kiwi thoughts on life, travel, politics & everything else that crosses my mind: A happy new year – and peaceful travel – to all who read this .. and to those who dont!

did you know there is a creed for peaceful travel? a goal for us all .. the politicans dont seem to be doing much .. perhaps we can!

Christchurch has long history with the Antarctic

leading the way from the airport

Christchurch is home to the Antarctic research offices of New Zealand, United States and Italy’s Antarctic programmes, and artists, tourists and explorers have all prepared for their challenges in the city. This means the city’s rich heritage is reflected in museums, walkways, statues and even an Indian Totem Pole of friendship.

The International Antarctic Centre has a rich introduction to the continent and an acknowledgment of the explorers who, over three centuries, have been spellbound by the awe-inspiring, frozen land, starting with Abel Tasman and James Cook who both found New Zealand while looking for Terra Australis Incognita (Antarctica).

[Read more about my trip to  the Antarctic Centre here]

Adventurers associated with both Christchurch and Antarctica include Robert Falcon Scott who left from the port of Lyttelton to again try to reach the South Pole after his earlier attempt had failed. Terra Nova returned to the port in 1913 bringing news of the death of Scott and his four companions on their way back from the South Pole.

Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen was the first to reach the South Pole in 1911 and later gave a popular public lecture in Christchurch. In gratitude to the Canterbury Museum for their help, he donated the penknife used to cut the flagstaff marking the South Pole; and Irishman Ernest Shackleton who first travelled to Antarctica with Scott but was invalided out and later tried again with his own expedition on Nimrod.

For people bought up in Christchurch during the 50s and 60s – a period of intense activity in the Antarctic  –  ‘Operation Deep Freeze’ and the early morning sound of DC3s heading ‘to the ice’ are part of our imbedded personal history and its seems highly appropriate the International Antarctic Centre should be sited here.

It’s not often that a tourist facility covers science, technology, fun-rides, history, ecology, nature, conservation, and the rescue of penguins, but this one does. It is a modern shop window for Antarctica and a fun, exciting and hands-on experience for all: no wonder it has won so many awards and international acclaim. Continue reading “Christchurch has long history with the Antarctic”

rugby world cup and my city

BREAKING NEWS: Christchurch will host Australia, England and Argentina during the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

England will train at QEII during their 19-day stay, Australia at Rugby Park during their 16-day stay in the city and Argentina at Christ’s College during their  23-day stay.

This morning’s announcement was made by Rugby New Zealand 2011 Ltd (RNZ 2011) CEO Martin Snedden  and confirmed teams will stay in 23 different centres.

“We as a nation are passionate about Rugby so it’s fantastic that we can bring RWC 2011 to the backyards of so much of New Zealand,” Snedden said.

read more here

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penguins and the award winning International Antarctic Centre

‘It’s like living in a soap opera’ says the woman feeding the penguins: she had just described how CC ‘doesn’t like water’ and had recently ‘left her old boyfriend for Elvis’, her new one.Prince Edward meets an little blue penguin

CC had been found in Napier by Napier City Council workers (hence the CC) who were digging a storm water drain in West Quay when a digger hit the chicks’ obscured nest and that’s how she came to be rescued and end up living in Christchurch at the New Zealand Penguin Encounter in the International Antarctic Centre.

This is New Zealand’s first combined indoor and outdoor penguin viewing area and it can hold up to 26 Little Blue penguins in its Banks Peninsula natural-themed environment and 80,000 litre pool.  We visitors can see the ‘Little Blues’ above and below water.

All the penguins are birds that have been rescued and with physical disabilities that have left them defenceless, many would not have survived in the wild. Interestingly some of the bird have to wear little blue boots: living in captivity they spend more time on land and get sore feet!

After hand-feeding many of the disabled birds in the water a few who cannot feed in water yet are hand fed. A couple of them climb on Vicky’s lap.

“Climbing in my knee has nothing to do with being friendly or tame, it’s purely wanting the fish” she tells us – despite that, I would love to be so up close and personal with them. It seems that even wild penguins have food preferences, with one of them turning away whenever the ‘wrong variety’ of fish was offered! Continue reading “penguins and the award winning International Antarctic Centre”

Magical Malaysia

Malaysia, land of contrasts.  You just get used to one sight when another elbows its way in.

Different cultures, religions, nationalities, clothes, food and language jostle with each other on the street.  From sari to mini skirt, from purdah to fashion labels, this, mostly, Muslim country has it all.

If you time your journey for the early months of any year, you could be rewarded with a feast of festivals, each very different. The year i wrote this year Hari Raya was first, followed by Thaipusam and then the Chinese New Year; all celebrated with public holidays in this seemingly tolerant country.

Hari Raya Aidilfitri is the event that follows the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and is marked by new clothes and feasting as well as gifts to the poor.  If you like shopping, this is also the time of sales!

Thaipusam is the seemingly masochistic event during which Hindu devotees pierce their bodies with hooks and skewers before walking barefoot to the Batu Caves (Kuala Lumpur) or the Waterfall Temple in Georgetown (Penang)

And finally the Chinese New Year, celebrated with all the colours and noise of Asia.  Drums, cymbals, street theatre and opera as well as lion and dragon dances.

Festival of the Hungry Ghost

After all these, have a vacation from your holiday on an east coast island.  Mid to late February the monsoons have usually finished and I can recommend Pulau Perhentian Kecil, an island in the Perhentian group (a marine reserve near the Thai border).

Painting of Moonlight chalets in early '90s - the first accommodation on Long beach

At the Moonlight Chalets on Long Beach clichés come alive.  Think of a quiet tropical island and you will have the picture.  Palm trees, white sand, blue skies, sun, warm seas, fish, coral, butterflies, birds.  Add good food, charming hosts, who remember your name from the time you arrive, add a chalet right on the beach for less than NZ $10, no roads, vehicles or jet-skis and paradise is complete.  If you are looking for sophistication, this is not the place for you: simple, lazy and as the locals say ‘tiada masala’ – no problems. (this painting was done many years ago by a French man who stayed there, and before the land on the left was taken and the first concrete monstrosity was built on what was a peaceful, electricity-free paradise)

Arriving is just the beginning of the adventure.  Two hours on a fishing boat from Kuala Besut ( better than the speed boats – after all what the hurry?) and you will be transferred to a speedboat for the exhilarating, frightening for some, race for the shore, the last metres surfing.  Make sure valuables are in plastic.  Bags are unloaded and then the decision of which place to stay.  Along with Moonlight, names such as Symfony, Shake Shak and Tooty Frooty (no spelling mistakes by the author) invite you to come stay or eat.  If you’re lucky you may hear tales of pirates, caves, buried treasure and even a ghost or two.

Along with a resplendent resident rooster, iguanas will wander or hurry past you, geckos calls loudly during the night, palm squirrels with bottle-brush tails chase each other up and down palm trees, monkeys swing, play and call from the trees, and mid year the turtles lay their eggs followed by the hatching some 45 days later.

Lets lie under a palm tree

That first year I was there, I witnessed the final monsoon storm!  48 hours of torrential rain, thunder and lightning, the beach rearranged, little creeks flood, gentle slopes and pathways become waterfalls and rivers.  The generator fails.  Palm trees sway, looking like umbrellas on a windy Wellington street.  A green wheelbarrow, a large blue plastic drum, palm tree trunks and a two-metre iguana were all swept along in the violent rush.  And then the sun returns, and island life begins again.  Snorkelling, jungle walks, reading, beach-combing, swimming, sleeping and for many guests, a necklace ‘so you’ll never forget this island.’

Early memories of this island ensures this is where my mind returns to when mediating for relaxation