Often thought of as an English city, Christchurch, NZin fact started as a Maori village then the Scottish Deans brothers arrived in the 1840s long before the planned migration from England.
The Canterbury Burns Club in Christchurch New Zealand today commentated the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet – perhaps the first in the world to do so.
With cicadas singing, temperatures over 25 degrees, kilts swirling, pipes playing, ladies and gentlemen dressed in the Victorian and Edwardian fashion, and a Maori blessing of the event, a procession of Scottish clans and descendants of our early Scottish settlers, (including this writer) the day was enjoyable.
They also used the occasion to unveil a Scottish Pioneers’ Memorial at Riccarton house and Bush. This was home to the Deans brothers when they left Scotland to start a new life in New Zealand.
Descendants of those brothers were present, including Austin Deans the celebrated war artist(now aged 93 and who is marrying next weekend) and Charles Deans, chair of the Riccarton Bush trust which protects the remnant of native bush that was preserved by the early members of the Deans family.
No Burns day would be complete without a haggis ceremony,
which was dramatically addressed by Dr Ron Macintyre – the bard would be proud of it.
As well as the kiwi, (see prevous blog in this series) New Zealand has other flightless birds, all of which are in danger of extinction. Apart from two bats, New Zealand had no terrestrial mammals until the Maori arrived some one-thousand years ago, bringing the kiore,(a Pacific rat) and the Pakeha( European) some eight hundred years later, who brought rabbits, possums, deer, stoat and many other animals.Before that, with no predators, it appears the birds had no need to fly and so lost the ability.
Introduced animals have been devastating these birds and their habitat since their introduction.
New Zealand‘skakapo is one of the worlds rarest birds. (six billon people in the world – only 90 kakapo birds) A large nocturnalflightless bird, it has full-size wings, their only apparent use being for balance while running, or the occasional glide after clambering up a tree. Sometimes called the owl parrot, the kakapo weighs between 2.00 and 2.5 kilo.
Iridescent moss green, barred with lemon yellow and black, this gentle, tame and slow moving parrot is totally vulnerable to hunting by introduced feral cats, rats, stoats and ferrets.The kakapo lives in rain-forests, fromsea level to alpine basins. A vegetarian, it covers large distances each night, competing with the introduced deer for the samefood. Like the kiwi it has small eyes, excellent hearing and catlike whiskers at the base of its bill.
The male is promiscuous, gathering in ‘booming’ areas with other males where they boom loudly Called ‘lek mating’ for 6-8 hours every night for up to five months, callingto attract females who then nest build and raise the chicks alone. The kakapo is New Zealands only lek bird. Most flightless birds emerge fromthe egg active, not helpless and blind like the young kakapo.This has contributed greatly to the birds demise as the mother has to leave the defenceless chick to forage.
In the short term, transferring the few remaining birds to off shore, predator free islands appears to be the only way to save these delightful parrots. Long term prospects for the kakapo do not seem promising despiteintensive work by the New Zealand Department of Conservation.However the 2009 season is showing some promise see here.
Meet Sinbad a young kakapo who had an adventurous start to his life. He was one of three chicks hatched in 1998 but, as the youngest and smallest chick in the nest, could not get the food he needed to survive.
Pre travel countdown tasks continued for me – I had hoped that in 50 days my hidden svelte body should appear ready for sun sand and beach. Yeah right!
I confessed to going to the gym, well signing up for the gym. Why, I want to know, are bad habits so easy to form and good ones so darn difficult to maintain. There seems to be some design fault in my brains hard-wiring.
The other thing about the state of over-weightiness – OK obesity – and wanting to be fit for travel is the unfairness of it all.
While travelling it always the skinny little things that look good even in a g-string who seem to get sick. They go to the toilet a lot, find it hard to keep food down, and complain about loosing weight. I on the other hand, break all the rules about safe eating abroad and still put on weight when travelling – it’s obviously a genetic malfunction.
How can you sweat that much, walk that far and still put on weight? It’s not fair. I know the book of life did not promise me fairness but . . .
Anyway stage two of the get ready for travel has started. Firstly, keep focused on the goal. What’s that? A fit healthy body that just glides up hills, lies on a beach with no embarrassment, and eats and drinks everything it desires – that’s the looked-for outcome.
So off to see a dietician. Five days a week at the gym, she says, not three. You need to speed up your metabolism. I thought the membership card alone helped, some sort of fat-sucking osmosis would occur. Seems that’s not so. What else?
Only one avocado a week! One? Only ONE?
When I was in Zimbabwe I was eating one a day: minimum. That’s another other thing that’s not fair. As a traveller – and remember I need to travel as others need to breathe – I love all sorts of what you might call ethnic foods. For me they are my life-blood. Indian: yummy. Thai: fantastic.
They have lots of vegetables, lots of rice, so what’s the problem? Well actually I know what the problem is –well, one of the problems – coconut milk – the delicious fruit of the coconut palms I love to lie under. Although I do concede that quantity plays its part too.
I am not the type of traveller that eats at Mc D’s or any other restaurant catering to western taste – or rather often western fears of ‘different’ food? I am the sort that goes to the market in the middle of a small village and just eats what others are eating. I will point to someones plate and indicate – I’ll have that please. This means I get back to New Zealand and still want to eat all the wonderful food I have become accustomed to.
What else has arrived on the forbidden list – OK so she didn’t forbid things, just suggested I might like to make some lifestyle choices. Healthier choices than those I have been making.
Number one is eat out less – which means cook for myself! Now I could be a domestic goddess if I chose, but have been there, done that and much prefer others to clean up behind me, and cook for me too. However, I’ll do it – I’ll keep my goal in mind – and will eat porridge (to increase my fibre and calcium intake) – and then go out for a breakfast of coffee and the newspaper. Promise – I know bagels don’t provide the goodies I’m supposed to have.
I did get a tick for the amount of vegetables I eat, and a big sigh for the lack of calcium and fruit – smoothies for breakfast “she” suggests.
I have stopped eating heaps of muffins – but didn’t they first sell them to us as a healthy food choice? I must admit I’ll be sorry to loose the little cookies or chocolate fish served witht he coffee at a couple of my favourite cafés too.
It seems that to achieve the goal of being a healthy traveller – low blood pressure, low cholesterol, lower weight plus high fitness and flexibility – means I need more time than the days I have left. Incremental changes are required ‘they’ tell me, but I want quantum leaps.
Please tell me — What sort of traveller are you? Do you loose weight in India? What’s the recipe – please, preety please – I’m looking for an easier softer way.
Enrolling in the gym is an ego deflating exercise and I have just humiliated myself.
Now there is a man, whom I had never met before, who knows more than he should about my body mass, flexibility and fitness. It was a reality check I’ve been trying to deny, but with only 72 sleeps until I travel, it’s time to review the necessities on my pre-trip checklist. Once money and tickets have been arranged, fitness is the number one issue. I failed.
Why do I want to be fit to travel? Well I believe that I am better off and less likely to get any bugs if I am fitter, flatter and flexible. By now people who know me will be choking over their morning coffee as they read this: laughing hysterically. Ba-humbug I say to them, just watch this space!
I need put in a disclaimer – this entire column is purely my opinion and backed up by no known medical evidence. I have gleaned screeds of useful and useless information over the years and stored it away like a pack-rat for when I need it. Now I give it to you: take what you like, leave the rest, and, like going to the gym, consult your doctor about health issues.
Back to the gym, the first line of fitness defence. “Pull your tummy button to backbone,”. . . “Doesn’t take much to get your heart rate up” . . . “how does that feel?” Red faced, hot, sweaty and embarrassed at my deep breathing, I ask myself, what has this go to do with travel; what has riding a bike that goes nowhere or rowing a boat that never sees the water, have to do with tourist activities?
All I know is past experiences has taught me that I feel better and am able to do more when I feel healthier. I asked other travellers what they do for pre-departure health all said walking. So reassured, and my own knowledge to back it up, I’ll continue to work on improving my fitness level. I visualise myself jumping nimbly from boat to wharf, climbing hills to see views and monuments with nary a deep gasping breath to be heard and throwing my backpack onto my back as if it weighed nothing. Remember I said visualise, this is not reality – yet.
What other pre travel checks are needed? Unless you are going to a place absolutely guaranteed not to have any dreaded diseases or bugs it pays talk to your Dr or vaccination clinic to see what shots are needed. Tetanus, typhoid, polio, tetanus and hepatitis are some of the travellers common protection needs. Accurate up to date information about vaccinations is vital.
A couple of years ago I was off to Zimbabwe and it had been recommended that I have a hepatitis A vaccine. As it lasted only six weeks I waited until the very last minute to give myself the injection: I hadn’t intended to wait until just prior to boarding the plane in The Netherlands.
Picture if you will: me inside the toilets – in a city well known for it’s drug use – hunting through my pack for the syringe and contents required to jab myself in my thigh. I am sure my innocence would not have been believed had I been caught on the security cameras.
Apart from indulging in addict-like activities what else can I do to ensure I’m a healthy traveller? I could take multivitamins or drink only bottled water with no ice, become vegetarian while on the road but a hepatitis carrier, often unknown to them, is of greater concern than bad food. So vaccinations and common sense around hand washing is really important – and no sleeping in fowl-houses.
Despite my constant state of good health when I travel I’m not a good role model as I break so many rules. I drink local water, eat from street stalls and remain healthy. Good luck? I guess so. In the meantime I’ll keep going to the gym.
John, next time you test me I’ll remove your heart-rate strap and watch from my body before I go home. Promise.
only three days to go and the world buskers festival 2009 will be here in Christchurch New Zealand yet again .. for something like 20 years our streets have been taken over every January with buskers from around the world.
Just planning my days now around whats happening and where.
for more I’ve written about the world Buskers festival click the link
And coming up in 2010 …………………………
This summer’s World Buskers Festival in Christchurch, New Zealand is now previewed online for people keen to get the most from the entertainment on Christchurch’s streets during the 11 day event.
The official 2010 World Buskers Festival website has been launched (www.worldbuskersfestival.com) with details of all the performers attending the festival, as well as a schedule of when and where around Christchurch they will be performing.
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker says the World Buskers Festival consistently tops the list of the city’s favourite events.
“Each year, the 10 day festival attracts 300,000 visitors to Christchurch, all keen to experience the daring and hilarious antics of our buskers. The Central City comes to a standstill during the street performances and evening events allow us to secure a seat right next to the action,” he says.
“With 44 acts, 450 live shows and 500 hours of world class entertainment this is a festival you’ve just got to experience,” says festival director Jodi Wright
“An exciting new music pitch has been added to the 2010 festival. Plus the circus, street and comedic talent we’ve assembled for this festival is truly world class. Check out the schedule so you don’t miss seeing any of them perform.”
In its 17th year the World Buskers Festival runs in Christchurch from 21 to 31 January 2010.
Over the past three days I have learnt some valuable life lessons. Most of which could be summed up in those horrible lazy sayings.
Some I already know about but didn’t respond to – ‘if you are in a hole stop digging!” and “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’
The particular hole I was in involved my computer. I used some free web access at an airport and from then on I could not send email! My mail arrived fine but my out box got bigger and bigger.
I tried to fix it ( my ‘little knowledge’ part) I looked up all the things I thought would tell me how all to no avail, I rang my isp and spent an hour on the phone. Still no solution.
In the end I did one more thing and bang – NOW I have no Outlook on my laptop … resulting in having to reinstall Microsoft Outlook – a brand new version with none of my ‘stuff’ on it . I thought it would import my old email – but no.
I now have many emails unanswered and lost. AND I have travel bloggers waiting for me to thank them for (and publish) their responses to my interview question. Mea culpa.
I am sorry but now I don’t know who I wrote to, who responded or what they said … all put into a special folder in my outlook.
I have contact for editors around the world gone, I have copies of contracts gone – could go on and on ………. I also have lost my diary with plans for the year all planned out.
Now you know why I want to cry.
If you know me and I should have your address or other information please email me. If you want to answer a two question interview re travel writing and or blogging also please email me.
The one good thing was something I learnt . in the advanced settings for my ISP is a place to tick and keep all my mail floating around in the ether. I have ticked it and if this ever happens again I will have that record to fall back on.
Brilliant blue body,green wings and back, combined with sturdy red legs, feet and beak make the takahe a bird not to be forgotten. Territorial,it lives in pairs and both parents incubate and raise the young. Unfortunately their fertility rate is very low with many of the eggs infertile.takahe
Once found throughoutNZ, the takahe (prounouncedtar car hay ) was thought to be extinct for over fifty years before being rediscovered by Dr. Geoffrey Orbel, in 1948, while he was bush walking. The population of a round 150 continue to live mainly in the marginal environment of the South Islands MurchisonMountains,foraging for it’s favourite snow tussocks in competition with introduced herbivores.
Conservation measures includethe eradication or reduction of the stoat which eat the eggs and the deer which feed on the same tussock. Management of their habitat is vital for their survival. Sadly the 2008 population count have found a large number have been killed by stoats. Read more here
Another measure to save these birds is to hatch eggs artificially. Removing one of the two eggs laid increases the number of chicks born as usually only one hatches in the wild.Young chicks are then reared;hand puppets for feeding, an artificial parent to shelter under and taped sounds of various feeding and alarm calls.This ensures they can be returned to the wild and are not dependent or imprinted on humans. Chicks are later transferred to Kapati and Maud Islands in the Cook Strait or a fenced area the Murchison valley.
One of my special memories is the time I spent as a Department of Conservation volunteer at the Te Anua Wildlife Centre with these beautiful birds and saw the young being fed with the puppets and knowing the numbers have declined is really upsetting.
Two places to view these birds that cannot fly are Tiritiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf, and Mt. Bruce National Wildlife Centre in the lower North Island. Mt. Bruce is open all year and is a good place to learn more about the work being done to save these, and other endangered species.