Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mt Ruapehu - Mt Doom

I hate driving on The Desert Road.  I dislike the tight corners, and I always seem to be caught on it in the worst weather.  Once the rain was so heavy I couldn't see past the bonnet of my car.  Another time, the fog was so dense I couldn't see past the bonnet of my car (get the idea how bad The Desert Road is?).  I've been over it immediately post-winter when snow ploughs have been there just prior to me.  I'd never touched snow, so got out of the car and threw a snowball.   I would never ever travel on the road in July and August, even if you paid me.... well, maybe if you paid me, but it would have to be heaps. 
Goodness, I'm such a wimp.

When I travelled past Mt Ruapehu along The Desert Road a couple of weeks ago (both to-ing and fro-ing), I couldn't even tell the mountains - Ruapehu, Tongariro, Ngarahoe - were there.  The clouds and drizzle were bad.  The Desert Road is at a very high point and is usually cold, even in summer.  It is desolate and there are notices everywhere warning people not to pick up live shells and about wandering around because the army base is right at the beginning of The Desert Road and the guys are always out doing exercises.

Here's a pic I took last year, from The Desert Road, of Mt Ruapehu.

Mt Ruapehu was "Mt Doom' in the 'Lord of the Rings" trilogy.  The actors were filming on the mountain for quite some time

There is a tourist walk called The Tongariro Crossing but so many tourists under-estimate it, and just set off for the day walk wearing jandals (flip-flops or thongs, depending on which country you're from) and shorts, with virtually no water or warm clothes.  The bad weather can close in very fast on the mountains. 
The tourist companies from roundabouts, ie, Taupo, Ohakune, wherever, get blamed for not emphasising how bad the walk is.  The buses drop off walkers at the mountains,  and leave them to it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Some conversations are more weird than others.

A friend said to me the other day, "Odd things always seem to happen to you."  And I had to think hard about this because she was right.  Is it that I can read odd things in happenings that other people can't?  Am I more alert to what's going on around me?    Who knows?

 In my rush to catch the ferry at Seatoun Wharf the other day, a guy stopped me as I was storming across Worser Bay beach.

"Excuse me, do you know where the troll is?  It's supposed to be here somewhere."

"Um, no, " I said.  "The last troll I saw was at Wellington Airport."'

"Oh, well, thanks ...." 

We both went our individual ways.

What a conversation!   It could only happen on the Miramar Peninsula, home of Peter Jackson and Weta Workshop.  Any stranger listening in would have thought we were completely mad.

PS:  7th swim for September.........Done!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Matiu Somes Island and Wellington Botanical Gardens

As I was typing away about Matiu-Somes Island the other day, I was thinking, "Hey, I must go there again some day."  Well, the very next day (yesterday) became "some day".  It was lovely Wellington weather and I said, "Why not?"

I figured it would only take half an hour to walk "over the hill" to Seatoun Wharf.  As usual, my calculations were too tight.  I couldn't remember whether the big Worser Bay zigzag was still blocked off because of a winter slip so, instead, I raced down a smaller one by Worser Bay school, but this meant I had to travel some extra distance.   I frantically sped, puffing,  past a couple who gave the obligatory passing-strangers "Hello" and nod to me.  "Gotta-catch-the-ferry!-gotta-catch-the-ferry!" I huffed and puffed out to them.  I was hot, bothered, tired, old, and fat and I was racing to a ferry.  I should have given up.

But determination is a weird thing.  It keeps you going when you really don't think you've got another iota of puff and push inside you. I collapsed on the wharf with barely three minutes to spare before the ferry turned up.  A family strolled up to the wharf just after me, looking calm and cool.  My hair was askew, I was dripping sweat my heart was thumping so fast, I figtured I was going to have a heart attack there and then.  I prayed the ferry captain would know CPR.

Below is a pic of the Seatoun Wharf.

I was only just getting over my hill-running puffing session when we landed on Matiu-Somes and there were a few more hills.  I had my picnic lunch sitting near the top of the island (see below view).  It was very warm and I realised that if I wanted to catch a certain ferry off the island, I would have to race like a maniac down to the wharf.  Again, hot, tired, bothered, sweaty.  One sign said something like "Wharf - 60 minutes".  I looked at my watch.  I had 50 minutes to make it!
Well, in the end, it took 20 minutes.  I arrived at the Matiu-Somes wharf in time to take an earlier ferry.

I arrived at Queen's Wharf in the city, still getting over my earlier puffing fit, and looking a complete wreck.  I puffed and panted (again) up to the Botanical Gardens for their Tulip Day.  More hills, sigh.  Still, when I got home that late-afternoon, I felt good, triumphant.

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Walk in the Hills

I went for a lovely walk yesterday, over the Hataitai hill to Oriental Bay.  Sometimes I listen to an audio book on my MP3 player and sometimes I just love to walk, think, and admire the views.  When I took the below photos, I was standing roughly above Balaena Bay  (I don't mean I was roughly standing - otherwise I'd have been perching on uneven ground.  No, I mean that Baleana Bay was roughly situated below where I was standing to take the pictures!  Goodness, I always get tangled up trying to explain things, forgive me....) 
In the top picture you can see Matiu-Somes Island which is in the middle of Wellington Harbour.  There's a nice ferry ride that goes there daily from the city.  Even nicer, and very cheaply too, you can hop off at the island, look around, catch another ferry to Days Bay, look around, then return to the city (SuperGold card holders, free - thanks, Winston!).  At certain times, certain days, the ferry also goes to Petone and Seatoun.

I love to take a picnic lunch with me to Oriental Bay, sit on a seat with my feet up on the fence and watch the fountain playing, the people, and the kids, and the bicycles, and skaters.  Oriental Bay is so close to the city, that tourists like to wander there.  It's great for them to walk around the wharves to the Bay.  Only takes, perhaps, half an hour, and is as safe as houses.

Way back in my grandmother's day, when Wellington was very young, Oriental Bay was the place to promenade.  Every Sunday, people would dress up in their fancy finery and parade up and down.   I often think it wuld be great to have an Easter Parade day, with folk promenading Oriental Bay again.  We could dress up in everyone's idea of 'nice', be it clothes from the 1800's, modern, whatever.  Chocolate bar prizes, say, could be handed out by Wellington City Council staff to people, kids, dogs, dolls, whose styles impress!
People already happily promenade in their hundreds on a fine day around Oriental Bay, and I do wish we could have a special occasion to really go all out

There is an absolutely positively delicious song by the Datsun Violets called "You Can't Beat Wellington (on a Good Day)" that can be heard on youtube.  Scenery-wise, happiness-wise, and weather-wise this is so true!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

loyalty cards

Most countries have loyalty card schemes.  Here, in New Zealand, one of our main loyalty cards is Flybuys.  It makes me so see red when I'm behind someone in a supermarket line and they have a full-to-bursting trolley of maybe $500 worth of goods.  Compared to my tiddly $40 worth.  Sigh, what I wouldn't give for their loyalty points.  My neighbours are always zipping off to Australia with their built-up points.  I usually get halfway to the same end result ... and my points expire!

And I hate all the loyalty cards in my wallet.  There are some I havent used in years but I always have that nagging feeling that ... one day ... maybe tomorrow ...... I just might need them.  How awful it would be if the occasion arose and a card was sitting at home.  I figure, if I looked into my wallet right now, I would have, maybe, 20 cards.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

1) 6th swim, September 2) American Politeness

1)  Ho-hum, we've had our sixth swim at Hataitai Beach for September.   Yippeee, I can't contain myself, I just love swimming so much.  I'd gone for a long walk - in the sun - in the morning and it was so hot, I couldn't stand it cause I was in warm clothes. I was walking on Worser Bay Beach (on the Miramar Peninsula) and there were children playing in the water with water wings and plastic rings.  I just craved a swim.  So I rushed back home, rang J, and we met at Hataitai beach.  I just wanted to stay in the water forever.  I am committing myself now, but I think it will be a breeze to get in 5 swims a month for the rest of the year .  Oh dear, Murphy's Law will now rain down upon me.

2  The one thing that impressed me in Las Vegas (well, there were hundreds of things that impressed me, but one thing that really really impressed me) and that was how polite Americans are.  Everywhere I went around the place, people said "Excuse me", and "Sorry", and "my fault" (even though nine out of ten times, it was my fault for treading on toes, or crashing into people).  It was "Yes, Ma'am" and "No, Ma'am".  Doors were held open for me.  Service staff treated me like a queen.  The young teenage guy sitting next to me at the convention, and without being asked, brought me cups of water whenever he returned from a foray.

Congratulations, Americans on being so polite.

Here's a picture looking down The Strip in Las Vegas, taken from the grounds of the Tropicana Hotel & Casino.  Incidentally, inside the Tropicana it's so lovely and white and bright compared to the drab darkness of other hotels. 


Saturday, September 15, 2012

FOURTH and FIFTH swims!

J and I have done five - count them! FIVE swims for September.  We started off wanting to do at least three swims a month (at Hataitai Beach, Wellington, New Zealand) in 2012 - which is no problem at all for Jan, Feb, March, April, May, when we far surpassed that number - but for the winter months....?  Well,  brrrrrhhhhh! 
It wasn't until beginning of August that we realised we had done five minimum a month and we thought -  hmmmmmm, yes - if we can do five in August and five in September we are champions far beyond our wildest dreams!!!
(Of course, those mathematical whizzes who are reading this blog will probably have realised much, much earlier than we did that we'd done the magic five - J and I  had to go back over our calendar notations!)

We feel now that we've knocked off September, we can breathe easily.  From October onwards it should be a breeze (knock wood, cross fingers).  We had trouble once before in September when we never made a swim until the very end of the month.  Mind you, in those days we used to worry about low tide and rain, and cold, and the 'look of the water'. 

Spring is here, lah-de-dah-dah, the birds are singing at dawn, the little lambs are gambolling (in the terrific storms down the South Island), and the daffodils and weeds are out in my extremely small backyard garden.  Honestly, who has time to weed when life is out there for living.  (Oh, as an extremely pregnant and heretofore timid Agnes Gooch said in the movie, "Auntie Mame" when she approached the lead character who had told her to go out and live.....  "I lived!" 
Auntie Mame is my idol.  I loved the book, adored the film with Rosalind Russell in it, but didn't enjoy the Lucille Ball musical version

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Star Trek, Las Vegas

It's always nice to see celebrities that you liked as you were growing up.  In Las Vegas, I went to a Star Trek 'do', a wonderful evening meal at the Rio Hotel in their Voodoo Lounge, right on top of the hotel/casino.  There was a terrific view.

Here  is a picture of me alongside a 'Star Trek: the Next Generation' insignia ice sculpture. 

Also below is a photo of George Takei (Sulu) and Walter Koenig (Chekhov) from classic 'Star Trek'.  They were standing in a dark area, sorry about that.  I had to photograph real fast.

 It's funny to think that classic  Trek aired over 45 years ago and that 'heroes' get old, too.  Both these older gentlemen were gracious and friendly.   

At the bottom is a photo of Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway from "Star Trek: the Next Generation"), and that show is now 25 years old.

I always vowed I would never say the words (like my mother did), "Well, in my day, we did ......."  But unfortunately, the phrase does slip out occasionally.  I also find myself reminiscing more than I really want to.   'Forgive me, young'uns.....

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Spur of the moment mini-break

Well, hands up, anyone, who has done the following:

On Friday, I decided to go shopping in the Porirua Mall, about half an hour away from Wellington.  I got there at 9.30 am and by 10.30 I'd had enough.  As I got in my car, I suddenly thought, "Wouldn't it be neat to just travel up north without knowing where I'm going?"

And I did just that!  I drove north.   At Bulls (a couple of hours later), I thought, "Ah, New Plymouth?  Auckland?  Hamilton?  Taupo?"  I booked in, via phone, for a night in Taupo, and the following night in Taihape.  At this point, I decided to look in my boot ('trunk' for the benefit of Americans) to see what was in there that I could salvage.

In my boot, I had two bathing suits, one of them being a shorts and top set - I could use this as a nightie!  I had a nice big thirsty towel, a heavy winter cardy, a thermal merino wool t-shirt, a pair of socks, and my rugby world cup (volunteer) rain jacket.  

I was wearing a knee-length warm jacket, trousers, a merino wool sweater, and carrying my (multi-coloured) bag which contained an umbrella (it drizzled most of the time I was away but it was the journey I craved, not the destination).  I didn't have my eyedrops on me;  I have glaucoma.

I bought an extra pair of knickers and a toothbrush.

I arrived at Taupo at 3 pm, looked around for rest of day.  The following morning, I went swimming at the A.C Pool, then looked around  Taupo some more,  and left for Taihape at about 4 pm.   I was glad I'd manouvred The Desert Road in the afternoon when there wasn't  the usual frost or fog.  If I'd spent the second night in Taupo, I would've worried about the darn road all night.

I love Taihape Motel.  It's so sixties.  Right on down to the plastic flowers in the flower beds!  The owner gave me four small bags of potato chips, a big bottle of lemonade (or beer, if I'd wanted it), there were Kornies and milk, plus bread for toast, and jam.  He gave me the Sunday paper.  And the stay was $70 which is cheap as chips.  There's a microwave, and loads of tv channels (most of which seemed to be sport).  If I'd spent a second night in Taupo, it would have been double the price.

The next morning, I travelled home via Palmerston North Mall, loved it!

So, what's in the boot of your car??????

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Our third September swim

We've made it - phewwww! - three swims for September, our dreaded month, when it usually rains all the time.  I guess NZ's September is like the northern hemisphere's April if that old song "April Showers" is anything to go by.
Of course, if J and I can cram in a couple more swims this month, that would be great.  We've realised that we've done a minimum of 5 swims every month this year.  So even though our 'official'  call is three swims a month, and we're quite happy with that - hey, it would be so neat to say we'd done 5 a month, especially during the winter!    Oh, no.....  by mentioning this in writing (or typing), have I now committed us to 5 a month for the rest of the year?  I'll have to consult our rule book.

We met another (retiree) woman in the changing sheds yesterday.  She went in the water in just her bathing suit.  Uh-oh, we wear light t-shirts over our togs in the winter.  Are we wimps compared to her?  We carefully timed her in the water and she was half the time that we spend in it and that made us feel slightly better.  But, goodness, she wore a bathing cap which means she's almost professional.  We need a complete wardrobe re-think.

We must thank J's devoted husband for timing our swims, standing guard over our bags, and happily delivering J to the beach at sometimes just a half hour's notice.  J and I spend ages on the phone discussing tide highs and lows, and quality of the water, then we usually deviate away from swimming to umpteen other subjects, before suddenly realising we have to be at the beach, well .... now! 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

American and New Zealand television commercials

One thing I noticed in America were their television commercials.  All their commercials have perfect people, perfect backgrounds, perfect everything.  Just think of our Coca-Cola and McDonalds commercials and that's what every tv ad in the States seems to me to be like.  All clean-cut and beautiful.  The people don't seem like normal people.  They've all got wonderful smiles, dress impeccably, speak as if they went to elocution school, and have immaculate houses and jobs. 
I wonder what Americans would think of our wonderful 'legend' stop-drink-driving tv commercials?  They would just sit back dumb-founded, I'm sure of it.  Yet these two adverts, especially 'legend', the one we more often than not call 'ghost chips' - it's the one with the young people in it -  is just about the most popular commercial we've ever shown on NZ tv.

'Legend' and 'Donna Time"  (Donna Time is about the mum trying to get her family off the booze - and it's obviously a rip-off of NZ's all-time favourite tv drama, "Outrageous Fortune") can both be found on

Changing subjects.  Second swim for September  today.  Yippppeeeeee.  Only officially one more swim to do for this month.  Oh dear, I see the Sept forecast is for lots of rain.  Fingers crossed for us, please.
 J and I debated today for a long time standing on the steps at Hataitai Beach.  We suddenly turned into wimps:  it was cold.... had there been a storm at sea the previous night? ....  what about sewage...?   J had even brought along a web page she'd discovered that showed the level of pollution in July and August in Wellington Harbour (we figure we'd been swimming on the worst dates in question, oops).

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Winning Restroom

Sorry about this, but the flurry of blogs centred around my trip to  Las Vegas have not finished yet.  I went to Zeffirino restaurant in the Venetian Casino and Hotel.  I loved the lunch but I was over-awed by their toilets.  There was a framed newspaper clipping inside the restroom saying that Zeffirino's restroom had been chosen as one of the ten best public restrooms in America.  Wow, talk about an honour.  Just think, there must be millions of public restrooms in the States, and I was standing (and sitting!) in one of the best!


Here are some photos:
There's really more frou-frou in the restroom ( a sofa, etc)  than I'm showing in the photos.
The bottom photo is a view from out of the window and behind my chair in Zeffirino's restaurant. It's just a small part of the canal complex.  
I came across a couple posing for wedding photos beside the canal (see below).  The yellow building behind the pair (and across the canal) is an outside view of Zeffirino's.
Remember this is all inside the Venetian Hotel & Casino.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Corvettes at the Roxy Theatre

We have this picture theatre on my  Miramar Peninsula (in Wellington, New Zealand).  The Roxy.  It's owned by Richard Taylor, Tania Roger and Jamie Selkirk. (all oscar winners).  With the aid of Weta designers they have made the theatre up to resemble a theatre from the nineteen-thirties.  The ceiling on the first floor looks a bit Sistine Chapel-ish, except there are robots instead of biblical characters and gods - though, I guess, some folk might think robots are gods.

Today, was Fathers' Day so in their cafe and restaurant (Coco) the Roxy had a Corvette and Beer day for the dads.

Eleven Corvettes rolled up. Jamie Selkirk owns the blue Corvette..

Here's a very small portion of the Roxy first floor ceiling

After eating at Coco, my friend and I went along to the Weta Cave, (Weta movie products shop and /a tiny museum of Jackson/Taylor movie props).. I was trying out my new camera.  I held the camera at arm's length away from me, and I could see my picture on the front of the camera as well as it coming up on the screen at the back, thereby making sure it's not just my nose I get in the shot like I used to with my old camera where I couldnt see me at all (goodness all that sounds complicated).  I posed beside a replica of Gandalf - Ian McKellen -  from "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.