change of address

for years we kept hearing about this real estate boom and decided it was time to get in on the action – hope it’s not too late?

after 2 1/2 years of looking and countless open houses (probably close to 100 for the jboss) we finally have a signed contract on a house. it will be great to have a place of our own. makes it all seem less temporary.

if you ask the realtor she will say the house is in island bay, when actually it is in southgate – a tiny neighborhood on the ridge overlooking island bay. but we think of it as an extension of island bay – just like the bronx is an extension of manhattan.

we are going to create the story of how southgate broke away from island bay – stay tuned for that.

the details:

  • 14A Buckley Road
    Southgate, 6023
    New Zealand
  • settlement date: 14-JAN
  • moving date: 15-JAN
  • phone (unchanged) 04 971 6426


nice view from the deck


mini deck off the main room for coffee in the morning.

one large main room with kitchen, dining room and lounge (living room) combined.
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main room with views out over island bay and the cook straight.

open modern kitchen.

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big city, small town

with a population of almost 400,000 i have found wellington to have almost all the big city things i would want – arts, entertainment, sports, restaurants, shops, etc.

but what i’m really happy about is the small town feel. most weeks i’ll have some small town experience that will make my day.

some examples:

  • i’m at a family run shop in the cbd buying some preszzies (presents) for the jboss’ birthday. i take 3 items to the counter. the owner rings them up and says “oh my – that’s too much!” she has rung up the correct prices, but she then rings them up again but this time totaling $30 less. “that’s better!”
  • there is a popular coffee shop right outside my office that i stop at a few times a week. within a week of me starting to get my coffee there victor the owner knew my name and what i always get – large flat white, blue milk (2%) and no sugar. note that there are hundreds of people who get their coffee from victor every day and victor knows them all and what they order.
  • [note: i officially condemn the following unless it benefits me] i usually chat with victor the coffee guy while he’s making my coffee. i’ve noticed that if i show up and there are several orders ahead of me somehow victor gets confused and my coffee comes out first… bad victor, bad.
  • one day i’m scooting along on my vespa and it just conks out. i call aa (the nz equivalent of the aaa in the states) and soon the aa truck pulls up and the aa guy starts trying to figure out what’s gone wrong. the service guy is a big dude with giant hands, and the engine compartment on the vespa is tiny, but he’s hard at it and within 10 minutes has me on the road again. he explains what he has done and suggests i take to the vespa shop soon to have then check over his fix. it’s been a long time since i had my vehicle actually repaired roadside. next day i take it to mr. skoot for a full checkup. when i pick up up he explains that my spark plug was cracked and that he replaced it and the connecting wire. he asks if $20 is ok? $20 for service including parts.
  • maybe once a month i have lunch at a small family run malaysian cafe. none of the plates match. the paint on the tables is faded. mom & dad in the kitchen. daughter #1 at the register. they know what i usually get and when i walk in just gesture for me sit down and soon bring over my lunch.
  • during our summer holiday last year i lost a small (but critical) part for my 10 year old mountain bike. i stopped in one of the bike shops near work and explained what i wanted. they guy pulls me back into the repair shop and starts digging through a big box of used parts similar to what i need. soon enough he finds one that will work. back to the register and he asks “is $2 ok?”
  • i get my coffee beans at one of the 5 coffee roasters within 2 blocks of my office. the price is per 100g (3.5 oz) so i usually get 500g to last the week. i’m buying them directly from the coffee roaster dude who always fills the 500g bag so that not another bean could fit. he always puts it on the scale just to be sure it’s at least 500g, but i’ve never see it weigh in at under 600g despite him only charging me for 500. my experience in boston would be them putting the bag on the scale, it saying 510g and them then removing beans to bring it back down to 500.
  • the bus driver waving to me as i step off the bus.

her majesty’s park

today we went for a tramp at queen elizabeth park along the western shore about a hour north of wellington.

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we didn’t see the queen – but i’m guessing that she’s a bit harder to spot in her tramping gear.

we started in the middle of the park, walking north along the beach, then heading south on the inland path, before finishing with a walk north along the shore back to our starting point.

in the early days the shore was the primary highway for north-south travel in the region.


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recently i’ve been using a gps receiver to tag the location of my photos. you can also get a great map of your tramp.
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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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invercargill to dunedin

day 10 and we’re in invercargill before hitting the road to dunedin.

we’ve been very lucky with the weather, but today is a bit cold and dreary.

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on the way to dunedin we took the southern-most route along the coast. our first stop was at curio bay

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next stop was tautuku. the bark on this tree reminded me of a topographical map.

the tree on the right is a lancewood – stick like as a juvenile (10 to 15 years) with pointy teeth on its long skinny leaves, it then morphs into a traditional broadleaf. one of the theories is that the tree developed it’s defenses to protect it from the now extinct moa.

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how many places on the planet can you stand alone on a beach like this?

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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.


te anau to milford sound

day 8 and i had all day to enjoy the drive from te anau to milford sound. last we time we made this trip we were in a bus so i was looking forward to being to take my time and stop when and where i want.

these docks are departure point for the water shuttle to the start of the milford track. the eglington valley is one of the first stops on the milford track road.

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mirror lake

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homer tunnel

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3 kea’s hanging out at milford sound
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milford sound

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most visitors to milford sound are just there for a day cruise in the sound and are shuttled by bus from te anau. the facilities at milford are quite basic: a backpacker, a small motel, and a cafe/bar (cafe only open during the day, bar only at night). after the cruises are over for the day and the busses have left the sound population drops from 100’s to 10’s. the travelers staying at the backpacker are most on a tight budget so they cook their own meals. i haven’t planned very well so i head off to the bar and hope they have something to eat.

the blue duck was somewhere in between the brick (the bar/restaurant in the 90’s tv show “northern exposure”) and a grapes-of-wrath company store. looking around i see very few tourists – mostly boat maintenance workers in oil stained coveralls. lots of beer drinking all paid for with company credit. it seemed most called it a night when their credit was exhausted. the food was very good. i’m guessing the workers were not the cook-a-nice-dinner-back-in-my-room types and ate all their dinners at the bar – and to keep them happy in such an isolated place good food was important.

doubtful sound and te anau glow worm cave

day 7 (day 2 of abandonment) and i had a busy day with a doubtful sound cruise and then a trip to the te anau glow worm caves.


sights from my early morning drive to catch the boat in manapouri.
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the trip begins with a nice cruise across lake manapouri.

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our first cruise ends at “west arm”, where we board the bus for the tour of the manapouri power station. the power station was purpose built in 1972 to serve a single customer – the tawai aluminium smelter on the south coast near bluff. the power station is built deep in the mountain and uses water from lake manapouri to generate power. the original proposal was for a larger power station that would have required raising the level of the lake by 30 meters, with massive environmental costs. this sparked a nation wide protest and is credited with the birth of the environmental movement in new zealand. during the protests the labour party ran on the platform that if elected they would kill the proposal to raise the lake level. they won and the proposal was quashed.

the power plant is impressive in that is is buries deep in the mountain and is only accessible by a skinny 2k long tunnel that was dug into the hard rock by blasting. the rock is so hard that there is no supporting structure for the tunnel. the tunnel is so skinny that during construction trucks had to back down with their loads. problem was that the road is so steep that there was no ability to correct if the truck started veering towards the wall – so the drivers were guided down by walkers with signal lights. fastest time for the trip – 7 hours.

the power plant is now fully remote controlled and only has a safety officer on hand. you can see the raw rock face along the walls of the turbine room.

bus driver trivia – soon after the station opened queen elizabeth was scheduled to pay a visit. since the facilities were quite basic it was decided a bathroom suitable for royalty was required and built at considerable expense. it was never used.

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after visiting the power station we headed over wilmont pass on our way to deep cover to begin our cruise in doubtful sound. the dirt road over the pass was constructed to bring in the equipment and machinery required for the power station, and is now used almost exclusively by the tour company (the only one with a permit for tours in doubtful sound). the road was the most expensive in nz history at NZ$2 a centimeter (about $5 an inch).

looking down from wilmont pass to doubtful sound


once over the pass we arrived at deep cove to board the boat for our cruise of doubtful sound. we went all the way out of the sound into the tasman sea before turning around to repeat the entire journey in reverse.

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the tour company (real journeys) was very good and i would highly recommend them. they boats & busses were in great condition and their guides gave just the right amount of information, trivia and humor.

one of my favourite bits was “queue the dolphins”

captain to first mate (pretending microphone is accidentally on): “how’s the wife?”
first mate: “great. and your kids?”
captain: “good. busy every day with sports. what time did you book the dolphins?”
first mate: “they’re scheduled for 1:45. they should be here in less than a minute”
captain: “good on ya.”
first mate: “and thats 5..4..3..2..1 queue the dolphins”
captain: (now officially on the microphone to the passengers). “ladies and gentlemen, if you’ll look over the starboard side i believe you’ll see we have some visitors…”  

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next time i would like to go out on a kayak like these folks below

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our cruise ended back at manapouri at about 4, giving me just enough time to make it back to te anau and grab a snack before heading out on the te anau glow worm caves trip at 7.

first part of the trip was a nice sunset cruise across lake te anau (# 4 for the day) to the glow worm caves.


after arriving at a small ranger’s station you are split into small groups of 10 with a tour guide who reminds us several times that we must remain silent or the glow worms will turn off their lights. did i mention there is a very chatty 4 year old in our group? the description of the trip did mention that you would need to bend over a one point – but that was a bit generous. skrunched down into the smallest ball you can make whilst still on your feet and then slowly shuffling forward would have been a closer to the truth for me. claustrophobics needs not apply.

after you are in the cave there is a 15 walk down a catwalk through the cave, with water rushing through. quite spectacular. at the near the end of the catwalk the light is fading to black guilde is now using a flashlight to usher us along. we then carefully pile into a small “boat” – more a metal bathtub and then the guide turns of the flashlight and leaving us in *total* darkness. the guide then pulls us along in the water using (invisible to us) a system of overhead cables and into the glow worm grotto. after a couple of moments the glow worms start to appear as thousands of tiny points of light. the chatty 4 year old was perfectly silent the entire time.

the story of the glow worm is a bit depressing. the young larvae live on the ceiling using their lights to attract prey into their sticky “fishing lines”. when they eaten enough to build up their energy reserves they emerge briefly to mate and die. without a mouth or digestive track they can only live on the energy they build up during the larvae stage.


this photo shows the boat that is used – although the ride is in total darkness and not as shown. (hard to have a photo of a boat in total darkness…). you can get a sense of the light from the glow worms on the ceiling and walls.

the sunsets views from outside the cave, before a final cruise back to te anau and the end of a busy day.

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te anau

day 5 started with a great breakfast in town and some time exploring queenstown before heading off on our short drive to te anau. the place we are staying is a large campgroundy place with something for everyone. there are camp sites for tents or campers, several hostel buildings with shared and private rooms, a common kitchen, dining area, lounge & internet and more traditional motel efficiencies. we’re staying a simple unit that has a separate bedroom and then a small kitchen & lounge with a pull-out bed.

one of the more notable guests is das rollende hotel run by a german tour company.  this is large trailer/motel on wheels that provides accommodation for 34 as they travel around new zealand. travel during the day is done in the traditional bus. when they arrive at their destination the rollende hotel is parked, the awnings are pulled out, the kitchen is opened and a small dining area is setup. breakfast and dinner are provided by the tour cook. seemed like a great way to travel cheaply and not have to keep packing/unpacking every day.

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day 6 (aka day 1 of abandonment) was a early start to drop off jackie and john at the department of conservation centre to catch their shuttle to the milford track boat dock.

quinton mckinnon (on the right) probably wasn’t able to catch a shuttle to the trail head when he was exploring the region and finding the first predicable overland route to milford sound.

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with john and the jboss on their trek i shifted to a different hotel that was frozen in the 50’s. what makes the small hotels especially enjoyable is they all have on-site owner operators. they really do make you feel like you’re staying at their place. when i was checking in the owner of this hotel asked about my plans and travels and each time i saw him after that it was something like “morning antony. you’re off to doubtful sound today right? do you need anything for your trip that i can help with? i’m heading to the grocery store later today so if you need anything just put in on the list in the office and we can settle up when you get back. the weather looks great today – you should have a great trip” i don’t think i’ll get that experience at the red roof.

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haast to queenstown

day 4 and we’re off early from hasst and on our way to queenstown through the heart of the southern alps.

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lake hawea was one of the larger alpine lakes that we passed alongside.


staged photo to show that tragically bad art work is available the world over. behind john is the cat orchestra and next to the jboss sir hillary wrapped in an nz flag. hard to choose so we got them both. you’ll have to wait until christmas to see who the lucky recipients of these will be… (i think the artist on the bench saw right through our ruse and wasn’t amused)

the photo on the right was a classic kiwi moment. we’re in queenstown – the adventure capital of nz with jet boats, bungee jumping, paragliding, canyoneering, yada yada, and these kids are having a great time on a tire swing.

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