its own drivers for Windows XP.

Tuesday 24 February 2009


Dannevirke was a mere 20 minutes away. We arrived a few minutes prior to Jean and Lyn's appointment to straighten out paperwork. I wandered off to look in shops. I did find a door mat that I thought might be some use outside, although the quality was marginal (and was reflected in the price). Plus the Blockbuster video had a $5 copy of Beuwolf.

Off to the Salvo op shop, where Lyn rapidy found a half dozen books. Jean demanded lunch, and Lyn recommended a local cafe. Lyn and I had an apple slice each, while Jean restricted herself to sensible sandwich things. Then Lyn wanted to visit the library. Before long Lyn was looking through their surplus sale stock of books. Jean and I took a walk around the town. By the time we returned, Lyn had a shopping bag full of books.

Our second last stop was the New World supermarket, where Lyn got a shopping cart full of supplies in rapid time. She kindly gave us a BP fuel discount from the bill. Alas, we did not manage to find a BP service station in Wellington at which to use it. The last stop was a pet supply place, for comparative kitty litter discussions and purchase. The hire car boot was once again pretty full.


Norsewood pub again supplied dinner, take away fish and chips, and a pineapple fritter for Jean and I to share. Jean had wanted a glass of wine with her snack upon returning from Dannevirke, so I was sent out.

This time the gander soon retreated from the hissing competition when I went to open the gate for the car. I do not recall that it even bothered to hiss at me upon my return. That gander is unlikely to last much longer, as it is falling down on duties other than watch geese.

As before, the food from the pub was just fine, and the price was right. There was even some food left over. Plus I could then get stuck into some white wine, having no more driving tasks.

We all stayed up talking until fairly late, at least by our standards. Jean explained the digital camera, at least briefly. We want Lyn to photograph the trollothon, when the trolls get wheeled past in wheelbarrows. Lyn's replacement computer is pretty much ready for her to start transferring files via email from the old Macintosh. It is a real pity there are no interfaces in common between the two systems.

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Leaving Norsewood

We left Lyn's farm around lunchtime. Made good time through Danneville. Woodville certainly lived up to the wind farm title when you came from this direction. I stopped for photos of wind turbines in every direction it seemed. We took a comfort stop at Shanon. Reached Paremata around 3 p.m.

Rental Car to Wellington

You do not want to know. Basically we had a lot of trouble finding any place to get fuel. Only service station had some strange card system. We got lost trying to find an alternative.

On the other hand, the folks at Nationwide Car Rentals were wonderful. Treated us very well, and dropped us off at our airport hotel. They had even phoned while we tried navigating the construction around their entrance.

Jean's Birthday

Dinner at the Brentwood airport hotel. Jean deserves more. However that was where we were.

Thursday 26 February 2009

Before Dawn

Wake up call at 4:15 a.m. We were staying at the Brentwood specifically because it was close to Wellington airport, had 24 hour reception, and a 24 hour free shuttle to the airport.

The airport shuttle had to await another passenger, but left on time. Pacific Blue staff had not yet arrived, so a queue formed at check-in. They soon arrived, and the queue was dealt with soon after. Jean did not set off the metal detectors at Wellington airport security.

We had plenty of time to get breakfast. Jean found a place selling the small hot breakfast for NZ$12.90. She looked suspiciously at one being served to another customer, and ordered one. Collected two sets of plastic cutlery. Heap of bacon and scrambled eggs, a couple of large potato hash browns, and (eventually) a few slices of toast and jam. The small breakfast was plenty for the two of us. I hate to think what the large breakfast was like.

The flight was uneventful. I managed to read most of my text about using Google SketchUp. Some of it even made some sense to me, despite the early hour. I tried an iPhone room design package. Found at least one way to crash it fairly easily (change your room dimensions after placing furniture). However it is pretty cute, and I will try using the application as we work on getting furniture for the new house.


My phone did not connect. Jean was also having some sort of phone problem, although not the No Service message. That was annoying. I had planned on using a substantial amount of our waiting time in Brisbane airport for catching up on news. I had to buy a newspaper instead. We could not drop off our luggage at the international terminal. Luckily the train run to the domestic terminal was pretty easy to use. Although I could not work out the automatic terminal for buying tickets. They have a human ticket seller. That is probably the first time we have had to use the train. Usually we have to overnight before our next flight.

We shared a Subway Club, as our lunch at the domestic terminal. Eventually it was time for our flight to Proserpine. No drama there. On time arrival. Shared taxi home in good old No 5. That taxi van is sure showing its age now.

Home Again

It was wonderful to actually reach home at the Whitsunday Terraces. I had a list of things to do right away, starting with switching power on to the air conditioners and hot water services. We must have added a dozen items to the list on my iPhone.

Soon enough, I had to head out into the afternoon heat. Milk and orange juice were on the list. I stopped at the deli and got ham and some nice brie for Jean. Neither were on the list. Forgot I also wanted tomatoes, but that was not on the list either. I had several magazines to collect at the news agency.

Telstra iPhone Problem

My iPhone still did not work at home. However my home phone was still working. I tried the Telstra accounts number. I figured the Telstra Siebel accounting system was still in attack dog mode, and had not been corrected.

Unfortunately the automated phone system wants information not readily visible on the printed bill from September (the last one I had received). I eventually found my reading glasses and tried again. This time I finally reached something close enough to the queue to receive a warning that delays were abnormally long. I gave up once again.

No use being in a bad mood when I actually did get through to a Telstra operator who might be able to help. The operators are not the ones that stuffed up the Telstra accounting system.

Friday 27 February 2009

Post Office

Jean's car started first go. After nearly a month of gathering dust. That was a good start, as it were. Especially since we no longer have a Post Office box in town. With Airlie Beach Post Office no longer official, but now an agency, the majority of the thousands of Airlie Beach post office boxes had been transferred (against public wishes) to an inconvenient location in Cannonvale. The old Airlie Beach staff were behind the hatch at Cannonvale. They have always been efficient, and soon gave us replacement keys. We collected close to a month of mail.

I am deeply suspicious of this entire move of the official Airlie Beach Post Office to Cannonvale. For example, I know of several businesses who were unable to obtain a new Post Office box in Airlie Beach in 2008. However my quick count of the total PO box numbers makes me suspect that Airlie Beach did not actually run out of available post office boxes in 2008.

With Airlie Beach postal agency reduced to at most 500 PO Boxes, on Monday I intend to walk in, and just see whether I can obtain a PO Box there at Airlie Beach again. Cannonvale is grossly inconvenient. Changing postal addresses is perhaps marginally less so.

Telstra iPhone Solved

We collected mail at Cannonvale. A bunch of Telstra bills, covering September to February. Angry letters from Telstra asking why the bill had not been paid. Well, duh, because it is on an EasyPay system where Telstra get to charge my account. So why didn't Telstra just do the bills the way they have managed for most of the past decade? I have no idea.

The Telstra store at Centro put me through to some magic Telstra number that actually had a human being answering it. They said it was the regular phone number. The human figured out where Telstra had managed to stuff up. Said they would put the bill through correctly. They also got my phone active again.


Mail for a month. Once that would have been hundreds of items. However these days there are a few apas, a somewhat dated birthday card, and a bunch of commercial and financial stuff.

Reading it all still occupied a few hours.


Way more backlog on the internet than even the mail. It was a fair while before I got through all of that. I had ignored a lot of it while in New Zealand.

Eat Less, Lose Weight

Despite all the excess eating at the start of our New Zealand trip, I came home weighing a kilogram less than when I started. Towards the end of the trip I was feeling so bloated on well served, delicious gourmet meals that I started to skip meals, or eat only a very small portion. The main thing however was that during the trip, I did not eat snacks. Also I did not drink many soft drinks. This is very unlike my behaviour at home.

Eating less food drops your weight, which is pretty obvious. Not what proponents of diet plans and weight loss programs want you to hear. No magic tricks, no special diets. Just the old fashioned idea that you push back from the table.

Saturday 28 February 2009

To Market

Saturday market was not well attended. Stall holders were not very impressed. However it seems the first time in a long while that we did not have rain. Various people also report that Townsville had not had a day free of rain while we were away in New Zealand.

I managed to catch up with Glenn, Michael and Rex, plus Kurt and Ingrid. Ingrid was still recovering and seemed to be finding the market shopping something of a strain. However it was good to see them all. Back up the hill to the Whitsunday Terraces.

Jim was talking to some of the politicians. Well, actually not about politics. With Anna Blight having called a snap election well before it was due, both ALP and NLP (or whatever their name is now) had their little sales stand. Very boring they were too. What most of us wonder is what dirt is about to leak about the late grate state of Queensland? Recession, budget deficits, S&P drop state credit rating from AAA to AA+. What other shit is about to hit the fan, that makes it worth running an election now?


Packing for moving is a real pain. With more available space, it would be boring but otherwise not much of a problem. With a small apartment, in which all space is already very efficiently used, any change reduces the liveability of the whole place.

My plan was to take a car load each time we had to travel to Townsville. I figured we would need three trips for paperwork and shopping. Then I wanted to use a Ford Transit van that a friend at the market has to drop the quantity of stuff that was in the way. However that part of the move was several weeks away.

Only after that did I want to call in a professional removalist. In the Airlie Beach context professional means someone several people recommend, not always a large business, nor even someone doing this full time.

Jean suddenly decided she would prefer to get the removalist in as early as possible, to move all the stuff too heavy or too large for us. Like the treadmill. For me, that means I need to start disassembling some of my furniture. However, that in turn means I need some place to put the contents, and there is not a lot of spaces available.

I really do not like the way this move is shaping up. Actually, I would prefer not to move at all. I always prefer not to move. I like the Whitsunday Terraces.


Insomnia is what my iMac G5 ALS developed today. Console shows a suspicious entry for Elgato Eye TV, an application I long ago deleted. It did not work - hardware problems getting a digital TV signal in my location. I am not permitted an external antenna at our apartment.

I checked System Preferences - Energy Saver, but no wake events are scheduled. I checked System Preferences - Accounts for Login Items. Somehow EyeTV helper was back. I had deleted that long ago. So I went to Library - Application Support and deleted all the EyeTV items there also (I thought I had done that long ago also).

I gather that if you have working Elgato EyeTV software running, you can change a software Remote Scheduling preference to switch off this wake every hour behaviour.

Hogs Breath

Hogs Breath cafe had sent me a birthday card offering a free meal. This was the last day on which I could use it. I had invited Jim to come along with Jean and I. Both were contemplating South American visits, both to attend weddings, so they had something about which to chat. We left Jim to select the wine, and certainly enjoyed the result.

I think their small steak meal is now slightly smaller. At least, afterwards Jean and I managed to get through a shared chocolate mud cake without blowing up like the Monte Python gourmet. For exercise, we caught a taxi home.

Eric Lindsay's Blog February 2009