Puddle Jumping

25 August 2019

 

We got up at 7.30, got washed and dressed and went down to the “restaurant” for breakfast.

Now, one of the reasons why we always like staying at the EconoLodge is the quality of the breakfasts. Fresh melon slices, pineapple, grapes, cheese, fruit juices, freshly made pikelets, maple syrup, Weetbix, toast, yoghurt, kiwifruit, orange slices. It was always very fresh and yummy. They’ve gone to the pack, the last couple of times that we’ve stayed there. No melon, no Weetbix, the picklets were overcooked and soggy, the price had gone up (but there was the option for sausages, cooked tomatoes, bacon, scrambled eggs, and hash browns.) It wasn’t nearly as tasty nor appetising as in the past.

We finished that, went up to clean our teeth and finish packing our bags. I’d just finished zipping up my suitcase when I realised that I couldn’t find my V2 lock. This lock is pink and has been halfway around the world twice. It’s also got an easy to remember combination. I had other pink locks in my bag, so locking my suitcase wasn’t an issue, but I didn’t really want to lose the original. Oh, well. I’ll use one of the other locks and ask the cleaners to keep an eye out for the missing one. I reached into my camera bag to get a spare lock…

V2.

Guess I hadn’t lost it after all.

The Skybus left every ten minutes, halfway down the block from the EconoLodge, so – having paid up (I’m paying for food and travel, D.C.’s paying for accommodation) – we went to wait for the bus.

Now, if you know Wellesley Street in Auckland, it’s quite a steep street. I was waiting facing up the hill and looking into the window of a neighbouring shop, appeared to have a lean of about 5°. D.C., with her daypack on her back, kept on overbalancing.

The bus arrived and I tried to pay by credit card (so I can keep track). They can only accept cash or pre-booked tickets. I tried to buy one adult and one senior ticket – you can only buy senior at a kiosk or on-line. I asked for two return, (I had the cash) and looking at my $38 ticket now, I think he’s only charged us for one way. But at least we each had a ticket.

While I was undergoing this high-finance transaction, D.C. was trying to get our cases into the luggage racks. A nice young man picked them up and put them away for her.

For some reason – probably to aid manoeuvrability through a tight space and around a corner, the front seat on the passenger side is a ¾ sized seat. Easily big enough for one person, not so good for two. As I’d held them up with the payment, I left D.C. to it and claimed the front seat on the drivers side, which is behind a lot of luggage racks and with a high wall meaning it’s hard to see out the window. Especially if you’re only 5’1”. So when we got to the next bus stop, I went back to the front (only luggage racks and disability/wheelchair/emergency seats behind D.C.’s seat.) and squeezed in next to her.

Squeezed being the operative word. First corner that we went around to the left, I disappeared off the seat. The driver goes: “I think that’s only made for one person.”

“I think you’re right. I’ll go back at the next stop.”

But there were no further stops, aside from intersections, so we spent most of the 45 minutes with D.C. with her arm looped through mine, hanging on to me, and me sitting kind of side-saddle.

But we made it to the airport with no hiccups. Even though the wind and rain picked up as soon as we hit the motorway and caused the warped door to rattle and flex. Slightly disconcerting, more so because I was concerned what would happen to any vehicles following if it flew loose.

We were deposited at the domestic terminal and had a wander through, working out how and where we offloaded our suitcases. It’s not a totally logical layout at the moment, but there were people to help.

By this stage it was only about 10am and our plane wasn’t due to leave until 2.40, so we went for a wandering through the domestic terminal. We also weighed our cabin bags. According to the rules, they couldn’t be more than 7kg. My camera & laptop bag recorded 7.1kg… 7kg… 6.9kg.

Close enough.

Having completed that, we decided to check out the international terminal. There is a helpful green line painted between the two and it was easy to follow this (stopping off to photograph a Moa and a Kiwi) to the international airport.

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Moa hiding in the Pohutukawa

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Kiwi – having just been visited by a young boy, who’s mum called him back so I could get my photo.

We had a look around and decided to have lunch. Each having a Pita Pit pita. Which was quite yummy – I had falafel. D.C. only wanted a sandwich, but couldn’t find a place that sold plane, sorry, plain old simple sandwiches.

While we were eating, there was a family behind us of mum, dad, grandma, and two kids. Dad was trying to get photos of them all, so I offered to get some with him in. He was very pleased to let me – once he’d switched it over so it wasn’t the camera on the screen side taking the photo. Unfortunately, it was a tablet and not a proper camera. But I managed to get a couple. And then a couple more when they decided that the light behind was too annoying.

We wished them a good flight, and they reciprocated, before we started heading back to the domestic airport. We decided to make this journey a competition. D.C. would take the free bus that travels on a loop between the two terminals and I’d walk. Loser to buy dinner tonight.

The bus pulled up, D.C. got on board, and the driver looked at me. I said: “I’m walking. We’re going to have a race.”

As soon as the bus started moving, so did I.

And I would have done better if my shoelace hadn’t come undone. As it was, I was heading towards the final corner before the stretch of footpath where the buses park when a bus came towards me. The driver saw me and did a double take and smiled. I did a “Bother, I’m last” gesture and she laughed. It only took me 8 minutes to walk, which was probably only about minute slower than the bus. Unfortunately, my fitness tracker (a cheapy) doesn’t let you go back and see your results again, so I can’t remember much more than it was about .73 of a kilometre. I don’t know how many steps I took – but it was around about now that it vibrated to tell me that I’d done my 10,000 steps for the day.

But I was quite hot and thirsty after that walk, (I was wearing my 3-in-one “ski” jacket, my camera backpack, and Kally), so I bought us each a “Mango Zest” TANK drink, remembering – belatedly – to ask to have it without a straw.

“And without a lid?” they checked.

“Yes, please.”

The “paper” cup was probably plastic lined, but at least we didn’t put more plastic than necessary into the landfill.

We found a seat away from the main conglomeration of people waiting for their flight and sat, relaxed, and typed up this blog. 1.00pm we moved down to the more crowded seats, and I did more typing until it was time to board at 13:55 from gate 48 on flight NZ8041.

We sat on the tarmac for quite some time. (We’re now at the hotel and I’ve just found an email from Air New Zealand apologising because the flight was going to be twenty minutes late.) The captain came on the radio an apologised for the delay, saying that it was due to an administration issue. About ten minutes after that the flight attendant spoke to the passenger in the row before us, on the other side of the aisle, then then he had to collect his two(!) bags and leave the plane – leaving his phone behind. D.C. and the people behind us had to tell the flight attendant and she got someone to take it to the ex-passenger.

What I think happened, and this is what I overheard from a conversation between the flight attendant and a man two rows behind us – is that the plane was only allowed to carry fifty. The ex-passenger was allowed on, on the understanding that he’d have to get off and take the next flight, if passengers who had booked before him boarded. They did. So he caught the next flight, which landed almost instantly after we did in New Plymouth anyway.

The flight down was good, the weather relatively clear, an easy take off (not a “point up at the sky and go”), not too many bumps going into the cloud layer, and an easy landing.

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But still no view of the mythical mountain.

Our plane was a turbo-prop(? A name I learned when writing a Thunderbirds story. Also known as a puddle-jumper. But I could be totally wrong about this. I just know it was small and had two propellers.) and we had to walk across the tarmac to board it. And to leave it. And then we had to wait for the baggage train to bring all the bags into a “baggage claim” room, shut the door behind it, and then let us all in to grab our bags. No luggage carousels here!

We found the shuttle service and D.C. scored the front seat and I got the one behind but in the middle so I could see forward too. It was a good drive into town and we were the second drop off of the three stops.

Last time we were in New Plymouth we stayed at the Bella Vista Motel, and having no better ideas this time, we did the same. This time we were given room two, which we think might be directly below the one we had last time, which could have been room eleven.

 

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Having offloaded and decanted everything, we went on our obligatory hunt for a Warehouse. You can guarantee that every time we go somewhere, we have to find a Warehouse. This time D.C. wanted some warmer PJs. I think she’s ended up with a pair of men’s tracksuit pants and a woman’s skivvy. I had seen it at the top of the hill and was heading in that direction, when D.C. stopped and asked someone where it was. I was a trifle snappy when I informed her that it was there!

The Bella Vista recommended two eating establishments, so we went hunting for the one on Molesworth Street. I knew when we found this as I found the Bunnings’ hardware store that’s on that street. Having reached Bunnings we walked back in the direction of the motel, hoping to stumble across the restaurant.

The only thing we saw was a beautiful sunset highlighting Paritutu Rock and the smoke stack, but which had all but gone by the time I got over the road and to a good vantage point with my camera.

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We got back to the Bella Vista still not having found the restaurant. I’ve just checked and it was two blocks the other way past Bunnings.

So, we went over the road to Monica’s Eatery. We both had macaroni cheese, which D.C. found to be too much of a good thing. They gave us some delicious, freshly cooked bread (focaccia?) as well – which was lovely aside from the buttery fingerprints we left on everything. I was planning on having dessert, but didn’t bother when they didn’t come back with the menu having given D.C. her leftovers doggie bag. Our drinks were carrot. apple. turmeric. & ginger (D.C. – very orange) and spinach, something, something, Egmont honey, and mint. (Me – very green)

After that we came “home” and got into bed.

We’d (I’d!) done 12.457 steps today!

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To the big smoke

24 August 2019

Today started off with pretty much a normal Saturday morning. I did make sure that I had a shower as Auckland’s running low on water and I didn’t want to waste any having a shower on Sunday.

Of course, today was bright and sunny. Yesterday, when we did our last loads of washing, so they’d all be clean when we got home, was dark, overcast, and raining, meaning that our solar panels were useless. Today would have been a wonderful day to use the washing machine and dryer (and we did charge FAB-e’s battery) but we didn’t have the time.

I had planned on wearing a merino, blouse, woolly jumper, topped with a 3-in-1 ski jacket that’s warm and waterproof. But it seemed so warm that I thought it was going to be overkill. So I didn’t put on the merino. Then I remembered that merino was supposed to be cooling and warming, so I put it on again. I’m glad I did.

Most of my bags were already packed and it was just a matter of getting Kally into her bear bag and getting everything to the door. AND cleaning down the problematic smoke detector. It shouldn’t go for no good reason now, as Chubb have been back to reduce its sensitivity, but I still made sure there were no spiders nor insects nearby. I used its (purposely purchased) duster to clean around the smoke detector, around the neighbouring door, up and down the stairwell, and then I sprayed the duster with insect repellent and did the whole area again. I was just putting the duster away in its corner when I saw a Daddy Longlegs walking along the base of the door. I took it outside.

This morning we went on our usual Saturday morning walk through the Thames Market and down the road. Usual, except that we were dragging our suitcases with us. But T3 (Transition Town Thames) were holding an eco-stall at the market (with EVs, and literature, and the programme for the “Festival of Living Solutions” that we’re holding from the 7th to the 22nd September.) It was actually quite funny. We had a meeting on the 7th August explaining what was going to be happening with the festival, and getting people to help. Lou wanted someone to make a programme/calendar that could be given out so people would know what was on and when. I said that I could probably do it, which she was grateful for as she wouldn’t have had the time.

So the weekend afterwards I settled down to work on it, with little information aside from a few of the stalls that had been confirmed for the main event on the 7th, and a couple of the workshops. So I designed my own background and fancy bits, and uploaded it to the cloud where all the information was being posted. During the following week other bits of information, such as the advertising poster and logo, and more stalls and events was posted, so I started working on it the following weekend from scratch. We didn’t even do our usual walk down the road last Saturday, as I worked on the programme all day and D.C. went out to paint the woodwork at the entrance to the Historic Kopu Bridge.

I posted that Sunday evening, and then Lou came into work Tuesday (or Wednesday) and admitted that she hadn’t seen it on the cloud site. She sent posted more information on the cloud on Wednesday and that night (breathing through only one nostril since I was stuffed up with a cold) I tweaked it until just after 11pm. There were more stalls and workshops confirmed on Thursday, so I stayed up until 11pm again getting that finalised. There’s heaps more that I could do, and I discovered the following day that where I had Katherine, and then discovered that it was spelt Kathryn in two other places in the cloud and so I changed it to that, that the original Katherine was probably correct. So that was frustrating. Plus they didn’t have a location for Katherine /Kathryn’s workshop, so I couldn’t fill that line in.

But anyway, Lou and Robyn, the two coordinators seemed happy. So did everyone else when we saw them at the stall. Happy and surprised. “Did you make that?! I didn’t know you could do that.”

“Well, I have done a course in desktop publishing. And I did make the pamphlets for the Thames Small Gauge Railway and museums. And I do make my own Christmas cards.”

But the eco-stall seemed to be going well.

D.C. won $10 on her weekly $2 Instant Kiwi. I got nothing for my $2, but at least she’s got some spending money for the coming week.

Lunch at the Sunburst was the same burger (no beetroot) for me and “homemade” pumpkin soup for D.C., plus two hot chocolates, that we have every week. I did consider having something less filling, as we were planning on a big meal this evening, but I couldn’t see anything else that tickled my taste buds.

Over to the post office to check the mail – but it was two begging letters for me (Red Cross, and Forest and Bird) so they’ve stayed there.

Then around to the mall to check out the range of Thunderbirds Are Go toys they’ve got on offer. We were about to leave when a young boy walked past carrying a newly purchased Thunderbird One. I said: “Good man. Excellent choice,” and gave him a thumbs up.

I’m not buying them, because they’re not the original series. But if they ever come down in price…

Back to the Thames i-SITE to wait for the bus to leave at 2.40pm, my step counter telling me that I’d done 4303 steps. Yeah. Right.

We were lucky as the driver is one who knows us by sight, and is an excellent cautious driver. We manged to score a front seat on the top deck and made sure that Kally had a good view.

resized_DSC_0003Taken with my music player (aka Sony smart phone). It would have taken too long to get a proper camera out.

It was a good trip up and the driver was pleased to report that we’d arrived on time for once.

We dragged our bags down to the EconoLodge and checked in, being given room 605.

Having offloaded most of our gear, we went to the local Countdown supermarket and bought some hairclips for D.C., and stuff to combats our coughs and sniffles, and a bar of Whittaker’s new, limited edition chocolate.

Countdown has gone totally self-service, so we were grumbling about having to work the machine by ourselves. And then couldn’t work out where to put our cash – Remember what that is?

We’ve been going to try the Mai Thai restaurant since it won the best restaurant award in 2007, but have never managed it. Either we haven’t had time or they haven’t been open. But we finally managed it tonight. Except that it was 5.15pm and it didn’t open until 6.00pm.

So we wandered up to the SkyTower and the i-SITE. I wanted to check out their tourist souvenirs as I have a bag that I use for going to Rangitoto. It folds up into itself, but when you open it out, it has a pocket on the side that you can slide over the pull-handle of your wheeled suitcase. Very handy for groceries – or coats if you go out overdressed. Except that last time I used it I put too much stress on the zip and the fastening came off one of the runners (or whatever the terminology is. Suffice to say, the zip was running along one side, but not willing to join up with the other.) Thinking that it would be good for carrying our jackets if we got too warm, I attempted to fix it this morning… And now the zip will never run along one side at all. So I would like to get a replacement – One that’s not a cheap Chinese effort bought online.

Anyway, going to the souvenir shop bag hunting was a way of killing time while we waited for Mai Thai to open. A futile way, but still a way.

Back to Mai Thai and they were opening the door just as we got there – about 5.50pm.

We both ended up having the same meals. Except that D.C. had seafood with her vegetables and cashews and I had pork. We both had a virgin mojito, and we both had caramelised crème brûlée for dessert. Our verdict. While it wasn’t bad, it’s not better than our Thai in Thames. The décor may be a tad more authentic, but it got just as noisy as people filed in. (It was popular.) D.C. found her mains a bit too spicy and I finished her vegetables off for her. (Go back a few decades and it was the other way around.) The mojito definitely wasn’t as minty as the one I had in Portsmouth. But we enjoyed the crème brûlée.

Having only had a mojito and a glass of water to drink, we decided to buy some tea from the )(&* Countdown and I bought a pack of Kurols. They definitely clear the nose!

Then it was back to the EconoLodge and into bed for reading and writing.

We’re catching an aeroplane tomorrow!

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Mountain hunting

We’re off to Taranaki (well at least New Plymouth) again. Will we see the mythical mountain this time? I tried to find a photo from last time to use as the blog header – and that was an epic fail. (As I think it may be this time, judging by the weather forcast. I’ll have to keep my camera at my hip for emergency shooting.)

That’s not really the reason why we’re going. It’s because Uncle Fred (and if you’ve read my 2007 blog, you’ll know about Uncle Fred) was a Taranaki Historian. We inherited what remained of his collection, and donated what we could to Puke Ariki – The Taranaki museum.

Earlier this year we were interviewed on camera by Puke Ariki (yes, TV stars again) as a part of their centennial exhibition about why people have donated to Puke Ariki. We were invited to the launch of the exhibition – about two days before it happened – so we reluctantly declined the invitation. But this coming week there are celebrations commemorating 100 years of Taranaki Museusm, so we thought we’d put our efforts into attending that. And so we’re going to Auckland tomorrow, New Plymouth Sunday, and spending a week there. Hopefully I’ll be able to upload my blog, and photos (of Mount Taranaki?) daily.

FAB.

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Birthday surprise

For my birthday, D.C. gave me (us) the chance to take part in a Sunset and Night Phototour. http://www.aucklanddaytours.co.nz/auckland-night-time-photo-tour.php. This necessitated an unexpected trip to Auckland, with the unusual luggage addition of a tripod, but it was worth it.

(I think – hope – that if you click on a photo, you’ll see a larger version. I may have to go and have a play with Flikr.)

When in Auckland we stay at the Econolodge City Central, because it’s so, erm, central. Only one block from the Aotea Centre, across the road from the Civic Centre, around the corner from the InterCity bus terminal, and, most importantly, within bag dragging distance of the Ferry Buildings for trips to Rangitoto Island. It’s an old Art Deco style building, and is showing its age somewhat, but the staff are friendly and helpful, the rooms largely comfortable, and the breakfast tasty.

 

Brett Lees from Unique Visions Tours turned up at in the minibus at 5.30pm, like he said he would, and managed to call me Louise in the first minute of meeting us. We set him right. We were the only ones on the tour, which was good as D.C. had the front seat, and I had the middle seat behind and we could all see straight ahead. It was even better as Brett was able to devote all his attention just to us. And when D.C. decided that her (otherwise excellent) point and shoot didn’t have the capabilities to photograph at night (I did say she could use my Gorillapod tripod) it meant that I got some one on one tuition!

 

We had a good chat on the way to the North Shore on the other side of the Waitemata Harbour. Brett was very interested in the bach situation on Rangitoto, and we were more than happy to tell him all about it.
Our first stop was Mt Victoria. Brett can’t have done the tour for a while, as he wasn’t sure if cars were allowed to the summit any more. So, he left us as far up the hill as he could, and we walked the rest of the way while he went and found a place to park. Our first photos were (funnily enough) of Rangitoto. We’d got them by the time Brett caught up with us, even though there wasn’t much light.

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Brett led us to the other side of Mt Victoria (where we interrupted a courting couple) and we got some photos of the city and some car light trails.

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Once Brett told me to turn the image stabilisation off (believe it or not) and with a little composition guidance, my photos started to look more in focus and I was able to concentrate on the exposure triangle – exposure, shutter speed, and ISO – and composition.

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Looking up the harbour towards the Naval Base and the Skytower.

 

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Devonport

 

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I often wonder if photography had never been invented, and some bright spark came up with the concept today, if we’d still have to deal with all that. One thing that I am sure of is that it wouldn’t be so confusing. F2.8 actually creates a bigger hole for light to pass through than F16 – but F2.8 results in a smaller area in focus from the focal point. Confused? Try contemplating that in the field.

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I liked the way the trees framed the view on the way down the road from Mt Victoria…

 

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…that was until someone shone their torch at the stop sign

 

We walked back down the hill to the van and our next stop was Stanley Bay wharf. There we got the lights of the city from “sea level” with a shed in the foreground for a focal point. Then we walked down the wharf and got more photos from a different angle.

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See the differences in the water between this photo and the one below?

 

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This photo was taken at a faster speed, which meant the lens remained open for a shorter time, not causing the water to blur.

 

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See the difference in the water between this photo and the one below? In order to allow this photo to have a more ethereal feel to the lights on the water, I had to increase the length of time light could enter the camera, whilst decreasing the size of the hole that light passed through – so that, in effect, the same amount of light entered the camera.

 

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Back in the van and around to what was known in years gone by as Fisherman’s Wharf. There was a wedding function going on here, but we went behind the building to photograph the Auckland Harbour Bridge. It looks even more impressive now that it’s got the new LED lighting decorating it… Maybe a thought for the old Kopu Bridge?

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See the difference in the street lights on the bridge – how in this photo they’re star bursts…?

 

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…whilst in this one they’re softer? That’s a result of the depth of focus. And now I’m going to have to remind myself if that’s a shallow depth of focus or not.

 

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The wharf at Fisherman’s Wharf. I like the symmetary.

 

After that it was back in the minibus and across the Auckland Harbour Bridge to Westhaven Marina – next to the Auckland Harbour Bridge – and an overpass over the motorway to photograph light trails from cars passing underneath. We weren’t the only ones there – there were a couple of guys getting their own light trail photographs. But everyone happily kept out of each other’s photographic way.


At the moment Auckland is hosting the Haier Big Hoot.

“The Haier Big Hoot is a large scale art trail event that is now swooping through the streets of Auckland City and its surrounds for nine weeks from the 3rd of March to the 6th of May 2018.

There are 47 bespoke-designed, fiberglass 1.65m tall Owls being displayed on the trail. Each owl is sponsored by a business, educational institution, community group or individual, and bespoke designed by artists, both established and emerging artists…

At the end of the event, each large Owl will be auctioned to raise funds to help support children with cancer and their families throughout New Zealand.

This project is presented by Child Cancer Foundation in partnership with the International creator of the event, Wild in Art.”

https://www.thebighoot.co.nz/

They’re all over Auckland, but during Easter, when we were coming back from Rangitoto Island, and this weekend, whenever I’d see an owl, I’d get a photo. They’re a lot of fun.

The following day we went to Escapade – The Kiwi Escape Game. https://escapadenz.co.nz/. You are “locked” in a room and have to solve a variety of puzzles to get yourself out of there. As I’ve played something similar on an “app” I’ll use that to give you an idea, so as to not spoil the fun if you ever decide to go. You have a combination lock with four numbers and there are four pictures of kittens on the wall. The first picture has four kittens, the next six, the next two, the last five. You enter 4-6-2-5 into the combination lock and it snaps open.

The two of us took 1.33 hours (and quite a few hints) to do what you normally only have an hour to do it in. But we both enjoyed it.

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Well – it was only taken by an i-Pad – and put onto Facebook by Escapade.

 

 

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I think this one is my favourite

 

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Captain Owl: This owl is looking smart and getting ready to go places! Inspired by concepts of natural flight and man made travel. Owls can fly, but this owl can really fly! Preparing to travel higher and further than any owl before it!

 

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Owl-Black: In this design, the owl takes on the iconic black jersey, which is no longer just a sporting symbol, but representative of the values and pride of a whole nation. Something not only recognisable by us as Kiwis but internationally recognised as respect for our achievements as a nation. It is a recognisable legend, and in this representation signed here by many legends… He’s got a nice face, even if his jersey’s signed by All Black rugby players

 

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Whirikoka (Strength): meshes broad-ranging references from traditional Maori weaving, European tapestries, to modernist geometries and DNA sequencing, to the pixilation of digital images. Larkin’s attraction to repetition is paralleled by her fascination with the notion of ‘the other’ in opposing binary pairings such as indigenous/colonist, science/art, male/female or cultural traditions and cutting-edge technology.

 

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I’m Puzzled: illustrates the timeless romance of balloon flight. This almost organic escape to the heavens will always belong in the domain of the romantics where even the most factual of us will be allowed to live our dreams.

 

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Enchanted Frosty River Owl: nspired by the majestic interior of the latest Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Ship with its beautiful dusty pink and gold, Ema added a touch more ‘Frost’ with her well-known favourite blue/green that represents the river this ship sails on. Her signature hummingbirds adorn this River Owl giving it a dreamlike, whimsical feel that her works are known for. Check out the back (back, back) ground.

 

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Kintsukuroi is the name of the art of repairing pottery with gold. It treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise and be ashamed. Embracing the flaw of imperfections in life itself and coming back stronger in the weaknesses. This is a metaphor for porcelain patterns reflecting that life is beautiful and fragile.

 

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To the Land Where the Ponga Tree Grows: inspired by the famous Owl and the Pussycat poem by Edward Lear. By depicting the Owl and the Pussycat in the boat this design is focussed on the journeys that are part of life both internally and/or physically. The land and the sea are painted with a strong and obvious influence and celebration of the beauty of New Zealand colours and landscape, seas and skies. The use of gold has layered suggestions from the artist about what we can contribute, and also the value of compassion and charity as part of society. The ponga tree is a central and strong element, yet with its own twists and turns. The stones are indicative of being grounded and focussed, and again a nod of antipodean respect to rivers and coastlines of this wonderful country and landscape.

 

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Ruru Kakotea: the legend of Pounamu and perfected a faux finish technique for the polished and the uncut rock. Kakotea, a particular shade of greenstone, applied to the owl, along with faux wood and shell finishes to the eyes with glittered claws and pupils and plaited leather rope creates an oversized souvenir. A modern trinket for the supersized age of the last remaining native owl.

 

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Full Moon Ruru: Away from Auckland’s city glow, moonlight becomes obvious and a full moon shines a bright light over the bush, casting a blue hue over the world of the Ruru and other bush creatures. The dapple pattern that covers the owl is made up of different bush creatures representing what the Ruru may hunt.

 

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Geometric Owl: Inspired to explore abstract forms to create a composition in the style of geometric abstraction, the design draws on a palette of matte, metallic and fluorescent paints to bring a contemporary edge to the design. There was a dog and families day on at the Silo Park in the Wynard Quarter. Just as I clicked my first photo, a lady’s dog went behind the owl and crouched – much to the owner’s embarrassment. I was just laughing.

 

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BB-Owl: the shape of the owl makes a perfect BB8 owl.

 

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The Guardian: channels the delicate and intricate nature of patterns, using their natural language to converse with audiences. In honour of Child Cancer Foundation, Taren’s creation illustrates the concept of comfort for children and the families who walk alongside them on this journey. Drawing from her homeland Cambodia, and with respect to the symbolism of a mandala, Taren delved into her cultural roots to manifest a visual representation of inner strength and protection. It struck a chord with this young child – I was a bit slow clicking the shutter to catch the kiss.

 

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Big Hoot: A contemporary, colourful and abstract design. This owl features bright geometric graphics in an Aztec style and is the iconic face of the Haier Big Hoot Bold and exciting, the Big Hoot owl celebrates creativity and imagination, and was designed by OWB in the UK for the Haier Big Hoot art trail.

 

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Hipster Hoot Hipster Hoot is inspired by independent thinkers, dreamers and creativity. Hipster Hoot is trendy, hip and fun!

 

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Athena of Aotearoa: In Greek mythology, the owl is the symbol for Athena, the goddess of wisdom. Anna’s design celebrates the beauty of multi-culturism with the Land of the Long White Cloud.

 

 Two I’d wished I’d seen – and we were only about 100m away from them!

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My new toy

Paid for today. Name to be decided.

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Photo courtesy of D.C.’s camera. Photo courtesy of Andreas of Scootling. Red face courtesy of a very hot sticky day with a lot of walking (and a little bit of riding through Bunnings’ carpark.) As D.C. said, I was chuffed to finally find an e-scooter that I liked – two weeks after the Pink Purrer died.

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Scooting home

I tried to post this last night, but for some reason WordPress, or maybe Firefox, wouldn’t let me. Tonight I’m (sadly) using Microsoft Edge. Fingers crossed it works.

I’ll say one thing. The Grand Mercure is a hang of a lot noisier than the Chateau Tongariro. There is a difference between being in the heart of the CBD of a city and being on the side of a mountain in the middle of nowhere.

We packed up this morning, and then went hunting out breakfast. As nice as it was, we weren’t going to spend over $25 each at the Mercure again, so we went to a café known as the Shaky Isles Café Co. I had pickelets with berries, lemon curd, crème fraiche, and maple syrup. Plus a drink called “Purple Comfort” made of roasted apples, blueberries, cinnamon, apple juice. Very nice.

Then we went up and checked out, leaving our suitcases there to catch later. We then hurried to catch the Inner Link bus, only to discover that it was going to sit there for a few minutes while the bus driver changed over. The bus goes the long route, looping through various points of interest in the central city area – with D.C. telling me potted history about the various points as we go (most of which I’ve heard before.)

The buses now have a recorded lady stating which stop is coming up. I think she’s the same lady who give the commentary on the trains. We got confused by Ponsonby Road though, as she was a little late speaking up and we’d overshot the mark. We got out at the next stop, along with a very nice Polynesian lady who offered to point out where we needed to go.

Today was another hot day, and it was even more hot walking in the sun along Ponsonby, and then Great North Road – D.C. saying, I think we should be going that way, and me going, I think we should be going this way. This way won. Our coinciding discussion was whether the shop was next to Bunnings or over the road from Bunnings. D.C. got this one right when it turned out that Scootling was right next door to Bunnings Grey Lynn – the worst Bunnings store in the country for suppliers. But that’s another story.

We went into Scootling about 10.30 and met Andreas who owns it. He was very helpful, but said that the Niu scooters wouldn’t be arriving until 12.30ish and wouldn’t be unpacked and ready until about 1.30ish. So we said we’d entertain ourselves in Grey Lynn until then.

What can you do in Grey Lynn?

So we next door to Bunnings and did some secret shopping. Apparently Natural Paving grass grn, is so called because the product is grass green. Not because you grow grass in it. And you put your pebbles, of any size, although maybe not the big flat ones, into the cells. Wrong!

Other products available is Cirtex Surepave (the opposition – which ironically makes their product in Kopu.) The only colour options were green and black. As they are a small to medium format store (small to medium! How big are the warehouses?) they didn’t carry the Natural Paving with the weed mat. And neither did Mt Roskill, where she’d worked a year ago. Wrong! And Wrong!

The guy who served us over wheelbarrows was slightly better. He said the Tradesman was better than the Handipour, but that it was a good garden barrow, suitable for an elderly lady (D.C. did the elderly lady bit.) The Garden Buddy was in the wrong place (right next to the Tradesman, Handipour and Concreter) and he wasn’t sure what the price was. The Concreter probably had too deep a tray for our needs.

We had lunch in the café, which wasn’t bad, and then decided to buy a gutter cleaning scoop for $4.95. The price tag didn’t work, so we could either go get another, take a photo of the SKU, or not bother. We didn’t bother, and just bought some hose attachments.

They had some solar Christmas reindeer that I’d like to get, but they were on stakes. Like the solar Santas on stakes that are “easy to install”. Unless you’re trying to install them into a scoria field.

We still had half an hour to go, and it was still hot, so we went back to Scootling. They were just unloading the Nius. D.C. read her book, while I checked my emails on their free WiFi and played a hidden object game and ran out of battery. Then Andreas brought out the manual of the Niu for me to read. And a fan to keep us cool.

Problem. If I couldn’t have pink, I wanted yellow. China didn’t send yellow. I could wait about three weeks for replacement panels if I liked, or have blue or grey. Erm…

Finally, the Niu was ready for me to try, and Andreas brought a blue one out. I have to admit that the blue is a nice colour. It’s a good size for me to sit on (D.C. stayed inside in the “cool” and read) and great fun to drive. I drove around Bunnings’ car park, and got some funny looks from staff members. But the torque going up the car park ramp was great! No issues whatsoever. I would have been lucky if the Pink Purrer had managed to turn the corner to start the climb.

D.C. had a sit on it, and a chat to Andreas and I think she agrees that it’s a good one too. As the staff hadn’t seen it yet, they were keen to have a look too.

So this is my new e-scooter.

It will get a box on the back.

They’ve still got to get NZTA approval and do the rego and insurance, etc, and of course send me the bill.

It was after 3.00pm by the time we left. We had planned to be at Denny’s restaurant by 3.00pm, having collected our bags from the Grand Mercure, and then have dinner finished by 4.10pm, so we were over the road, waiting for the bus, at 5.10pm.

We were lucky in that the bus for City Central came around every ¼ hour, so it wasn’t a long wait. I was thinking, as we were boarding, I hope that D.C. doesn’t have problems with her gold card AT Hop card, since it’s after 3.00pm. Then I got on board and it declined my card. We were stunned as it had worked this morning. (We thought. Having checked the web site, I’m not so sure now.) Between us we forked out the $3.50 cash, and went for the ride.

It stopped in Albert Street. That was the end of the line. So D.C. carried on up the two or so blocks to Denny’s in Hobson Street and I dashed down Queen Street and into the Grand Mercure. Fortunately, they had “storytellers” free and they got my bags. One of the ladies who’d served us asked if we’d done our Christmas shopping. I replied that yes: I’d bought myself a $4000 scooter.

Then it was a dash, towing two small, rolling suitcases, up Queen Street. It was stop, go, step to the left, step to the right, mind the toes, get out of my way – so I turned up Swanson Street. Short and steep, but with few people. I don’t know that easier is the word to use, but I think it was quicker. Then it was across Albert Street – and the dirty great hole in the road for the City Rail Link. Along Albert Street to Wyndham Street, along that to Federal Street, along that to Kingston Street, then down to Hobson Street, across the road and to Dennys. It was a little before 4.00pm by the time I got there and I was hot and sweaty… sorry, glowing.

We ordered salads, because they’d be quick and easy, and lemon, honey and ginger drinks, and paid in advance so we could eat and run. And then we ate and ran.

We were the first ones at the bus.

It was a new bus and had only done 1000 km. The old bus had done 800,000km. We were running on time, but had to wait at Manukau because the driver had been held up behind an accident, and they were going to do a driver swap there. (Not Grumble Guts.)

We got caught up in some of the commuter traffic, but otherwise it was a good trip home, with a slight detour to drop someone off at Waitakaruru.

We had a Trumpet ice cream as soon as we got home.

It turns out that last night’s amazingly huge and bright moon was the precursor to tonight’s Super Moon, so we went over the road and got some photos.

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The Super Moon and the Thames War Memorial Monument. I’m quite pleased with this photo as the camera was hand held. I wish I’d got the moon and the monument more in line though.

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Unwinding ourselves

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Kally in her flapper headband, ready for dinner last night.

It wasn’t such a rush this morning, but we went down for breakfast – in the Ruapehu Room. There were various fruits available, bacon, scrambled eggs, fried tomatoes, sausages, hash browns, hot cakes, pancakes, mushrooms, baked beans, pastries – small Danishes, croissant, banana bread, muffins – toast, various teas, coffee… It was all buffet, so you could eat as much or as little as you liked. The lady at the desk ticked us off as being eligible for our meal, by asking which room we were in. Naturally I had 402 in my mind, so I kept on saying that instead of 603.

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Pukekohe Travel were offering a trip up to the Bruce for those who were interested. D.C. decided that she didn’t want to go, but that I could go by myself. I didn’t know what it was, so I did a Google Maps search, and discovered that Bruce Road is the road up to the Whakapapa Ski Field. This morning dawned lovely and clear and I convinced D.C. that we should go on the trip, so we paid our $15 each.

I’m glad we went, and so was D.C. The trip from the Chateau was only about 15 minutes long – and we managed to score a front seat, much to D.C.’s relief.

Once we got to the ski field, we could have hung around Whakapapa or paid the $35 each to take the ski lift. Once again D.C. did the “you could go by yourself” bit, to which I replied with the “it’s no fun by myself” bit. So I paid for us both.

I think she was a little worried about the getting on and off the seats as the chair lift circled around, but they stopped the chair lift on the bottom ride and slowed the top one right down, so it wasn’t an issue. Especially as the men helping us were so friendly and eager to help. I had my daypack camera bag, and I had to wear that on my front so that I could get on and off “quickly” and easily.

The first leg was on the newest ski lift and this one had soft cushions. But, because most of our group were in the older age group, they had to stop the ride to give them a chance to board. This meant that those of us already on the ride had to hang, swaying, in mid-air until we set off again.

The second leg of the chair lift was the original one and had slatted, slightly bucket-shaped, wooden seats. We were joined on this journey by a young man who was planning to walk to the top from this point and then ski down. He was also taking photos as we did the journey. We wished him well on his upward, and downward, leg.

Up here the clouds were beginning to move in, but it was still largely sunny. It wasn’t too cold either, although we were both glad that we had our jackets on the downward trip when a cold breeze blew in. (Mine’s my usual raincoat, which is also a three-in-one jacket, which I’d “lined” with the warmer jacket from my “winter” “ski jacket” three-in-one. The problem with this time of year is that, although we’ve had brilliant, warm weather, anywhere – National Park, Whakapapa, or Auckland, could be cold and wet.)

There’s a café at the top of the ski lifts, so we had a hot chocolate each. $6.50! The poor lady serving us, started squirting chocolate out of the bottles, only to have it leak all over the counter. She had to clean up several times in the process, but we eventually got our drinks – and then attempted to get photos of us drinking them. If D.C. hadn’t gone on ahead when I’d taken a photo of a couple of Asian men for them, they probably could have got a photo of us for us.

The trip down was a lot smoother. Probably less unsure people trying to board all at once.

I checked out the Whakapapa shop, whilst D.C. had a toilet stop. I was taken by the monogrammed ski jacket. It would be fun to have one with “Burton” written on it.

Everyone sort of arrived back at the bus at the same time, so we left earlier than anticipated for the Chateau. After a bit of an explore there, and some more photos – I wanted one of D.C. in the picture window from the outside. She thought I wanted it from the inside and was facing the wrong way waiting for me to appear – we boarded the final bus back to National Park.

Here, many members of our tour bought and had lunch in the station café while we waited for over the hour until the train arrived. D.C. and I had already decided, in part because of the queue in the station, to wait until we were on the train and enjoy some Wishbone delicacies. Which we did – D.C. had potato gratin (I had a square) and I had Indonesian rice (D.C. had a forkful.) Later on the train and Pukekohe Travel crews came around with tea, coffee, hot water, packets of three bliss balls, and, as a special treat, two chocolates – one with Santa on and one with a sprig of “holly”.

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We’re in seat 7A and B in carriage D, and my commentary headphone jack was broken. Either someone had jammed something into it, or the jack was warped. D.C. and I had to listen to the Raurimu Spiral commentary, firstly with each of us twisting the earpiece of the Kiwirail supplied headphones so we could both hear it, and then, after a bit of hand sanitiser, my noise cancelling earbuds.

We had brilliant weather all weekend – until we got to Auckland, then we got spots of rain on the windows.

We got to Westfield and got held up. I’m not 100% sure why, as it wasn’t a recognised stop, but the step into our carriage had jammed on the platform and we couldn’t move. The steward was trying to get as many people as he could to put weight on the footplate above it, but that didn’t work, so he had to get the driver out to have a look. I don’t know how they got it shifted, but we were stuck here for about ten minutes. Long enough for me to take the headphones double adapter back.

Frank, or Pukekohe Travel had arranged for a shuttle bus to pick those going to the vicinity of Quay Street, to be taken to Quay Street. As that was only two blocks away from the Grand Mecure, and we didn’t have to pay, we took advantage of this. We also walked with Frank to Customs Street.

We booked into the Grand Mercure – room 611 this time – with a little problem that they hadn’t remembered D.C. paying cash for yesterday’s breakfast, which she had. They got that sorted and we went up to our room. After a quick unpack, as it was after 7.00pm, we went back up to the Vue again. We wanted to get some evening photos this time. The two male wait staff were both very nice and helpful. One appears to have a mild case of cerebral palsy or something, but it wasn’t stopping him. It just goes to show that, frequently, all that’s required is for someone to show some faith in them.

I had a chicken on pasta dish, and D.C. lamb. Then she had a hazelnut desert, and I had chocolate tart. It was all much more high class than that, (and more expensive than it should be, even if it was very nice), but you get my drift.

And then, having taken tons of photos, most of which will be out of focus as it was dark and we didn’t have tripods, we came back to room 611 and went to bed.

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