Story of some Brits living in New Zealand for the Southern Hemisphere Winter in 2004
(Recent Entries Here)

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Maori cultural show and Kiwi bird santuary - Willowbank

Went to willowbank wildlife santuary to show Doug the Kiwi birds, and some Maori cultural show, which included more audience participation than we would have liked. In fact, the audience was smaller than the group of performers, which led to a bit more awkwardness. Overall a good night though, but had to rush back for a meeting at work at 22:00pm which was just as well, Doug's jetlag catches up with him a bit at night!

Here's Bob

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

You should see this blogger entry, which i sent by email!

Blogger allows you to post blog entries by email. So this is an example, I hope, from me testing it out!
Could be cool!

Warmer today, cold wind, snow in the mountains

All the rain yesterday fell as snow in the mountains, so mount hutt had a 30cm and needs chains on from the bottom of the road to get up there. Sounds like excellent conditions today as it is very sunny now, though the wind is cold.

North-Westerly tomorrow is forecast so the roads to the ski fields could be shut.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

COLD (and wet)

Awoke to rain. Also very cold. Where'd the warm weather go?! My brother Doug arrives today, AM said at least he will believe how cold it is here at times! Actually it's not really that cold per se, just that the house has no central heating and no effective insulation!

Monday, September 27, 2004

WARM AGAIN (snow forecast)

Although it has been lovely and warm for the second day running, Ann-Marie tells me we have snow coming :-(

Sunday, September 26, 2004


For the first day today it has been very warm indeed all day - too hot to sit out in the sun. Seems to be like that here on clear days but hasnt stayed this hot all day so far. Nice to have warm hands (typing hard with cold hands).

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Botanical Gardens Spring Walk (and big freeze)

Went for a great spring walk with the friends of the botanical gardens, most in their 60s and 70s. As usual, the walk was led by Max, a very nice and knowledgeable old guy (who hates roses!).

Max showed us lots of Magnolias, cherries, and all manner of nice trees. It really is a nice garden.

During the walk though, the wind changed to a southery and the temperature plumetted and we once again needed to seek shelter from the cold!

The plumetting temperature was particularly odd given how hot it was at the start of the day - we went out wearing sun hats and sun cream!

Casino Breakfast with swimming club

The QE2 swimming club under Quentin's friendly leadership, went to the casino for a big slap up breakfast. Because more than 40 of us showed up, it cost $10 each (£4) for a big slap up buffet. Quentin is a bit of a hero organising something like that!

After a long breakfast we wandered into the casino itself and the slot machines. Neville was playing the slots so I pulled up a seat at the next machine, just to be sociable. I put in $2, not knowing that Neville was somehow feeding in $20 notes! On the first go, Neville explained how to choose my win lines, and that I should choose 9 lines. Ann-Marie hit 'go' and we won! Well, we didnt just win, we won again and again, our win score just kept accumulating! We had to gamble a couple of times, which we won too. In the end, for my first $1 bet we won $76!

breakfast $20 ($10 each)
gambling $2
Winnings $76

Total $54 (£20) CREDIT and a free breakfast!!!

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Mexican Independence Day Dance - Salsa

Went to the Mexican Independence Day celebration. Actually not that many mexicans there but quite a lot of south americans and local salsa clubs showing off on the dance floor.

My knowledge of salsa is extremely poor. You can only do the basic steps for so many dances, amid people spinning around all over the place. I tried to tire Ann-Marie out by spinning her lots and lots but I couldnt persuade her off the dance floor.

Salsa is hard work! Would much rather sit around and play risk! Or air hockey!!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Arrived back in chilly christchurch

Chilly again here!

Sunday, September 12, 2004

St Kilda

Not much time left today so we headed to St Kilda for brunch. This place seems to be a cross between southend on sea, with amusement park and a very nice beach (unlike southend) and camden town. Lots of arty alternative types. We werent hungry enough to eat everywhere that looked interesting but we managed to get to 'lentil as anything', a hippy veggie restaurant where the customer decides how much to pay for what they eat.

During our earlier brunch we saw people outside walking down the middle of the road, amongst the traffic, in wetsuits and wiggling large fish (recently dead), followed by a camera crew. Oddly enough, we met the group at the next thing that caught our eye - the eco-house. Actually it was a good time to visit the eco-house since they were having an open day and we could talk with the architect, though he lost interest when he realised we were not potential new business! We did rather like their port hole lights, shining direct light from the roof to the downstairs rooms! Nice light!

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Healesville Animal Sanctuary!!! (and the snakeman)

Finally made it to the Animal Sanctuary at Healesville, thanks to Noel lending me his car again. Well, what an amazing place. Very nice to see koalas up close but the kangaroos were the nicest, so friendly! (tame!). Lots of interesting birds too.

friendly roos

active koala (rare - must've been the rain and cold!)

normal koala

tasmanian devil

A highlight was a meet the keeper do with the Snake man. He had a very clear message, 'snakes are much maligned and are not agressive'. He delivered a pretty good speech to that effect, whilst a tiger snake (4th deadlist venomus snake!) was making its way across the floor towards his feet. He lovingly picked it up (with a metal snake rod thing in one hand to keep the head away from him) and unstressed, played around with the snake, which also seemed relaxed.

He explained that if you get bitten by a snake in Oz, which 3000 people a year do (though only 3 die), you should not clean the wound but just wrap a bandage around it, with the kind of pressure you would put on a sprained ankle. You dont clean the wound because hospitals will scrape around it to get traces of venom to put in their venom kit to find out how to treat you. The snake man said you are in safe hands with a snake bite in Oz, and you dont need to kill the snake and take it with you to hospital - mainly because a lot of hospital staff will never have seen a snake and will not be able to identify it! Cooper Heads in particular are hard to identify.

At the end of the talk we waited around to ask a few more questions. I explained that in Costa Rica I was told that if bitten by a snake, you must kill the snake, so they know how to treat you. Snake man said that may be true there.

We got talking about the fact that snakes we perceive dangerous, like cobras, actually have no reason to bite a person. Their venom is not fast acting enough to save the snakes life if they bite someone, so he reasoned, they really don't want to bite something big because it does them no good, though they might bluff.

We got on to kinds of snakes who DO have man as prey. There are apparently 4, the reticulated pythons, which can reach 40ft in size, and the Anaconda is also a possible man eater. The snake man said that you have to be really careful with reticulated pythons in captivity. You never go in their cage alone - they are treated with the same respect as a Tiger. Apparently these snakes can launch themselves at you and drag you back into their coils very quickly indeed. Within a minute you would not be breathing.

What the snakeman had not noticed during his pouring forth on man eating snakes, was that other visitors were walking past as he was talking. His message of, 'Australian snakes arent dangerous' was a bit lost on passers by who heard him enthusiastically explaining how a reticulated python snatches you in its mount and drags you into its coils. He looked up once and quickly reiterated his standard message.

Quite funny!

Sadly Melbourne got extremely cold very quickly during out visit to the santuary leading us to take santuary in the cafe, which was very good, before heading back to town.

saw a magpie too - nice looking things down this way!

Friday, September 10, 2004

Ann-Marie returns to Oz - now at the Park Hyatt

Ann-Marie had to go back to NZ for a week to work but I had to stay on longer than expected in Oz, so she returned for the weekend. This time we stayed at the Park Hyatt and Art Deco hotel done out like a ship. A very nice hotel and nice to get some Hyatt slippers (my Gran's name is Hyatt!).

You see parrots all over the place, here's one we saw in the botanical gardens...

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Melbourne Zoo

We had hoped to drive up to Healesville animal sanctuary but ran out of time and instead made for the city zoo. Am always in 2 minds about zoos but these days they at least seem actively involved in educational programmes and genetic custodianship for endangered species.

At this zoo things mostly seemed ok but the ape pit seemed very limited and the tiger enclosure quite small for such an impressive beast.

Ann-Marie asked if we could join a tour of the zoo. I'm not sure how we managed it but we got our own tour guide (free) from the friends of the zoo. Just a volunteer but a well informed one and very enthusiastic.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

The Great Ocean Road - "A Very Long Way"

Noel from our office in Melbourne arranged my trip. He went out of his way to make us feel welcome and was generally a superstar, he even loaned us his car - for 2 weekends!

The Great Ocean Road is THE drive to make from Melbourne but it's quite a long way, even though it doesnt look far on the map because the road is quite a twisty tourist road. When the second person explained to us, "go through Geelong, which isnt far, wait, you're english, well it's a Long Way to Geelong then". It seems Aussies realise Brits dont share the same concept of driving distances! Actually I think it's quite a big problem that Aussies routinely drive quite long distances given the number of roadsigns out there reminding you to take a break and not fall asleep at the wheel (or "zone out").

The news about the twisty roads was quite funny too. On the great ocean road, the road is quite wide, it has crash barriers and no rocks in the road - after New Zealand ski roads (and normal roads), it was a nice relaxing drive.

The Great Ocean Road is however a really nice drive, over stretches roadsigns warn things like 'kangaroos 7km'; 'koalas 5km'; 'echidnea 3km' etc. At one stage Ann-Marie said, "stop" and we pulled over to take a look at some parrots in the trees by the road (Victoria seems full of parrots). On another occasion she claimed to see a koala but there was nowhere to pull over then (and koalas arent exactly circus performers - they mostly sit like a big ball asleep (drunk!) in the trees).

We eventually got to the 12 apostles towards the end of the day. These are rock stacks left by and erroding cliff face along the beach. Very impressive. From there we headed to the next town for a cup of tea and far too much cake!

We headed back in-land in the pitch dark. Quite exciting really not really knowing the kind of bush or forest we were driving through and not knowing what was out there, apart from miscellaneous marsupials, snakes, etc!

We returned, and navigated back to the hotel through a tram crammed city, very grateful to Noel for the loan of the car.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Dinner - Shakahari. Saw Possums just chilling out on the way

Found a nice veggie restaurant for dinner in Melbourne. People seem to dine out late here, unlike in NZ where people seem to dine early and go to bed early!

Was odd to see possums in a park on the way to the restaurant. Odd because in NZ you never really see Possums just sitting around, half tame, on the grass in a park. Oh no! Possums are a MAJOR PEST in NZ and EVERYBODY knows it. Your most pacificist, vegetarian, nice person kiwi becomes a desperate killer when confronted with a Possum and must do all they can to extinguish it's life. I'm not joking either. The Aussies seemed a bit shocked when I told them that! I wouldnt be surprised if NZ introduced a law requiring visitors to exit the country with a Possum Pelt tax to show they have killed their quota! Kiwi's arent naturally savage! It's just that the possum is such a big pest here that balance needs to be restored. Possums eat eggs of ground dwelling birds, well, in fact possums do all kinds of other damage too, like to the trees.

Got a tram back to the hotel - interesting tram system, makes it quite hard to drive around. There's even a special turn manoeuve for cars to stay out of the way of trams called a 'hook right' turn.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Arrived in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Arrived in Melbourne today. Went to the Smallworld Office in town to say hello and hot desk.

Immediately noticed that Melbourne is quite warm compared with christchurch, though is a little more humid, even at this time of year.

Melbonians (how close does that sound to Elbonians of Dilbert fame?!) are very nice but are a smart suit wearing people. Don't sound as much like Mick 'Crocodile' Dundee as I expected, in fact their accents are much much softer than kiwi accents!

Royce hotel, a five star hotel we got on a last minute deal, is ok, but is not really what you'd expect from a five star hotel. Actually it used to be a car show room, for posh cars presumably! One thing that was nice though, was that although we turned up with rucksacks, nobody got sniffy about it at the front desk!

impressed with the drive through bottle shop