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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check out some of the photos and stories while you are here  and follow me on twitter .. kiwitravwriter

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

Want a white christmas? How about in Thailand!

The award-winning Phuket spa resort Indigo Pearl is celebrating a ‘White Christmas’ with beach party featuring DJs, fire dancers and a spectacular Christmas themed buffet. A twist on a traditional northern hemisphere “white Christmas” and it is being staged in Arabian-style ‘majili’ tents on the beautiful white sand Nai Yang Beach. ( I spent time on this beach early 2009 and it’s fabulous)

They tell me  DJs  will be “playing 80s and 90s dance favourites, and a bar serving a wide selection of cocktails and mocktails, the Christmas beach buffet features a carving station serving traditional Christmas turkey, honey-glazed ham and roast lamb on a spit, plus a seafood BBQ fiesta including king prawn, lobster, swordfish, tuna and baby octopus.

Appetisers also include an extensive seafood selection of prawn, crab, mussels, oysters, herring roll mops and smoked marlin, salmon and red snapper, along with cold cuts, grilled vegetables and salads.

Festive desserts range from Christmas pudding, Yule log cake, cookies and gingerbread men to kirsch cream with cherries, chocolate tart, Italian trifle, tiramisu and Drambuie panna cotta, chestnut mousse, cheesecake, lime tart, pecan pie and tropical fruit.”

At the end of the evening guests will release a White Kom Loy lantern, a Thai tradition.

Indigo Pearl is a luxury 5-star spa resort distinguished by its fusion of modern architecture and Thailand’s tin-mining heritage, just 10 minutes from Phuket International Airport.

For more information on Indigo Pearl and its various packages please visit:

See a previous blog I wrote about Indigo Pearl here and as a bonus, here is one of their recipes for you to try at home. ( they gave me permission to share this with you)

About Indigo Pearl:

Indigo Pearl resort is a fusion of modern architecture and Thai tin-mining heritage next to Nai Yang Beach, just 10 minutes from Phuket International Airport.

It was voted one of the best new hotels in the world by Condé Nast Traveler (US) in its ‘2007 Hot List’ of top new resorts, spas, restaurants and nightclubs, “Most Stylish Hotel” by ELLE magazine, Singapore, and among the world’s “TOP 50 Dream Resorts” by Honeymoon and Travel magazine.

The kiwi-travel-writer checks out local Maori history

A woman giggles nervously: a man, wrapped in a ripped blanket, has just had his tattooed face close to hers. He leers then swaggers away. “Even though I know they’re acting, that was scary” I hear her tell her partner.

Musket warrior at Tamaki Village, Christchurch, NZ
Musket warrior at Tamaki Village, Christchurch, NZ

Less than an hour ago we had left central Christchurch,  NZ, and were transported back in time to the Tamaki Heritage Village in Ferrymead. ‘Lost in our own land’ re-enacts about two hundred years of turbulent, South Island history when two very different cultures met.

“I have been waiting 150 years to tell you this story” an old man says before we are led, to the sound of flute and chants, past carvings silhouetted against the evening sky, and through native bush to a building where screens show historical footage.

paradise shelduck with ducklings at the village
paradise shelduck with ducklings at the village

It is obvious that tonight will not be the usual and popular Maori tourism of kapahaka (dance) and waiata (song) but a mix of acting, technology and period settings.

As we watch the screens, a musket-bearing warrior bursts through the door and another act begins on the 20-acres of open-air set, which tells the thought-provoking story of tribal warfare and Maori caught between the promises of new ways, the values of the past, and coping with European disease, land loss, and alcohol. Continue reading The kiwi-travel-writer checks out local Maori history

tips for how to deal with grief – especially at Christmas

As Christmas approaches many of us find it difficult to deal with our grief. (I am writing this a mother who had a 20-year old son die, a husband die at 35, and about four years experience as a bereavement counsellor many years ago)

Grief is a necessity and privilege, it stems from giving and receiving love. Just as love doesn’t end with death, neither does grief end with the funeral: sometimes our grief is more painful.

There are no rules or simple ways to take away the pain. Sights, sounds and smells bring back pleasure as well as pain and it’s important to find people who will support you, and most importantly, allow you to be yourself.

So, how will you cope with Christmas? Will you make a plan or take it as it comes? Most people find advance planning helpful; just remember that plans are not carved in stone and they can be changed.

By the time the first Christmas arrives most of us have realised that ignoring grief does not make it go away. Conversely, talking about our pain does not make grief worse, although it may feel that way.

Often friends stop talking about the deceased person, (or you may with people who don’t know the person you are grieving). They assume that when you cry they have made you feel bad – as if their talk could increase our pain – and it’s difficult to explain to them that crying is beneficial. I believe it is because they feel uncomfortable with tears rather than their concern for us that stops them talking about our loved one. And we often oblige by not upsetting people … funny how the griever often supports the friend – weird but true.

Friends and family may encourage you to keep active, or to “get on with life”, “you have to let her go’ and other non-helpful advice such as “he wouldn’t want to you keep crying”. I am sure you have heard these and other such homilies.

Keeping busy will not heal grief, in fact, experience shows it often increases our stress and merely postpones or denies the need to talk, feel, and cry. Time heals grief ‘they’ say: not true. It’s what we do with the time that does the healing – ask anyone who has used medication to dull the pain: when the pills, or alcohol, are stopped our pain is still there, just waiting for us to deal with it.

  • Remember you are not alone. Find someone to talk to.
  • Use your loved ones name. Talk about them, good times, bad times, and other holiday seasons.
  • Eliminate as much stress as possible. Plan ahead, keep it simple. Ignore others expectations.
  • Involve your children in your discussions and planning – it will help their grief too.
  • Do what’s right for you & your family, don’t be pressured into doing things that aren’t OK
  • Use whatever form of spirituality is meaningful to you.
  • Pace yourself physically and emotionally, be tolerant of your limitations…grief is tiring!
  • Christmas will come no matter how much you may not want it. You will survive.
  • Remember the worst has already happened!
  • Take one day at a time, one hour at a time.
  • Anticipation of the event is always worse than the actual day.


  • Buy a special gift and donate it to a charity in your loved ones name
  • Burn a candle over Christmas to symbolise their presence in your thoughts.
  • Write a letter to them in your journal. Describe how Christmas is without them.
  • Change holiday habits: Christmas breakfast instead of dinner; restaurant instead of home.
  • Keep all your holiday habits. For some, the familiar is reassuring.
  • Expressing your feelings honestly always helps.
  • Volunteer to work at the local mission, old folks home.
  • Have a special toast to absent loved ones before the main meal.
  • Tie a yellow remembrance ribbon on the Christmas tree – your own tree, or the town one.
  • Set aside an evening to look at photos and talk about him or her.
  • Make a memory book. Children find this really helpful too.
  • Make a list of things you found helpful, share it with others. Keep for next year!

Victoria Square used to be Market Square

Just over the river behind the Christchurch Town Hall and Convention Centre is Victoria Square. (New Zealand) In 1850, swamp covered Christchurch and settlers had to traverse bog to get home after shopping in the market.

Christchurch town hall
Christchurch Town Hall

Those early settlers must have been sorely disillusioned when they first saw the soggy land of their dreams, however they weren’t the first to inhabit this piece of land.

Between 1000 and 1500, the indigenous Maori (who had arrived here from the Pacific) had a settlement here, called Puari. It stretched east from the Otakaro River, and was home for around 800 Waitaha people who gathered eels, whitebait, native trout, ducks, and flounder here.

Pou Pou and ti kouka (cabbage tree)

To mark this village, and acknowledge the cultural value of the site to the Ngai Tahu iwi, a special poupou was commissioned as part of the 1990 commemorations of the 1840 signing of The Treaty of Waitangi: the six-metre, totara, poupou (carved by a local man) was erected in 1994.

The Otakaro river was renamed the Avvon – after a Scottish river – then this too was changed to Avon, and the first bridge to span the river was a cart bridge in 1852. Ten years later the first public lamp was lit at the same market street bridge but kerosene was considered too expensive and the town lighting project was halted for two years.

A post and chain fence (some portions are still in use) was built along in the 1860s to save ‘innocent children and tipsy men alike’ from drowning, as some 30 people had drowned in what now seems an extremely placid river. A new iron bridge replaced the old one in 1864.

A police station and lock-up was built in Market Square (by the 1870s it was being used as a women’s prison), and it also had a blacksmith’s forge and stockyards where farmers tethered their horses while they sold produce. This was the centre of the rural community of Christchurch –the village centre.

Nevertheless the traffic-census on the bridge on one day in 1862 shows how vital Market Square was.

  • 10 bullock drays with 58 bullocksI've been buying a vanilla ice from here since i was a child
  • 51 horse drays with 6o horses
  • 36 carts with fifty-one horses
  • 199 saddle horses
  • 20 cattle
  • 204 sheep
  • One donkey and cart
  • 1000 foot traffic.

An 1861 photo shows wooden homes and business and a post office. One long building with a white gable and verandas around three sides was the Market Hall, and the ‘coffee-palace’ attached to it was most likely the first coffee shop in Christchurch.

In the late 1800s – when the old square was considered an eyesore – the area was renamed Victoria Square to commemorate the queens diamond jubilee. It was put in order with lawns, flowerbeds, and willow trees that are believed to be from cuttings off a tree at Napoleons grave at St Helena.

In the early 1900s the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York lay the foundation stone for the commissioned statue of Queen Victoria. It was also a jubilee memorial to the pioneers of Canterbury, and to those who had died in the Boer War. By the time the statue was unveiled, the queen had died.

Victoria Square has changed many times over the years – the queen has been moved around like a chess piece, the road closed, band rotundas built and removed, and in 1931 a fountain was built. The biggest change came with its new neighbour – the Town Hall, built in the 1960s: it too sits on a historical site.

Capt Cook shares the park with Queen Victoria

The Limes Hospital – where one of the first Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in Christchurch was held – is remembered by The Limes Room. It also has the two largest hand-blown chandeliers in the Southern Hemisphere: made in two pieces, it’s banded with copper with 104 bulbs in each.

Another artwork in the Town Hall is a tapestry that celebrates New Zealand women gaining the vote in 1893 – the first country in the world to achieve this. A plaque also commemorates Douglas Lilburn, New Zealands premier composer.

The whole area is a cornucopia of history – invisible to those who hurry past.

© Heather Campbell Hapeta

Discover Christchurch the hassle free way!

Its always fun to do a  tour in your own city and last week I joined the Hassle-Free ‘Discover Christchurch’ tour for the afternoon, and soon after  I was picked up in Cathedral Square, our guide pointed out the school (Christchurch Girls High) attended by the teenage murderers depicted in Heavenly Creatures

NZ has a great tradition of great movie making – The American Film Institute has called the New Zealand film industry “one of the wonders of the world… an unparalleled success story” see more here

Check out just some of the places we saw –  from the city, out to the University, the beach, and over the hills to the historic port of Lyttelton where  all the settlers arrived.

.Kate Shepard memorial .. just across the riverPoupou and cabbage tree (victoria Sq) See detail on left

Inveiled 25th January 2009

Note: Hassle-Free Tours ( ) also runs  a Lord of the Rings tours to visit the village Edoras, and an Alpine Safari which includes a jet boat, 4×4 vehicles and the TranzAlpinetrain so check their website for up-to-date information. It’s good to be able recommend a local, boutique company.

Winona Ryder & Barry Pepper to star as Lois and Bill Wilson

Winona Ryder ‘Enough’ for Hallmark

Barry Pepper to co-star in ‘Lois Wilson Story’


Winona Ryder and Barry Pepper have been cast to star in the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie “When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story.”

Production starts this week in Toronto; the longform will air later this season on CBS.

Movie is based on the true story of Lois Wilson, the co-founder of Al-Anon, and her relationship with alcoholic husband Bill Wilson, one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The couple enjoyed an upscale lifestyle in the 1920s, but his drinking eventually led to their downfall. Eventually, her husband became sober — but Lois Wilson still struggled with her own issues surrounding his alcoholism.

She eventually helped start Al-Anon in 1951 to assist people whose loved ones battle addiction.

E1 Entertainment is producing the movie with Hallmark Hall of Fame Prods. John Morayniss, Ira Pincus and Brent Shields are exec producing, while John Kent Harrison is the director. Telepic is based on the book by William Borchert, who also wrote the script with Camille Thomasson.

Ryder’s upcoming credits include “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee,” while Pepper was seen in “61*” and “Flags of Our Fathers.”

There’s more info about the Lois movie on: William