‘More Pew-Pew Space Battles’
Score: 4/5

James S. A. Corey

If you liked the first book of The Expanse, Leviathan Wakes, then you’ll like this too. There are even more Game of Thrones overtones with this book too.

Also, it’s a testament to my ignorance of Shakespeare that I didn’t know who Caliban was. Oops.

Tags: 4 Word Book Reviews
Created by on Logo15659OpinionatedGeek Ltd.Logo15659

‘What Was The Point?’
Score: 2/5

Kim Stanley Robinson

I started this and I wasn’t really sure where the author was going with it. I stuck with it out of curiousity. And then I finished it, none the wiser.

There’s a bit of a story there, but I think whatever the author was aiming for was just too subtle for my tiny mind.

(Now that I’ve come to write about it, I’ve found out it’s number three in a series of three. Guess that explains it a bit. Still, I’ve no urge to go and read the other two now.)

Tags: 4 Word Book Reviews
Created by on Logo15659OpinionatedGeek Ltd.Logo15659

‘Space Game Of Thrones’
Score: 4/5

James S. A. Corey

Much of this book feels like Game of Thrones. I didn’t realise when reading it just why though. It was only when I finished reading the book I found out that the author is a pen name for two writers, and one of the writers is (or was) George R. R. Martin’s assistant. When I discovered that, I noticed even more similarities. Even the pen name James S. A. Corey shares the form of George R. R. Martin – first name, two initials, then a surname that’s also a first name.

I may be reading too much into all this.

Anyway, it’s an interesting romp of a space opera with hints of more to come. And as ever I take issue with some of the space physics and battle stuff, but it’s not as bad as many science fiction books.

Looks to be an interesting series that I’ll be following for a while.

Tags: 4 Word Book Reviews
Created by on Logo15659OpinionatedGeek Ltd.Logo15659

‘More Type/Font Wizardry’
Score: 4/5

Ellen Lupton

Where ‘Just My Type’ covered type and typefaces with a large dose of history, this book aims to be more practical. It does cover a lot about types and typefaces, but it also tries to show how they can be used and – often more important – how they should not be used. The ‘type crimes’ that pop up throughout the book can be funny or cringeworthy.

The book also covers things like padding and margins around paragraphs but (curiously) doesn’t mention anything about spacing between a header and the next paragraph. This sticks out for me because a long time ago I was told that the header should be closer to the paragraph it is heading than it is to the previous paragraph. Seems pretty obvious, but at the time it often wasn’t that clear in browsers. H1s and H2s could seem equidistant from the paragraphs before and after (although I don’t know if this was the browsers themselves or just someone messing with the new-fangled CSS back then).

Anyway, I still prefer having the header closer to the headed paragraph but I’ve no idea whether this is a good thing or if it’ll be a Type Crime in the next edition of this book.

Tags: 4 Word Book Reviews
Created by on Logo15659OpinionatedGeek Ltd.Logo15659

‘Is The Answer Here?’
Score: 5/5

The Fermi Paradox, simply stated, says: there are a huge number of stars out there, so many that life must have evolved in more places than just here on Earth. So where are all the aliens?

OK, it’s not a true paradox but the story behind Fermi’s simple ‘Where are they?’ is interesting enough. A lot more people have put a lot of effort into trying to figure out the answer though. Is it that we really are the only life in the universe? Or is there another explanation for why aliens haven’t been in contact?

This book brings together 50 different possible reasons for the apparent discrepancy between the obviousness of alien life existing and equally obvious lack of its visibility. And while they’re not all serious, I did find them all worth thinking about.

It’s a great list of scenarios. The ones I can think of that aren’t on the list are pretty close to listed ones, so you could argue they’re covered and the difference is just in tone.

In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and it certainly made me think. And for another excellent take on the Fermi Paradox, What But Why has you covered.

Tags: 4 Word Book Reviews
Created by on Logo15659OpinionatedGeek Ltd.Logo15659

Here are all the New Zealand 2015 Travelogue entries, in order:

I do hope you enjoyed them.

Tags: Personal
Created by on Logo15659OpinionatedGeek Ltd.Logo15659

Tuesday, 27th October 2015

Soundtrack: Leaving On A Jet Plane by John Denver

Google Fit stats:

  • Activity: 2 hours 31 minutes
  • Distance: 6.5 km
  • Calories: 1,315
  • Steps: 12,352

Uptime: 00 hours, 00 minutes, local time: 07:30


Tomorrow is going to be a rare day – from midnight to midnight will be 37 hours for us. We’re leaving here, which is GMT-13, and we finish the day in GMT. That’s 37 hours without a midnight.

However, we take off here at 1am (local time), so this is the last bed until home tomorrow evening at the end of the 37-hour day that starts tomorrow. We’ll be out and about in Auckland today so I expect we’ll be pretty tired on the flights – hopefully tired enough to sleep a bit.

However, a quick check of my email shows an unexpected problem. I’ve been sent an abuse report from Amazon about one of my servers. Arse.

The server isn’t doing anything bad intentionally, so I spend a little time digging around in it. I’m grateful I have tools I can use to RDP into it when I’m half a world away from my normal setup.

OTOH, the RDP connection sucks. It’s soooo slooooooooow. It’s hard to do anything ‘interactive’ on a Windows machine when RDP is this slow, so I play around with some settings.

It turns out it was the Awful Hotel Wifi that was slowing RDP down. The site was fast enough, and RDP wasn’t the source of the problem, so I was able to connect and investigate a bit using my phone connection. Three really have proved pretty great on this trip – free data roaming as well as free regular roaming in a bunch of countries, one of which was New Zealand. It was ridiculously handy having phone and data connection throughout our stay here. Well done Three!

My quick investigation of the server is less than fruitful. I have suspicions over what’s causing the problem, but it’d be difficult to fix without all my usual tools, the source of the sites, or even a physical keyboard. Best option seems to be to switch the server off until I get home and can rebuild the server properly, so that’s what I do. (Sorry if this shutdown affected you!)

Finally we can go get some breakfast. SWMBO had breakfast pizza! I didn’t even know that was a thing – a genuine breakfast pizza served by the hotel, for breakfast. What a time to be alive.


Uptime: 4 hours, 0 minutes, local time: 12:00

Then it was time to pack up and get out. The time spent trying to fix the server plus some problems checking in for the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Heathrow meant it was nearly 12noon when we were checking out. If we didn’t make it out by 12noon the hotel would start charging us, but we made it out in the nick of time.

The hotel had a striking chain curtain at its entrance

What do you do in Auckland if you have free time? The first thing we did was go to a coffee shop near the SkyTower so I could have a flat white. There are claims the flat white was invented in Auckland or Wellington but wikipedia reckons the earliest reference to it was Canberra in Australia. I’ve no idea where it originated. Also, since I’d never had one, I’d no idea what it tasted like either.

So, at Gloria Jean’s coffee shop in the shadow of the SkyTower in Auckland, I had my first ever flat white.

The Sky Tower

I didn’t like it.

Ah well. I do like coffee, but I tend to take it with no milk. I never really liked lattes (because of the milk) so I didn’t have high hopes for the flat white. The flat white was definitely better – the milk was wonderfully silky – but it’s not really my kind of drink. Still, it’s nice to know that if I don’t like a well made flat white from Auckland I’m probably not going to like a flat white anywhere.

When we packed this morning we ditched a bunch of things that weren’t worth bringing back, like empty toiletry bottles, papers we didn’t need, and so on. SWMBO had a Rough Guide for New Zealand that we didn’t think there was much point bringing back with us (it would likely be out of date by the time we came back) but it didn’t feel right just leaving the book in the room.

So SWMBO had the lovely idea of leaving the book in a place a tourist would likely come across it, and it would help them. She put a note on it that the book was deliberately left as a gift to them if they were to find it useful…

SWMBO, strategically leaving the book where it would be seen

And then she left it on the bench:

Book and bench, minus SWMBO

Although it wasn’t our intent to hang around and see it picked up, someone had found it and started reading it before we had managed to walk out of sight of it.

Then we did the obvious tourist thing and went up the SkyTower.

SWMBO snapping Auckland

The SkyTower is the tallest building in the southern hemisphere, and it does have a lovely view over Auckland.

Auckland through the toughened glass

Now, one thing with the SkyTower was unexpected. It’s a skinny tower with the upper floors sticking out from the ‘pole’. It’s a striking design, but it does mean some of the upper floors are built on top of… nothing.

As if that’s not freaky enough, the architects had put glass floor sections on these levels for you to walk across!

I may have mentioned my new-found fear of heights.

We walked around the floor-with-bits-of-glass-in-it for a while.

Final feetstagram looking out over Auckland!

And they did try to emphasise the safety of the glass:

This did not give me confidence…

But I mean seriously. That did not give me confidence in the glass. That took away confidence in the concrete! This was not helpful!

This was the scariest part of the holiday for me. We’d done lots of fantastic (sorry, ‘fentestic’) things, some of them pretty scary to me, but this was the most terrifying. Just… walking across the glass in the floor. Something as simple as that, something everyone else seemed quite able to do, scared the bejaysus out of me.

And that bothers me because the rational part of my brain knew it was safe. It was just overwhelmed by the scared bit.

But I did it. I didn’t want to let that scared part win, partly because I was worried that it would keep winning and winning until I didn’t feel able to do anything.

So, gingerly at first – and leaning heavily on the guard rail – I stepped on to the glass.

The glass under my feet

And it was all OK. Nothing bad happened, the glass didn’t break or come undone, and I didn’t plummet to the ground.

Pic from SWMBO – I did let go of the rail. Eventually.

Yes, I did let go of the rail eventually. It was very difficult for me to do – I think my brain hates me – but I did it.

I was quite relieved after it all.

Such relief!

Some people didn’t have any such issues with the glass. They had far more faith in the glass than I think the architects expected…

I was scared just looking at her..

So then we went to the cafe/bar area of the SkyTower and had some champagne. Sitting there up the tallest building in the southern hemisphere, looking out at Auckland, drinking champagne… Going home and getting back to normal is going to hit us hard, isn’t it?

We went up to the higher observation deck after this. It wasn’t as scary – it had regular floors and the scared bit of my brain didn’t realise how little difference that makes.

Then we left the SkyTower and went for a dander around the Viaduct area of Auckland. They had a nice free library built in to a cargo container (shades of Christchurch) so I sat in it for a while reading an old electronics magazine until SWMBO pointed out it was time to move on.

Auckland docks

SWMBO at the Viaduct bridge


Uptime: 8 hours, 0 minutes, local time 15:30

Another cuppa. Auckland is nice but there don’t seem to be many quick things to see – lots of things to see, but they’re a good bit away or take too long for our purposes. We did walk past the ‘Tepid Baths’ but… that just didn’t sound attractive.

We dandered a bit more to Aotea Square. We had a seat on a bench in the shade for a while. SWMBO says I snored but I have no such recollection.


Uptime: 9 hours, 30 minutes, local time 17:00

SWMBO felt like some Japanese food for dinner so we googled for Japanese restaurants near us. (Again, thank goodness for the data connection.) We found out that there was a place called Kushi that was fairly close by, and also fairly near the hotel (where we’d left our luggage). Perfect. Google said it opened at 5pm but it didn’t open until 5:30pm so we found a wee bar for a while. I was trying to avoid drinking beer before getting on the plane, so I just had an orange juice. This isn’t more clumsy foreshadowing, I just thought I’d mention it. It has no significance whatsoever.

Kushi was open once we finished our drinks. It was empty and quiet which was a bit of a relief – yesterday we were on an island with a population of 300 and today we were in the throngs of Auckland. It was nice to get a bit of space again.

I ordered the chicken teryaki set meal, and SWMBO ordered the Shabu Shabu. I also ordered a fancy Japanese lemonade.

A very fancy lemonade

It was so fancy the girl that brought it had to explain how to open it! In my defence this was not a straightforward operation:

Ramune is widely known for the distinctive design of its bottle, often called Codd-neck bottles after the inventor, Hiram Codd. They are made of glass and sealed with a marble; the codd head is held in place by the pressure of the carbonation in the drink. To open the bottle, a device to push the marble inward is provided. The marble is pushed inside the neck of the bottle where it rattles around while drinking. Therefore, the drinks are sometimes called "marble soda" outside of Japan.[citation needed] While the Codd-neck bottle was once commonly used for carbonated drinks, today Ramune is one of its very few users.

People trying Ramune for the first time sometimes find it difficult to drink, as it takes practice to learn to stop the marble from blocking the flow. In one version of the bottle introduced in 2006, little slots were added to the cap where the marble was originally held. This prevented the flow from obstruction if the marble falls back into the cap. Ramune is also available in plastic PET bottles and cans.

(from WikipediaRamune)


And I had it easy. SWMBO’s meal came with its own gas appliance!

‘Propane, and propane accessories…’

Shabu shabu is a meal you cook yourself, adding ingredients to the hot water to create a broth, taking pieces out when they’re cooked.

Shabu-shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ , also spelled shyabu-shyabu?) is a Japanese dish featuring thinly sliced beef boiled in water. The term is an onomatopœia, derived from the sound emitted when the ingredients are stirred in the cooking pot. The dish is related to sukiyaki in style: Both consist of thinly sliced meat and vegetables and served with dipping sauces, although shabu-shabu beef is sliced much thinner and cooked piece by piece by the diner, whereas sukiyaki arrives from the kitchen completely assembled. Also shabu-shabu is considered to be more savory and less sweet than sukiyaki, and is a more expensive dish with finer vegetable ingredients and better cuts of beef.

(from WikipediaShabu-shabu)

We had shabu shabu 10 years ago in Christchurch, in a restaurant I don’t think exists any more. I thought it was fun if a little too much hassle, but SWMBO loved it enough to order it again a mere 10 years later.


Uptime: 12 hours, 0 minutes, local time: 19:30

Had a green tea and finished up at Kushi


Uptime: 14 hours, 0 minutes, local time 21:30

Back at the hotel, waiting in the lobby. Getting changed and messing around with the luggage killed about an hour, with another hour to go before our taxi for the airport arrives.

I just bought a couple of things from Amazon. (I figure it’s safe to order things now since they’ll not arrive before we’re home.) I ordered a rubber duck bath thermometer (I want to get the bath the same temperature as the Rotorua mineral bath because it was so great for my feet) and a book on the Fermi paradox. I can’t wait for that to show up in the ‘Buyers who bought this item also bought…’ section.


Wednesday, 28th October 2015

Soundtrack: Virtual Insanity by Jamiroquai. (This was playing somewhere in Auckland.)

Google Fit stats:

  • Activity: 2 hours 31 minutes
  • Distance: 6.5 km
  • Calories: 1,315
  • Steps: 12,352

Uptime: 29 hours, 0 minutes, New Zealand time: 12:30, local time: no idea

Here we are, nearing the end of the first plane trip of the day. At 11 hours it was quite a long flight.

Waiting to board the plane wasn’t fun. People shouting across the gate at each other, people blocking the way to board, people... People are idiots.

The nastiest bit was when I went to the loo just before boarding started. Someone had gone for a pee and it looks like they didn't even try hitting the bowl. It was on the seat, on the floor... I don't like some people.

The joy of travel. Broadens the mind, don’t you know.

My legs felt quite crampy and jumpy this flight. (Someone somewhere no doubt wants to sell me a cure for restless leg syndrome.) It meant I couldn't get comfortable to sleep and it lasted a few hours.

I gave up and put Ant Man on the in flight entertainment system. That managed to let me doze a bit. Not sure what that says about me or the film.

This flight is fairly empty, and there are a few people sprawled across 4 seats, sleeping away. I'm a bit jealous. I stuck with SWMBO in our 2 seats together — A and C, an aisle seat and a window seat with no in-between seat. I was chuffed that we managed to get two-seats-together-to-ourselves on this flight, and I hope we managed to do the same on the 13 hour flight too. It’s nice not having to share personal space with strangers for half a day.

We still received our usual allocation of one young child near us, but he's been very good the whole flight. Probably better than me.


Uptime: 31 hours, 20 minutes, local (Kuala Lumpur) time: 09:50, New Zealand time: 14:50. UK time: 01:50

We’re in the 'upstairs' lounge of the gate! This gate has an upstairs and a downstairs because it’s boarding an A380, which also has an upstairs and downstairs (like a Jumbo Jet only bigger). We’re going to be seated on the upper deck. We’re not in first class or business class (also on the upper deck) but SWMBO’s brother said to try to get seats on the upper deck if you can because it can share staff with the first class staff and they’re better.

This upstairs gate is very fancy. Impostor syndrome has kicked in. People can tell just by looking at us that our tickets just say 'Economy'.


Uptime: 42 hours, 0 minutes, local time: fuck knows where we are, Kuala Lumpur time: 20:30, New Zealand time: 01:30, UK time: 12:30

The scheduled take off of our first flight was 24 hours ago now. It's been plane stuff ever since.

The upper deck on the Airbus A380 is much, much nicer than the lower deck, at least with Malaysian Airlines. There's a little more room, I think, and the staff are much better. It was a bit scary being greeted as Mr. Taylor just as I was taking my seat though. It did show the cabin crew here were much more on the ball than on the other flights we’d taken.

This flight is fairly empty too — I’m not sure why, the original flight the other direction was bunged. There are a few gaps of four adjacent seats in the middle, so people have taken to lying across them. Apparently there's a lot more room downstairs too.

SWMBO and I stayed in our 2-seat setup. I hope I'm not cramping her. Even with more room upstairs there's still not much room.

SWMBO gave me the window seat this time so I can lean up against the window for a nap. I got a bit of a doze but also a stiff neck. My legs were jumpy again too.

One of the banks of four seats freed up, so I had a lie down there. It was nice until I needed to go to the loo. I was quick, and I left my blanket and tablet there, but someone had taken over by the time I got back. Ah well, was nice while it lasted.

Then I wondered if the person who had taken it was sleeping there before and only got up to go to the loo and I stole it while he was away. Maybe I was the bed-stealing-git in this scenario?

It's been a very long flight.


Uptime: 46 hours, 0 minutes, local (UK) time: 16:30, Kuala Lumpur time 00:30, New Zealand time: 05:30

We’re finally getting ready to land. As I keep saying, it's been a long flight.

SWMBO spotted the bank of four seats was free so she got to lie down for an hour or two. She missed out on the dinner – chicken curry. I think she was doubly lucky — the chicken curry didn't seem to have settled well with me.

Still, nearly finished the second of today's three flights.


Uptime: 49 hours, 0 minutes, local (UK) time: 19:30, Kuala Lumpur time 03:30, New Zealand time: 08:30

The last flight!

We couldn’t check in for this flight when we checked in for the first flight because this flight was more than 24 hours in the future and British Airways only let you check in 24 hours in advance.

Then we couldn’t check in when we were in Kuala Lumpur because of an error with the online check in (maybe because our bags had already been checked in for the flight back in Auckland?)

So we checked in as soon as we could in Terminal 5 in Heathrow, but of course by then everyone else had checked in and we couldn’t get two seats together. It’s only a short flight so this wasn’t such a big deal but it was annoying.

Still, they put us in seats 1b and 1e (on this plane they’re both aisle seats, with just one aisle separating them). And since they’re the very first row there was more legroom than on any of the long-haul flights. No more crampy legs!

When they finished boarding and closed the doors, the seat beside SWMBO was empty. So I asked to move across. The cabin crew were great about me moving (but did check to make sure we were together – how stalker-y would that be, asking to move next to someone you didn’t know on the plane‽) This flight was quite busy and crowded but by this stage we didn’t care.

Did I mention the other part of my filling coming out in Invercargill airport? That was a nice way to round out the adventure – the first part coming out as we took off at Heathrow, the second bit coming out in Invercargill airport just as we were heading home.

It’s just as well this is a short flight. We’re so sleep deprived we can barely function.


Uptime: 51 hours, 0 minutes, local (UK) time 21:20. Can no longer do basic maths to figure out other time zones

Home. Zzz. Heading to bed.

    The spoils of our trip

    But what a trip! The second holiday of a lifetime. I still can’t believe the beauty of New Zealand, the incredible scenery, the amazing experiences. Or the tolerance of SWMBO.


    Tags: Personal
    Created by on Logo15659OpinionatedGeek Ltd.Logo15659

    Soundtrack: Don’t Go by Yazoo

    Google Fit stats:

    • Activity: 45 minutes
    • Distance: 1.3 km
    • Calories: 385
    • Steps: 3,477

    I’ve felt cold on Stewart Island. This is an odd thing for me – I’m rarely cold. Still, Stewart Island was a bit chilly.

    We were woken again by the kakas. It’s lovely to see them, even if they do make strange noises. Here’s a video SWMBO took (with my phone!) of a kaka making the strange water-drop sounds:

    We got up, packed and left our luggage with Pip – she’d take it down to the boat for us, which was just excellent service.

    Had a cooked breakfast at the hotel then went across to take a bus tour of the island. The island’s not big, and very little of it has roads. Alternatively we could have gone to the local cinema (yep, there’s a small cinema there!) and seen the local film ‘A Local’s Tail’, but in the end the bus tour won.

    I think the bus tour took in most of the roads on the island. There are only about 20km of roads, and it wasn’t a short tour. It was pretty slow though – everyone drives slowly on the roads. I guess when you know everyone you’re more careful than the drivers we get in Norn Iron, who have some isolation disconnect when they’re driving and act like no-one else matters.

    The bus took us to some lovely spots, like Observation Rock.

    SWMBO at Observation Rock


    And this gorgeous bay:

    Just beautiful

    So of course we interposed ourselves with it.

    Us at the bay

    And of course the bus took us to the chain at Lee Bay again. It was better when we had it to ourselves though.

    It was nice to see the extreme ends of the town, even if we did walk past one end of it yesterday on our way to the chain.

    Had a cuppa in KFC, then went to the hotel to wait for the ferry. Spotted some regular (to my eyes) oystercatchers on the beach as well as the all-black oystercatchers. I wondered if they were tourists too.

    Oystercatcher Wars – like the Jets and the Sharks

    At the hotel we bumped into the girl from Derry. She wasn’t working at the bar then, she was there as a customer. At this point Ireland had been put out of the rugby World Cup, so I asked her if she wanted my Ireland hat. She did (and seemed happy with the reminder of home) so that was one less thing to pack in the increasingly-cramped suitcase.

    I had a ginger beer in the hotel because I wanted to take it easy on my stomach in case the journey was rough. I shouldn’t have worried – the crossing was much better this time than… Saturday? Was it Saturday we came over here? I’ve thoroughly lost track of the days. Anyway, this time the ferry was smoother.

    When we arrived back in Bluff on the South Island we found out that Bluff had been cut off from Invercargill for over 12 hours because of a road accident. No traffic to Bluff meant the folks who were heading out to Stewart Island on tickets like ours got flown across rather than ferried, at no extra charge. Just part of getting things done here. I love that attitude.

    The bus dropped us at Invercargill airport for our flight to Christchurch and then on to Auckland. The Christchurch flight was delayed which had us worrying about missing the connection to Auckland but I checked and the airline folks said ‘Half the Christchurch flight are going to Wellington and the other half are going to Auckland so they’ll make sure you get there’. They automatically transferred us to a later flight, and (when we were delayed again) made sure that flight stayed until all the passengers connecting from our flight made it on board.

    I do like Air New Zealand.

    I wrote this on the flight to Christchurch:

    People are idiots

    On the flight to Christchurch now.

    While most of the folks around just want to get through the flight, there's one guy who wants to talk to all his friends around the plane. And he left his phone on. We're on an ATR 72, so phones and tablets are supposed to be powered down for takeoff and landing. This is one of the planes where they can interfere with the systems.

    He didn't bother. His iPhone probably isn't even in airplane mode.

    Why is there always one? Still, at least there is only one. This time. We've four more flights over the next two days to get through, and this is the shortest of them.

    And the flight attendant has a cold. Guess we're all getting colds then.

    So it looks like I haven’t got any better at plane travel then.

    We arrived on Christchurch and rushed from one gate to the other (through security again) and got straight on to the plane to Auckland. I did hear some folks from our plane saying ‘The plane can’t leave without us…’ which annoyed me a bit – no, it can’t, but you’re holding up an entire plane of people while you dawdle! Most folks arrived pretty quickly though.

    This was the first flight we saw the new safety briefing video Air New Zealand did. It looks like they put a lot of effort into it – a cheesey Men In Black pastiche with some of the All Blacks and Rip Torn. It’s fun.

    Once we got to Auckland we took a taxi to the hotel. The taxi had a camera in it, pointed at the backseat. Is this a thing now? Anyway, the hotel seems very nice.

    The view from our hotel

    Always nice when they’re expecting you…

    Auckland selfie!

    Tags: Personal
    Created by on Logo15659OpinionatedGeek Ltd.Logo15659

    Soundtrack: Blame It On Me by George Ezra (this was playing in the gift shop when we were there)

    Google Fit stats:

    • Activity: 4 hours 4 minutes
    • Distance: 15 km
    • Calories: 2,339
    • Steps: 22,007

    We had a lie-in!

    The sheer luxury of a lie-in at this stage in the holiday is hard to describe. We’ve had flights, appointments, tours, we’ve been shuttled back and forth, we’ve queued, we’ve waited… The freedom to just lie in today was great.

    That said, we were woken by the ka kas.

    ‘Get up you lazy sods!’

    You know you have been overexposed to nature when an endangered species comes to your window to sing you awake and you want it to shut up!

    We got up gradually instead of in a rush and headed out for a breakfast of crepes at the Kiwi-French Café (KFC, geddit?)

    Kiwi-Frech Café

    Had a wee walk around the town and the shops.

    Even the oystercatchers here are All Blacks

    Then we decided to walk out to Lee Bay to see the other end of the chains. They’re 6km away (the guidebook says 5km). A 12km walk is a long walk for me, but I guess it’s nothing for the locals and the Serious Walkers who come here.

    “There’s a voice, that keeps on calling me…”

    The scenery on the walk was – and I know I’m over-using the word – stunning.

    A gorgeous bay

    The Bathing Beach

    Another gorgeous bay

    SWMBO and bay

    After 6km we got to the chain. And I did tell you earlier there was a story behind the chain…

    The story behind the chain

    And in case you can’t see what that picture says, here’s the text:

    Te Puka – the anchorstone

    Maori creation stories tell how Maui, a legendary Polynesian voyager, pulled up from the sea floor the anchor stone Te Puka a Maui (Stewart Island/Rakiura) to act as an anchor for the great ancestral canoe Te Waka o Aoraki (South Island of New Zealand)

    The stylised anchor chain is secured firmly on land by a shackle but disappears beneath Foveaux Strait/Te Ara a Kewa to remind us of the physical and spiritual connections between Stewart Island Rakiura and Bluff/Motu Pohue, the traditional tauripa or stern post of Te Waka o Aoraki.

    The chain links also symbolise a history of inter-relationships that have given the peoples of Stewart Island/Rakiura a strong sense of heritage and identity.

    The chain going into the water

    Ain’t that nice? A chain that is welded to the earth on the Stewart Island, disappears under the sea to reappear at Stirling Point in Bluff, where it’s tethered to the South Island.

    SWMBO and chain

    Me and chain

    And of course we took a Feetstagram.

    Chain feetstagram!

    And finally for the chains – a picture that was literally days in the making:

    SWMBO in the chain on the South Island, me in the chain on Stewart Island

    The guide book said it was 5km from Halfmoon Bay to Lee Bay but it lied.

    5km my arse

    After our 12km walk we had lunch (soup) in the hotel and went to the Foot Massage stall beside the KFC so I could get a foot massage. And I failed. The girl doing them said she had a sore shoulder but wanted to keep the sign up for visibility and promotion. She wouldn't be able to do a foot massage until next month. I said I won't be here next month... Ah well. My sore feet and I (and SWMBO!) went back to our room for a cuppa.

    Just some ducks, walking across the path

    Then it was dinner in the Kai Kart. We had to phone Phillip again at 7pm for the go/no-go for the kiwi tour but it was looking likely. We met a couple at the Kai Kart who were also taking the kiwi tour -  they’d spoken to Phillip more recently than us, and they said he said it was looking good for tonight. So we went to the pub for some of the quiz, although if the tour was on we’d have to leave before it finished.

    The pub was packed with teams – I think a lot of the island turns out every week for this quiz. One of the bar staff – she was from Derry! – added us on to a team of folks from the DoC. They seemed to have the quiz well in hand but we did manage to answer a few questions. And the girl from Derry was the one asking the questions, so all the locals complained they couldn’t understand her. Poor girl! We had no trouble making out what she said.

    Mid-quiz, SWMBO popped out to phone Phillip and we were told the kiwi tour was on! So we headed to the docks to get the boat before 9pm.

    Ready to go!

    The beach where we were going to spot kiwis was on an island about half an hour away by boat. (It’s the same island David Attenborough went to film kiwis for the Life of Birds series!) The aim was to get there at the feeding time for the kiwis, which is just after dusk.

    Heading out

    There’s never a guarantee that people will see a kiwi on these tours. They’re hard to spot, and sometimes you just don’t get to see one. Phillip was hopeful we’d see a kiwi, and said the odds were in our favour, but that he had had a few trips when they just didn’t see any kiwis at all.

    Snapper SWMBO

    We arrived and were loaned torches for the trip from the jetty to the beach. We were told not to use the torches on the beach (it annoys the kiwis) and not to talk if there were kiwis around (kiwis are very sensitive to sounds). We were also told how far to stay away from the kiwis, but that no-one had told the kiwis this so if they came towards us we had to stay still until they got bored and left us alone!

    The trip to the beach was through the bush (I’m still not used to being able to say that!) and it was far enough. The paths which have been terrific so far were still good here, mostly – although there was one area with a rope bannister to help.

    We got to the beach and started walking along it. The guide would sometimes stop us and investigate an area further, and then dismiss it and we’d walk on.

    This went on for the full length of the beach. No kiwis.

    There were some deer prints in the sand. I didn’t know this, but sometimes deer go swimming! The white-tailed deer here are, of course, an import, but they’re wild on this island.

    And there was a seal. A seal on the beach minding its own business, who greatly (and loudly) protested at a group of humans wanting to use the beach at the same time. The guide chased him or her off.

    And then, on the walk back along the beach, the guide spotted a kiwi! She was out on the fringe of the beach, feeding away. I was impressed that the guide was able to spot her – it was dark and there wasn’t much movement to see.

    We moved in for a closer look, being sure to keep the appropriate distance. And we stood there and watched as the kiwi just went about doing kiwi things.

    Photos and drawings of kiwis don’t really do them justice. They’re lovely creatures, and when you see them you just want to protect them and make sure nothing bad happens to them. I can really understand the fondness New Zealanders have for the bird now. They’re flightless, they’ve no real wings to speak of, no tail at all, huge feet, and very long beaks, but they’re just beautiful in real life.

    I could’ve stood there watching them for days if they’d let me. And if I didn’t swing for the idiot who kept talking. (Seriously? Why would you do that? We paid to come here and maybe see a kiwi and you want to talk and scare it away?)

    People are idiots.

    So we watched the kiwi some more, and then watched as she walked away. The guide then dug up where the kiwi was feeding to show the bugs she’d been able to eat with her beak. Fascinating that the kiwi can smell the bugs even when they’re buried.

    I didn’t take any snaps of the kiwi spotting because it was dark, and flashes/lights/torches would upset the kiwi. But I do have the memory of this adorable creature feeding on a beach, with a bunch of humans watching on.

    We got the boat back and then headed in to the pub for a wee drink before bed. Turns out the DoC folks had won the quiz! I don’t think we answered enough questions to make a difference, I’m pretty sure they’d have won anyway. But still, a nice end to the evening.

    Tags: Personal
    Created by on Logo15659OpinionatedGeek Ltd.Logo15659

    Soundtrack: Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran

    Google Fit stats:

    • Activity: 2 hours 2 minutes
    • Distance: 6.7 km
    • Calories: 1,083
    • Steps: 10,369

    Up early (06:15am!) after another poor night’s sleep for SWMBO. Then we check out and walk across to the I Site for the bus. Our mild paranoia about checkout times and the distance to the I Site means we’ve a half hour standing around waiting for the bus to arrive. Still, better than being late and missing the bus – it’s the connection to the ferry and I think there are only two of those every day.


    Nice wee statue of Burt in The World’s Fastest Indian

    Me and Burt

    The bus took us to Bluff but arrived a little early so the driver took us all to Stirling Point. This is a famous landmark (I think...) — it’s the start (or end) of State Highway 1, it show a signpost to other places in the world, and it has one half of the anchor chains anchoring New Zealand. A surprising stop. We took photos. We always take photos.

    Stirling Point, Bluff

    SWMBO and the signpost

    The famous (apparently) signpost

    We dandered down to the anchor chain.

    SWMBO and the anchor chain

    There’s a story about the chain and what it means. It comes later. How’s that for some fancy foreshadowing?

    We were still early, but the bus took us to the boat terminal and we waited there. Then we got on the boat. There were quite a few folks waiting so I asked what the secret was to getting a seat near the back with a window and was told ‘Just wait over there…’ and she was right – a few minutes after that they started boarding the boat and we were among the first on.

    And we got a window seat. This was important because the sea was getting a bit rough. The ferry is a catamaran, and they say that’s so it’s more stable in the rough weather… It didn’t seem especially rough today but it wasn’t exactly calm either. And we’re usually OK on boats as long as we can see the horizon. (Someone told me you get nausea on boats because of the mismatch between what your eyes tell you and what your ears/balance tells you. If you can see the horizon, your eyes then realize the foreground of the boat really is swinging wildly and your ears are right. I don’t know how true this is but it makes sense to me.)

    The ferry. It only seems still because it’s a photo.

    So we try to keep an eye on the horizon if the boat is bouncing around, and once we left the harbour there was plenty of that. A few people were sick on the boat, and quite a few more looked like they weren’t far away from it. We just ignored them and kept watching the horizon.

    One of the workers said the trip was ‘gentle’. I would not want to be on that crossing on a non-gentle day! The trip took an hour and after 45 minutes I just wanted it to be over.

    When we docked at Halfmoon Bay, we were met immediately by Pip from the Bay Motel. Our cases were the first off the boat too, so we waited while the other passengers arrived and got their luggage. Then we were driven to the motel and shown our room. Our lovely, toasty-warm room. Nice wireless internet access too – Pip said the connection was flaky and to lower our expectations but so far it has been the fastest, most reliable connection we’ve had in New Zealand.

    We gathered ourselves and headed out, reluctant to trade the cosy room for the windy and occasionally rainy outdoors.

    SWMBO, ready for the weather

    Had lunch at the Kai Kart. This is basically a truck that hasn’t moved in a while, and it has the reputation for the best fish and chips in New Zealand. The Kart is packed – the front of it has a take away service, then there’s the cooking area, and the back has a dining area. All in one Kart!

    SWMBO in the dining area of the Kai Kart

    Our view from our side of the dining area of the Kai Kart

    It had been a long time since breakfast at 6am, so I was grateful for the huge portion of blue cod and chips. I don’t know if they’re the best fish and chips in all of New Zealand – we were only there 3 weeks – but they were certainly the best fish and chips I had there.

    Then we bought some milk (for tea) and some TimTams(!) in the local store and headed back to the room for a nap. I was tired and I’m sure SWMBO was knackered.

    When we got there SWMBO had an email to phone Phillip about our Kiwi trip. She called and he said it was uncertain at the minute because of the weather, but she should phone again at 7pm to find out if it was on or off. Hrmm…

    We were visited by some kaka parrots. They happily scuttered about on the roof and the outside railings. I think they were just saying ‘Hi’.

    A kaka parrot came by to visit

    The nap, however, was great.

    Then we went out for dinner. If it sounds like we did little else except eat and sleep, well, today that mightn’t be far from the truth. We had booked a table at the hotel for 5:30pm. It was OK. I had Thai green chicken curry. Lunch at the Kai Kart was bigger, better and cheaper.

    We came back and phoned Phillip about our Kiwi trip tonight. Bad news. Cancelled because of bad weather. We may get to go tomorrow night though, if the weather improves. SWMBO is quite disappointed but putting a brave face on it. I know she'd love to see a wild kiwi.

    We waited for the rain to die down a bit before heading it for a drink or two. Then we gave up waiting because it seemed like the rain was on for the night,  so we got wet on the 7 minute walk down the hill. Had a couple of drinks, watched some rugby (Canterbury won), then got wet again on the 7 minute walk back to the room.

    It doesn't rain all the time here, just when we're out apparently.

    But we’re back now. Dry. Warm. Cosy.

    Tags: Personal
    Created by on Logo15659OpinionatedGeek Ltd.Logo15659