Riding a caterpillar in Christchurch!

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use botanic chch2As well as riding the rails recently, in Christchurch New Zealand, I also rode a caterpillar: no, not the turn-into-a-butterfly type caterpillar but an electric one in the city’s Botanic Gardens – this is Caterpillar Garden Tour is one of the attractions operated by Welcome Aboard

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Known to Māori for hundreds of years, Christchurch was officially settled by the British in 1850. Plans for the Botanic Gardens began 13 years later in the area that at that stage were largely made up of wetlands and sand dunes, and in 1863 an English oak was planted to commemorate the marriage of Queen Victoria’s eldest son Prince Albert – this is the same year that my maternal family arrived from Cornwall, followed in 1872 by my paternal Scottish ancestors. Like those early trees, our roots are deep in the plains and peninsula.

the Avon provides a great setting
the Avon provides a great setting

Nestled in a loop of the Avon River the gardens are a popular place for locals and visitors value that the area was ‘reserved for ever as a public park and to be open with the recreation and enjoyment of the public’ when Christchurch was in its infancy.

Scott and Shackleton worked from this spot
Scott and Shackleton worked from this spot

A magnetic observatory  has stood here in the gardens since the beginning of the 20th century. This is not the original building but is on the very spot where explorers such as Scott and Shackleton calibrated their instruments before heading to the South Pole.

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Put Oman on your bucket-list

‘Oman is one of the cleanest and most beautiful countries in the world’ a local business man tells. He put it down to the thousand street cleaners, in their green uniforms,’who work daily from 6 AM to 11 AM and then again from 3 to 530′. I agree, it needs to be on your bucket-list.

The Sultanate of Oman, the third largest country of the Arabian peninsula is certainly beautiful: with low rise buildings which must be painted white or cream. And, unlike its neighbour Dubai, this country has not traded its heritage for shopping malls, high-rise hotels, and imported workers.

In this delightful country it was easy to meet locals and today’s photos are from the fish market Muscat, the country’s capital.

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I loved Oman . . . and the food

I have a silver fern painted on my cast before travelling

Despite travelling with a fractured arm I loved Oman and would certainly return. Because of that broken arm I haven’t written the blogs I intended to, however, they will happen and while you’re waiting here are a few photos of some of my meals.

The food of Oman is a mixture of several staples of Asian foods and are often based on chicken, fish, and lamb, as well as the staple of rice and a mixture of spices. Smoked eggplant (aubergine) is popular as are curries and soups. The main meal is usually eaten in the middle of the day with a lighter meal in the evening.

 

 

Christchurch: nearly a Gothic Revival UNESCO World Heritage Site

web museumAbout two months before the September 2010 quakes, a Christchurch mayoral candidate, Jim Anderton, said if he became mayor he would push for Christchurch to have World Heritage Status for the city’s unique Gothic Revival buildings. It appeared that no city in the world had a more complete collection of Gothic revival buildings of such high quality and so well-preserved.

I attended a meeting, in the Gothic Arts Centre, to hear about such a proposal. He said, “these Victorian buildings date back to the 1850s and, as a group, are of enormous international significance. They represent the outcome of the furthest migration of any group of people in human history.” Apparently, Canterbury was the last and most successful of the colonisation schemes of Edward Gibbon Wakefield.

Anderton continued, “They are more than bricks and mortar, they are at the heart of our city and remind us every day of those pioneers searching for a better world on the other side of the globe.” I left the meeting having decided to vote for Jim because of this proposal.

Repairs and strengthening well underway
Repairs and strengthening are well under way

Early European settlers of course bought their values with them and expressed some of that in their architecture and appreciation of open spaces – which was also happening in New York where Central Park was just being established too.  [interestingly, and nothing to do with the meeting or the Gothic buildings, I believe the land which became the Botanic Gardens was given to the city by the Scottish Deans brother’s – they wanted a barrier between them, and Riccarton, and the new English arrivals – I’m sure many of the local tangata whenua would have liked the same.]

Over three decades many Gothic revival buildings – built in local grey stone – and none of which were exact copies of the English versions . This and the scale as well as the use of timber, started a city with its own characteristics, not a replica of what they’d left.

The Canterbury quakes (2010/11) of course put this UNESCO proposal on the back burner, however, many of the proposed sites consist of the most significant 19th century public buildings associated with the founding of the city have not been demolished because of the quakes: these include Christchurch Cathedral, (although still under review) the Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings, (the only complete surviving examples of government buildings from the provincial period of colonial society in New Zealand) and the former Canterbury University, previously Canterbury College and now the Arts Centre, and both are now being restored and quake-proofed.

The Canterbury Museum had received a lot of quake strengthening work and it suffered minimal damage during the quakes.

Council Chambers
Council Chambers

The 1865 Council Chambers is internationally recognized as an outstanding example of High Victorian Gothic architecture, and on a personal level, is where my first book launch was held and is on the list to be restored, as is the old Presbyterian Trinity Church which for many years has been a restaurant.

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (now at Rangi Ruru School), built in a simple, and wooden, Gothic style in the late 1800s: my parents, grandparents, and many more of my ancestors  married in this church – a reminder that not all Christchurch settlers were English.

Other inner-city Gothic buildings surviving the quakes include Christ’s College, and sort of surviving, the facades post office in the square and the former A.J. White’s building in High Street.

Not in the city, but Gothic nevertheless, was a prosaic Gothic building, the old Addington Prison which is now backpacker accommodation known of course as the Jailhouse! Naturally, with my ‘colourful’ background, I have history here too – having picked up people there, who were no longer guests of the state, and have stayed in the backpackers.

*See recent posts about the quakes – an elephant in the room and one about Christchurch as it is.

 

Alligators galore in Florida – birds too

With alligators galore, and many fabulous birds, for me this park is a must-visit on your Florida travels. I’m told, ‘where there is a lake or pond in Florida, assume a ‘gator lives there‘. Seems they can, and do, travel big distances overnight too!

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One of Florida’s natural attractions is the Myakka River State Park and recently I enjoyed a day there with Sarasota friends: it’s one of Florida’s largest and, evidently, most diverse parks. Developed in 1934 it has a scenic drive, many hiking trails, a board walk, horse and bike trails, plus the first USA canopy walk (2000).  Please add your favourite canopy walks to the comments.

It also claims to have two of the world’s largest airboats.

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While cruising on board the Myakka Maiden I was surprised to hear alligators making a sound – for some bizarre reason that was something I’d not expected.  It was an aspirated hissing noise and, according to the captain of the air-powered boat, is used as a warning to other ‘gators to ‘get out of my space.’

The hour-long boat tour was accompanied by interesting facts, figures and fun by the driver-captain as we gently explored the shallow grassy areas of the Upper Myakka Lake. The flowers bloom according to the clock – well the sun really – and we are told “at 2pm the lake will covered with yellow blooms’.  And bloom at two they did!

I’m well-recommending this boat tour!

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Heather by Mallory
Heather by Mallory

 

 

Nature being watched, and photographed, by the Kiwitravelwriter

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first bite
first bite: For the first time I alligator at the cafe:

 

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Take a photographic trip around Tasmania, Australia

Take an eclectic photographic trip around Tasmania, Australia, with me. I had two weeks there in February with a rental car .. thankfully with a GPS.