christmas in welly

christmas morning from our back deck.


one of the simple pleasures of the holiday season is the blooming of the pohutokawa trees. some of the big old trees are quite spectacular. the jboss is standing in front of one on the grounds of the the local island bay school.

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with the schools out for the summer holidays youngsters become a frequent sight buskering for some pocket money. the girls with the violins were quite impressive. unfortunately i didn’t get a photo of the barbershop quartet or the 2 scottish lads in full regalia performing with bagpipe and drum.

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with the massive cafe culture in wellington there are almost always several coffee cafes within sight. starbucks has a few locations, but has thankfully never really taken off and relies on the exotic frozen drinks (carmel mocha frappachino with chocolate syrup swirl and organic whipped cream topping). i will give them credit for trying to introduce iced coffee (one of my favourites) to the local market by having an employee roam the city streets with a ice coffee backpack giving out free drinks.

midland park is my favourite lunch spot and home of the town christmas tree

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kirkcaldie and stains is


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happy birthday liz

today is the queen’s birthday. and we joined other members of the commonwealth in taking today off in celebration


best thing is that today is not really the queen’s birthday. her actually birthday is april 21st. but april is not the best time of year in england for a day off – so it’s celebrated on the first monday in june. i always thought moving washington’s birthday to a monday (back before the invention of president’s day and the disappearance of washington’s birthday) was a bit lame, but this is a whole other league.

whilst looking for an image of the queen eating birthday cake (i gave up – kudos in a future posting to anyone who can find one – must not be viewed as appropriately regal) i found that the british monarchy has it’s own youtube channel. seems that whole internets thing that W talks about is really catching on.

let’s have teriyaki taranaki for lunch

today we went on a tramp on mt taranaki.


the day started out cold and drizzling, but we decided to head to trailhead and see if the weather cleared. when we arrived things were better, but knowing how extreme conditions could be on the mountain we checked with the doc ranger before starting our tramp. after getting the go ahead from the ranger as we were heading off to the trail we passed a group of 10 or so indian lads in their twenties – in short sleeves and sneakers for the most part. i give them credit for getting out and doing something, but we’re at the base of a alpine zone with severe and rapidly changing conditions. not surprisingly the rescue service here does a brisk business coming to the aid of tourists. they are currently looking for a polish tourist who went off on a tramp alone without filing a route plan – total needle in a haystack.

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we turned around at the alpine tree line. wild winds and bitter cold as you left the protection of the forest.

you can see the dramatic change in the photo on the left above.

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in the photo and map above you can see the clear boundary between the native forest in the national park and the surrounding farm land.

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just like plymouth – only newer

it’s a three day weekend so we’re off to new plymouth to see some more of nz and hopefully go for a tramp on mt taranaki.

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as we passed though hawera (home of nz’s largest private collection of elvis memorabilia) we got our first view of our final destination – mt taranaki.

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next small town down the road is manaia. the framingham post office looks a bit bland in comparison to the manaia post. you can see the royal cypher of king george v at the top of the building. with his reign from 1910 to 1936 his mark is on all the great art deco works. the build on the right is a small hotel & pub.


we were traveling on state highway 45, known as “the surf highway” as it has easy access to many great surfing spots.

we had expected the road to travel right along the coast similar but realized after a bit that we were always a few k’s from ocean and were frequently passing small country roads that snaked off to the shoreline. we picked one just as it was starting to get dark.

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it’s hard to tell from this photo, but the road ends at a cliff with the ocean crashing onto the rocks several hundred feet below. no fence or barrier.


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looking back from the shore we had some great views of the mountain.

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after arriving at our motel in new plymouth we took a walk into the cbd. lots of great architecture including a movie house with a neon marquee.

the jboss has done some homework and had a list of potential places for dinner. but it’s never that easy. antony left the map back at the motel so we wondering around a bit looking for choice #1. can’t seem to find it. choice #1 is out of business and is now something else. on to choice #2. much harder to find and after asking some folks on the street, and then again at gas station we find it. we review the menu posted outside. looks good, but a bit expensive. we finally decide to splurge a bit and head in. sorry – all booked for the evening. can someone explain why they watched us noodle over the menu for several minutes knowing they were full? most of the other places were either packed or spookily empty with the owner looking at you hopefully as your pause outside. we ultimately decide on a pub.

turned out to be a fine choice. the finals for the super 14 rugby season were on and soon after we arrived the place filled up nicely. the food was just ok, but the beer was fine and it’s hard to beat the neighborhood pub atmosphere.

the shots below are from our drive home, once again along sh 45.


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anzac day

poppy.jpeg today is anzac day.

a summary of the day from nz ministry of culture and heritage (te manatu taonga) is below:

Anzac Day occurs on 25 April. It commemorates all New Zealanders killed in war and also honours returned servicemen and women.

The date itself marks the anniversary of the landing of New Zealand and Australian soldiers – the Anzacs – on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915. The aim was to capture the Dardanelles, the gateway to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea. At the end of the campaign, Gallipoli was still held by its Turkish defenders.

Thousands lost their lives in the Gallipoli campaign: 87,000 Turks, 44,000 men from France and the British Empire, including 8500 Australians. To this day, Australia also marks the events of 25 April. Among the dead were 2721 New Zealanders, almost one in four of those who served on Gallipoli.

It may have led to a military defeat, but for many New Zealanders then and since, the Gallipoli landings meant the beginning of something else – a feeling that New Zealand had a role as a distinct nation, even as it fought on the other side of the world in the name of the British Empire.

Anzac Day was first marked in 1916. The day has gone through many changes since then. The ceremonies that are held at war memorials up and down New Zealand, or in places overseas where New Zealanders gather, remain rich in tradition and ritual befitting a military funeral.

we got up early at 0500 (not early enough as we’ll see later) and headed into town for the dawn service. we took the car thinking how hard could it be to find a spot at 0500 in the morning? big mistake. firstly most of the spots are occupied by overnight parkers (parking is free from 6pm to 6am) and we totally underestimated the size of the crowd for the service. as we started getting closer the sidewalks started filling up with people heading to the event. families with little ones. couples in the their 20’s. keep in mind that it is pitch black and a crisp fall morning. and there are hundreds of folks walking in the darkness towards the service at the cenotaph.

well – after some significant parking stress we finally abandoned the car nearly on the far side of town and started walking as fast as we could. sadly we arrived just at the service was ending – but we did get to see the servicemen march off through the huge crowd.

next year i’ll have my full motorcycle license and we’ll be able to scoot in with jackie on back and avoid the whole parking fiasco.

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the dawn crowd at the base of the cenotaph with the aussie, uk and nz flags.

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there were large crowds in cities across the country including over 20,000 in auckland for the dawn service

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is the 10’s of thousands at anzac cove in turkey.

this leads to the the second, perhaps equally inspiring, part of the anzac story. as the summary mentioned above the anzacs were part of an force intent on invading turkey and in the process killing thousands of turks. despite their efforts they were soundly defeated by the turks, who were led in part by mustafa kemal atatürk, who served as a divisional commander at gallipoli and went on to become the first president of modern turkey.

in 1934 atatürk recited the following at the opening of the memorial along the shores of gallipoli:

Those heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives, you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side in this country of ours. You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosoms and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they become our sons as well.

further in 1984 turkey renamed ari burnu to anzac cove. in response new zealand created ataturk park and the ataturk memorial. australia did the same in canberra.

i can’t think of another example where a country has established a memorial honoring a defeated invader, allowed thousands of it’s citizens to camp out on it’s shores each year in remembrance, and renamed a part of their coast after the invading forces.

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at midday we climbed up to the anaturk memorial for the midday service.

there was a slightly awkward moment when everyone (including the grammar school age kids behind us) sung the nz national anthem and we stood there silently. reminded me of what happens whenever a canadian baseball team in in town and they play the canadian anthem. nothing like 35,000 fans belting out “oh, canada!, hmm hmm la da hmm hmm…”

we vowed that we learn the words for next time.

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event number 3 for the day was a trip to wright’s hill reserve to tour the wwii fortress.

built during wwii as one of several outposts to defect wellington harbour, the fortress is a large underground complex providing support for large 10″ guns. the fortress was closed after the war and abandoned until the late 80s when the local lions club took began the long restoration process. it is now open to the public 4 times a year (waitangi day, anzac day, queen’s birthday & labour day).

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the gunners in gun pit #1 had a great view of the city.

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last scheduled event for the day was the “we’ll meet again” concert at town hall but unfortunately we were worn out by now and opted instead for a takeaway from the island bay malaysian restaurant.

something to look forward to for next year.