Month: June 2011

Rare visitor to New Zealand … from Antarctica.

“Happy Feet”  a juvenile emperor penguin, arrived on the Kapati Coast – just north of Wellington, New Zealand  – a few days ago and seems in no hurry to leave .

About 1 metre tall, he’s a rare visitor, apparently only the second one ever recorded in New Zealand.

I took these photos on Peka Peka beach this morning.

You admire me ... I'll ignore you~

Tourism Industry Update — where do travel writers fit in?

Tourism Industry Update — where do travel writers fit in?

This is the subject of the talk in Wellington by Ann-Marie Johnson, PR with the Tourism Industry Assocation. Ann-Marie, longtime member of the Travel Communicators’ Association, was a major organiser of the mammoth Tourism Rendezvous New Zealand (TRENZ) event in Queenstown in late May. TRENZ brings together around 270 New Zealand tourism operators and a similar number of international travel and tourism buyers so it is an incredible organisational challenge. Ann-Marie will suggest how tourism and writers can help each other.

Time: 6pm on Monday, 27 June.

Place: Museum Hotel, 90 Cable Street (near Te Papa). Street parking available.

Meeting place: The bar on the third floor of the hotel for socialising and drinks/nibbles. Presentation starts in Agostini Room (4th floor) about 6.30pm.

Cost: Travcom members $10; non-members $15.

Register with and send cheque to: Helen Davies, Travcom administrator, at 2B Pukehana Avenue, Epsom, Auckland 1023. Ph: 09 624 5707 or email: if you’d like to use internet banking or have any queries. Register by Thursday 23 June.
The event has been organised by the Wellington branch of the Travel Communicators’ Association.

Further info: Sarah Bennett (; Judith Doyle ( and Heather Hapeta (

Volcanic Ash disrupts flights … Wellington Airport offers advice

Wellington Airport impressed me when I was there on the weekend: they had fliers with helpful information (communication, airlines, accommodation, alternative transport etc.)  for passengers  who had been affected by the ash from the South American volcanic eruption. Well done for the prompt response – of course your first port of call needs to be your airline!

She Chocolate – just over the hill in Christchurch

She Chocolate, just over the Port Hills in Christchurch New Zealand, classes, daily meditation and a restaurant – check out their website

nothing to say really ... this says it all!

Pitcairn Island: so hard to get to it must be the ultimate must-visit!

Pitcairn Island is so hard to get to it must be the ultimate, ‘top this’, must-visit!

After all, how many can say they have been to the ‘hardest island in the world to get to” – I can”t!

I went to the British High Commission on Friday night for an introduction to the islands. Seems it takes a flight to Tahiti, then a flight to Mangareva ( 300 miles SE of Pitcairn) and then a  2 or three days by boat to get to your destination – its seems the journey would be as exciting as the destination.

Pitcairn has recently had a couple of weddings – perhaps this will be the new ‘hot’ destination!

With such a  tiny population much be hard to be support themselves and  tapa cloth, wall hangings, wooden carvings, jewelery and even honey, and music CDs were on sale at the beautiful High Commission in Karori, Wellington.

For more information contact Heather Menzies ( the new Pitcairn Island Tourism Coordinator) or sign-up for their Tourism Quarterly on


Bucket Fountain: Cuba Mall, Wellington

The colourful bucket fountain (by  Burren & Keen 1969) on Cuba Mall, Wellington attracts  young and old – they all stand and stare. It’s quirky fun in a quirky area of downtown Wellington.

I just found out, local tradition says you need to make a wish as  the biggest blue bucket empties! And, I’ve captured that moment for you … so if you can’t get here to my ‘backyard’ make a wish with my photo!

Wellington greets the New Year Matariki stars and you can too

Wellington greets the New Year Matariki stars and you can too

It’s New Year again in New Zealand and, to celebrate the month of Matariki – the Maori New Year – last night I went to one of the very popular destinations for cruise ship passengers (and other travellers of course) visiting Wellington, New Zealand, the Carter Observatory.

If you’re a traveller in my new city, you too will love seeing the Southern sky and stars usually not seen from the Northern Hemisphere – and the Carter, as New Zealand’s longest-serving national observatory, provides a great local perspective on our place in the solar system. It also tells stories of New Zealand pioneers in the field of astronomy – and it’s not as dry as that may sound!

Make sure you take a virtual tour of the universe in the full-dome, digital planetarium and explore the beginning of time and see the Black Hole in their interactive multimedia astronomy centre.

Set in the beautiful Wellington Botanic Gardens and only 2-mins walk from the top of the historic cable car, this inner city, ‘place for space’, is a perfect setting to be taken to the Milky Way and the Southern Cross, which we celebrate on our flag.

NZ flag

The Maori name gifted to Carters is Te Ara Whanui ki te Rangi – the expansive pathway to the heavens – and telescopic viewing to those very heavens is available, weather permitting.

Māori and Polynesian navigation stories are told along with the scientific one. Each year, Maori and other Kiwi celebrate Matariki. Matariki is the Maori name for the small cluster of stars that can be seen low on New Zealand’s north-eastern horizon just before dawn during the last days of May or in early June. These stars are also known as the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters.

Traditionally, Matariki was an opportunity to honour the past and plan for the future. Today it has become a time to celebrate the remarkable country we live in, share kai (food), stories and songs as well as enjoying cultural activities so check out all the other activities happening around NZ – Te Papa has a great programme.

The Carter Observatory also applauds the roles of some leading Kiwi astronomers such as our rocket man, Sir William Pickering, who was born and grew up here in Wellington and became a pivotal figure in the American space race. He was a highly respected international scientist. It also tells of Beatrice Tinsley whose research was fundamental to the astronomical understanding of how galaxies evolve with time – what a great woman!

Another place to see the night sky in New Zealand is at Mt. John Observatory, Tekapo. (See more on Mt John in this blog)

Some facts and history

  •  Carter’s name commemorates Charles Rooking Carter, who gifted £2,240 from his estate to the Royal Society of New Zealand to set up an astronomical observatory in Wellington for the benefit of the people of New Zealand.
  • Parliament established the Carter Observatory in 1937 and it opened in 1941.
  • A base for astronomical research in New Zealand Carter began with solar investigations.
  • In the 1970s it expanded to include variable stars, galaxies and asteroids.
  • Carter Observatory became New Zealand’s National Observatory in 1977.

The Carter Observatory curates and maintains three main telescopes.

  1. The Thomas Cooke Telescope, a historic 9 3/4-inch Cooke Refractor will be used for public observing sessions.
  1. The Ruth Crisp Telescope arrived as a donation in the 1960s and is still used for astronomy research.
  1. Carter also operates the nearby Thomas King Observatory. Local astronomers maintain its 12.5 cm (5-inch) telescope, made in 1882 by Grubb in Dublin. This observatory is available for public stargazing sessions.

See more about the Carter and stargazing in the capital here

Award winning Christchurch accommodation still open

Award winning Christchurch accommodation still open

I’m glad to see the award-winning backpacker accommodation – The Jailhouse – in  Addington, Christchurch, is still open. lt seems jails were built to withstand shaky ground.