the long way home

another in our series of long city walks, today we did the “go the distance” walk along the wellington harbour, and then extended it by walking the rest of the way home via the southern coast. 16.93 km (10.52 miles) from start to finish.

there is common phrase said throughout nz that “you can’t beat wellington on a fine day” (partly a dig by the aucklanders given we are prone to frequent southerlies) and today was definitely one of those fine days.

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the tramp started at queens wharf where one of the local hardware stores was sponsoring a fishing-off-the-pier day for kids. a common fixture at events like this is the sausage sizzle where you’ll get a sausage from the grilled wrapped in piece of white bread. usually free or $1 – today was free courtesy of carters. you can see the jboss standing at the zero marker with her pre-tramp sausage

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the city council and several organizations have rescued the hikitia – the world’s oldest working crane ship from the scrap yard. built in scotland in 1924 it has been in near continuous use since and is currently going through a detailed restoration. the air new zealand employees volunteers are striping an old window using dental tools…

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we had to make a quick stop at the “santa line” so jackie could add a few things to her list. telecom sets up a giant tree in one of the parks along the harbour and has 3 santa line phone boxes for the youngsters (and the jboss) to pass along their wish lists.

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row of boat houses along oriental bay. all along the oriental parade is a string of tiny parks. just one of the little things that makes a great livable city.

the panorama is from the bench in the shade under the overhang.

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oriental bay

view of wellington harbour from balaena bay. the council has recently rehabs the park at evans bay adding these wooden loungers. the jboss stops for a snooze.
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great old build at the bus terminal. surfers, swimmers and walkers along lyall bay.

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lyall bay is one of the all times dog friendly beaches. during summer gromit is not allowed on our island bay beach between 9am and 7pm. dad and a wee one scrambling on the rocks with the rimutakas in the background.
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wedding ceremony out on rocks near waitaha cove. the surfers waiting for a wave at houghton bay. i’m always amazed at how close to the rocks they are.
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day 11 and the final stop on our trip is dunedin. founded in the mid 1800’s by scottish settlers and now home of nz’s largest uni, the university of otago, dunedin definitely had a university town feel to it.

many of early settlers came from edinburgh and the city has very similar architecture.

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every saturday morning there is a large market day at the train station. heaps of great stalls – butchers, artisan break makers, bakers, fish mongers, farmers, flower growers, coffee (a nz must have) and my favourite – the garlic man.

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the train station built in 1906 is fantastic – but unfortunately no longer being used for regular train service. it it is now occupied be several restaurants and art galleries.

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we spent quite a bit of time at the otago settlers museum which is housed in the art deco former new zealand railroad repair shed. great exhibits on the early days. they had a early settler’s room with photos of the initial founding families. i’m guessing the foster’s below didn’t have have the same as much immigration paperwork as we did. they sure had it easy, eh?…

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we next tried to visit the cadbury chocolate factory but the umpa lumpa’s union seem to negotiated the day off. hard to get a good umpa lumpa these days!. on to the speight’s brewery tour only to be turned away again. for some reason there was too much demand for free beer on a hot summer day.

more edinburgh inspired architecture around the cbd and at the university of otago.

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baldwin is billed as the world’s steepest residential street.

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we got a laugh out of these plaques in sidewalk about town. seems they have forbidden sitting puppies.


looking out over the city from the lookout

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milford sound to invercargill

day 9 and i went for a milford sound cruise before i meet the jboss and her brother as they come off the milford track.

only two places to stay in milford sound – a small motel and a backpacker. I opted for the backpacker with a spacious double twin private room. and that completely describes what was in the room – 2 small twin beds. shared kitchen and large dorm style bathroom where in the common building. the fire safety card advised me my primary and alternative exits were the door and the window – not very comforting with them less than 1/2 meter (1.5 feet) apart…

nice view out of my room window.

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this is view from the pier before getting on the boat for my cruise in the sound. the sound is actually a fiord (u shaped with steep walls formed by a glacier), but the first explorers incorrectly labeled it a sound (v shaped formed by a river) and the name stuck

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since the walls both above and below the water line are so steep the boat can cruise right up to the water’s edge. the captain was able to brush the vegetation with the bow of the boat.

check out the lens on that guy’s camera. overcompensating perhaps?
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did they all really have to go – or where they just so used to following the tour that they dutifully stepped up when they saw the queue?

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here come jackie and john back from their tramp.

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we’ve got a long drive to invercargill and soon hit the roard. the grassy plains of the eglington valley is my favourite stop on the milford track road.


once in a lifetime

tonight we went to an amazing david byrne concert. the show was fantastic – the music and the visuals were stunning, david’s voice was even better then his early days with the talking heads, the venue was great and our seats were dead centre less than 10 metres from the stage.

the show was at the michael fowler centre – the small venue next to town hall and the home of the nz symphony. a great space for a concert.


as we were waiting for the show to start we noticed this was not your typical concert crowd. almost no one between the ages of 20 and 30. mostly folks who were in uni during the 80s. and some of them brought along their kids. but there was one real standout. mid show much of the crowd left their seats to go right up to the edge of the stage. these seats were quickly filled as folks from the back moved up into the now empty seats. all of the audience is now up on their feet really enjoying the show and i notice the guy now in front of me. he is standing motionless, with homeless guy hair and a baseball cap with an image of the madonna draped in the us and italian flags. i kept waiting for him to ask “hey man…when does the zz top show start?”


we almost didn’t go to the show – and a techno-house band would have been to blame. way back in the early 90’s my friend heavy d (aka david) bought tickets to see “the klf” perform. “the klf” is actually two pale british lads who create the music on computers in their basement. so how were they going to do a live performance of music that was made without any musicians? the answer was bringing out a boom box on the stage and hitting the play button. no live musicians. no actual members of “the klf”. as you might expect the crowd was more than a bit peeved. with that in mind the jboss dismissed the posters all around town that pitched “songs of david byrne and brian eno”. the night before the show i was able to convince her that the actual live breathing david byrne was coming and we started looking for tickets. nothing but impaired view seats available from the theatre, but at the last minute we were able to grab our most fantastic seats from a seller on trademe (the nz copy of ebay).


the band were all in white and many of the songs featured 3 dancers in workout clothes & ipods. it sounds hokey, but having seen it i now couldn’t imaging the show without them.

as we were leaving the show we both commented on how much it seemed like david and the rest of the band & dancers were having a blast. when my work colleagues and i gather round the water cooler each night before heading home our smiles are not quite as wide…

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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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catching a break

this week is our first planned vacation since we arrived in new zealand and we decided to spend 2 days skiing on my rapaheau and then 2 days in the resort town of taupo.

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nice relaxing drive up on wednesday with some great views of the mountain from the town below. we went to a local ski rental shop and had the expected new zealand experience. after a great fitting we are told to keep the skis for as long as we want, and we can return them any time before 10 to avoid being charged for the day – “if conditions don’t look good, just bring ‘em back”

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after an easy drive up the mountain we have our tickets and are on the lifts by 9:30. first run down a beginners slope to ensure we both remember how to ski and then we’re back up for an intermediate run. first half was great. for the second half we choose a route that is a bit icy but doesn’t look too bad. jackie makes it down and i start my run, taking it a bit at a time. half way down i turn and fall uphill onto my right side. nothing spectacular and some something i would expect to happen many time during a day of skiing.

i thought i had hit my tailbone hard, but when i tried to get up i knew it was something else.

my vacation was over.

i signaled to jackie who made her way up. several other skiers stopped to help and one went to get the ski patrol. the first ski patrol arrived to triage and called for the toboggan. after i was strapped to a backboard i was bundled into the toboggan for a ride down the clinic at the base lodge. the ski patrol were great – could not have hoped for better.

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at the clinic i was given a full exam by the mountain doctor and some basic pain killer to take the edge off. he was able to rule out simple things and said he thought it like “something boney”. the primitive xray machine at the clinic was not conclusive but it appeared that i had a fractured femur – the big bone that runs from your knee to your hip and is *hard* to break. this earned me bonus points and a trip to the hospital in the rescue helicopter. after a quick 20 minute flight i was at wanganui hospital. jackie followed in the car after going to gather our stuff from the hotel, checking out and returning our skiiing gear.

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the emergency room, xray (and i’ll later see operating theatres) are all brand new and state of the art. as expected i spent quite a bit of time waiting, but after an assessment from my 12 year old doctor that i did in fact have a broken femur i was given a bit of morphine and transfered to the orthopedic surgical ward for immediate surgery.

and here was were we traveled through a time tunnel. one minute modern state of the art – the next 1950’s rural russia. i was assigned ward room 17 that i shared with 3 others. no bathroom, no phone, no tv. decorated in classic state hospital green. the shared toilet is down the hall. the patient’s lounge features a lazy boy that would have turned away by the local salvation army, 2 other random chairs and a tv that only receives one channel (i expect it was purchased from ussr surplus and previously only featured soviet military parades)

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there was one surgery ahead of me so i had a bit of a wait before being wheeled down to the operating theatre at about midnight. soon after we met the anaesthesiologist and surgeon. the surgeon explained the injury (NOF – Neck Of Femur) and the intended remedy. we were greatly relieved to hear he was putting in a plate & screws. the alternative of replacing the femur head with a prosthetic was a dreaded possibility. the surgeon answered all our questions, then marked (and signed) the leg to be operated on. i was wheeled into the operating theatre soon after and was out at about 2 in the morning.

after a short shop in recovery (i woke up *freeeeeezing* – they had to use radiant heaters to stop me shaking) i was back to my little slice of russia in the ward.

let the healing begin.