Taronga Zoo

Sitting in Manly Library, watching the workers and the students. I’d finished what I needed to do and while I was packing up, I received two text messages. The first was “Do you want a lift home from the library?” The second, timed ten minutes later was “Never mind, we’ve passed the library”. So I walked back to the flat, the long way, via the beach and the back streets of Manly.

If Mark Rothko painted beaches

There is a mural on a wall in Market Lane comprised of several headlines from the local newspaper, The Manly Daily. Some are obvious but some are intriguing. Someone must have read decades of old papers just to find the good ones!

First car across Spit Bridge
Queen Mother thrilled by Manly
Flying fish hits Manly Ferry trumpeter

I love the big tree in the middle of The Corso, the main street. It provides a lot of shade when you jaywalk across the road. Which I would never do.

A nice big tree

Adam got up while it was still dark and went for a run before going to work, as usual. I didn’t wake up in time to walk down to watch the sunrise on this occasion. Helen was singing the song “Daddy’s taking me to the zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow”, and so it came to pass. Helen drove us this time although we’d previously gone by ferry. Taronga Zoo in Sydney is one of our favourites, the inmates seem to be well looked after and the view across the harbour of the city is well worth the trip.

I told myself I wouldn’t take many pictures this time, we’ve all seen the animals before and everyone knows what they look like. Huh. I very nearly ran out of digital film.

We had planned to meet up with Jyoti at the zoo, with her family, but insomnia had conspired against her. So she missed out on seeing the Sumatran rhinoceros.

Sumatran rhinoceros (not a real one)

There was a sign telling me that because this is a model, I wasn’t allowed to climb on it. The implication being, if it were a real rhino, I could jump on board for the full rodeo experience.

Baby chimpanzee

The baby chimpanzee was adorable, as babies often are. We won’t ask what this little chap was drinking, but it was a hot day and it hasn’t rained properly for ages.

Cassowary

This cassowary wasn’t behind a fence, like the one at the koala place was a couple of weeks ago. With no obstruction, he looks even more prehistoric than usual, and proud of it.

Itchy platypus

We didn’t see a platypus out in the wild, we didn’t really expect to, so it was good to see this one in the dark, having a jolly good, satisfying scratch.

We saw some koalas too. Neville was on the move, walking along branches, heading for a lady koala. We even watched him walk backwards and then jump up to the next branch. The volunteer told us that Neville was missing a golden opportunity. He was ignoring the other female, the one that’s in season, ready to rock and roll. Don’t be like Neville. Choose the correct female for hanky-panky on pancake day.

Lady koala waiting for her man

Two of the meerkats were having a play fight, but they and the others were making the best of a very small patch of shadow in their enclosure. It was too hot even for meerkats.

Meerkats in the shade

When someone is being tenacious, not giving up with a problem, we used to say they’re like a dog with a bone. No longer. The expression now is, like a baby elephant with a bamboo stick.

Baby elephant v bamboo stick

It was a long stick, and he walked up and down with it several times, trying to bend it, breae it, pull it fully through the fence. Fabulous entertainment.

We took the opportunity of making a quick side trip to Sumatra to see some tigers.

Welcome to Way Kambas

It was a short flight, and I stood all the way. But it was worth it. Weather conditions remarkably similar to those in Sydney and yes, we saw some Sumatran tigers, of which there are only about 350-400 left in the wild.

Sumatran tiger (a real one)

There are three cubs, just a couple of months old, and they should be out and about at the end of March, ready for the public to see. Right now, they’re behind the scenes, seen only via CCTV.

Three baby tigers and proud Mum

We walked down via all the gift shops so that we could ride the gondola up to the top, where the car was parked.

Sydney Harbour

Looking across the harbour towards Sydney, just along the road from the ferry terminal. The drive home was good and we stopped off to buy our evening meal. Home-made pizza. A great idea of Helen’s to use pita bread as a thin base. Prawns and pineapple were two toppings that I avoided but we all had great, unique, customised pizzas. And a bottle of wine

This was our final evening with Helen and Adam in Manly. Our departure tomorrow has crept up on us like those Weeping Angels in Doctor Who. Australia’s been fantastic as it always is and I am really pleased that we’ll be coming back after a few weeks away elsewhere.

Anticipation of a big journey never leads to a good night’s sleep. Oh, never mind, we say, we’ll sleep on the plane. That rarely happens, either.

After packing and showering, Helen, Liesel and I walked down to Manly Beach for breakfast. Any plans we had for a quick last minute swim were thwarted. (We had no such plans.)

Shark sighted

The alarm must have only just been sounded as there were a lot of people on the beach and on the promenade, still dripping. If the shark sighting didn’t put you off, then maybe the signs warning of dangerous currents would. Our plan though was to visit The Pantry where the breakfast was brilliant and the view of the beach breathtaking. Helen showed me how to make an Instagram story, probably a vital skill in the 21st century, but what a palaver for something that self-destructs after 24 hours!

Statue of a bloke and a bike

Helen kindly dropped us off at the airport again and while driving there, we watched the clouds building up, wondering whether it would rain on the clothes currently out drying on the balcony.

Liesel and I rendezvoused with Jyoti who had spent the last few days with her family elsewhere in Sydney. We checked in (there’s a whole story there), got through security (there’s a whole story there, too), I ate my apple, we bought snacks and waited to board the plane.

It’s raining in Sydney, at least at the airport

I only wish we were in the Canaries again. Then, I could say, the rain on the plane falls mainly in Spain. But we’re not. We’re off to sunny Singapore instead. This venue wasn’t originally on our list, but Jyoti used to live there, so Liesel and I are going with her for three weeks and spending another couple of weeks in Malaysia on our own. Exciting but I’m a bit trepidatious, those being two countries I’d never seriously thought I’d ever go to. An unexpected adventure.

Farewell Aussie desert

Somewhere in the northern expanse of Australia, we caught our final glimpse of the desert for now.

Melbourne to Manly

A year ago in London, Liesel visited a physiotherapist by the name of Emma. Emma’s partner is also a trained PT, and he is Australian. Under some peculiar, twisted distortion and interpretation of Theresa May’s “hostile environment for illegal immigrants”, his work visa was revoked, and he was forced to move back to Australia. And naturally, Emma went back with him. So Britain has lost two fully trained physiotherapists for no good reason.

They are now living and working in Melbourne. Liesel tracked Emma down and made an appointment to visit her

Saturday sunrise

So, the three of us took a tram to South Melbourne. While Liesel was being poked and prodded, Jyoti and I had a quick walk, to get some steps in and, yes, of course, we had a coffee at one of Melbourne’s famed coffee shops.

Top End Barbering

I always like a good pun when it comes to a shop name and hairdressers and barbers are particularly good at it.

Every now and then, we come across a shop named after a David Bowie song or album. Well, here, we not only had the album, the neighbouring shop was named after one of the songs on that album, albeit abbreviated so as not to offend your nan. Queen Bitch. No, not your nan, that’s the name of the Bowie song.

Hunky Dory

We caught the tram back to the iconic Flinders Street Station. We didn’t go into the pub over the road that my Dad had told me about: he’d been there after the war, in the late 1940s!

Flinders Street Station

We crossed the road to Federation Square, to spend time indoors again.I had been here once before, when the geometrically and architecturally interesting buildings had first opened, in 2002.

Federation Square

I visited Australia in November 2002 specifically to see the Total Eclipse of the Sun. It was a trip that Sarah and I hoped to make together but she died eighteen months earlier. I was in two minds about whether or not to make the trip on my own, but now, I am immensely glad and grateful that so many people encouraged me to go for it. I had a good time, but it was emotional too. A Total Eclipse, Melbourne, Great Ocean Road and on through South Australia to Kings Canyon, Uluru, Alice Aprings, Ghan to Adelaide. A great trip, but the detailed blog remains to be written! And now, back to the present…

“The Clock” is a 24-hour long video comprised of thousands of clips from films and TV programmes. As it proceeds, the shots of clocks in the various clips accurately reflect the time now, in the real world. The joins were seamless, and although there was no single storyline to follow, it was a very interesting 90 minutes that we spent watching it (minus a short nap, each). Where else would you see Ricky Gervais and Joan Crawford together? Snippets from films not seen for years, decades even. Christian Marclay is responsible for this colossal labour of love, but surely he must have employed many researchers? Yes, we thought about returning later in the day to see a different segment, but that will have to wait until next time.

ACMI, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image is based here too. Yesterday, Chris had suggested visiting this collection of film and TV related exhibits, and the zoetrope in particular.

Zoetrope

As it spins, a strobe light gives the illusion that the individual models are moving up and down.

One display celebrated Australian film and TV. The selection was OK but I was disappointed that The Paul Hogan Show was not represented. My flat mates and I used to watch that on late night TV with a tube of Fosters, and it was the funniest show evah!

I did enjoy watching an 18-year old Kylie Minogue with sister Dannii perfoming Sisters are Doing it for Themselves!

The whole place was very reminiscent of the old MOMI, Museum of the Moving Image, in London, but this was much more interactive.

The piano from the 1993 film, “The Piano” was here, but I wasn’t allowed to play it. I’m not sure Michael Nyman would have been allowed to touch it, to be fair.

The piano from The Piano

Replicas were made for the film. A light one, to carry up the hill. And a heavy steel one to film sinking in the sea.

There is an Aussie TV fantasy drama that I now want to watch: Cleverman. They employed Weta Studios to design the special effects, and the aboriginal mythology underlying the story looks fascinating.

Hairy man from Cleverman

And now for the next edition of a favourite irregular item: Toilet Talk.

Saving water

I saw this sign in the toilets and I thought, if I pee twice, I could save eight litres of water. Also, if I’m walking out in the woods and need to go behind a bush, when Liesel rolls her eyes I can just tell her that I am saving 4 litres of water! All this on the day that Network Rail have decided to abolish the six shilling charge for using the public toilets at Waterloo Station. Six shillings, 30p, Liesel will confirm I’ve been whingeing about this charge for years.

Bollards! It’s a shame that these large blocks of concrete are required to protect buildings in our cities, but I do like the fact that someone solved the Rubik’s Cube here.

Big cubes of concrete

We visited the Aboriginal Cultural Centre because it was time once again to shake our heads in disbelief and despair, weep for the past and feel absolute shame at what our British ancestors are responsible for. Australia is the only commonwealth country still without a treaty with its original people. Small pox, massacres, kidnappings, stealing their land, oh it’s a horrible story.

Diprotodon

This chap cheered us up. Diprotodon was the largest marsupial ever to live, about the size of a rhinoceros and is thought to have died out about 45,000 years ago. So chances are, it did live alongside humans for a period. Two metres tall, three metres long, but what a cute, cheeky face.

The other day we found a Chocolaterie and Ice Creamerie. Today we passed by a Fish and Chipperie. But our destination on Lygon Street was Milk the Cow Licenced Fromagerie. It was just along the road from Reading’s Bookerie, where I’d met Barry Humphries, as mentioned before.

Milk the Cow is a combined cheeserie and winerie and actually, my Cider Flight was fab, delicious even.

Four cheeses, four crackers, four ciders for Mick

Four slices of different cheese each accompanied by a specially selected cider. With crackers and bread. Very nicerie, very tasterie.

We passed many, many other restauranteries on the walk home, some with very long queues of people. Our ice creams were just the right size: one scoop was enough, a second would have melted far too quickly.

The worst thing about Melbourne? It’s a great city, it feels a bit like London in places, with its nooks and crannies and alleyways and arcades. But, we have walked through more clouds of cigarette smoke here in the last couple of days than we have during the previous several weeks. There are non-smoking areas, but there are probably more smokers per capita here than in any other city we’ve visited.

Now it’s time to say farewell to Victoria – the place to be. Goodbye to Victoria – the education state. And cheerio to Victoria – the only state named after a Kinks song. Two of those three slogans appear on car registration number plates, or regos.

In the morning, before the Sun came up, we were greeted by the Moon and Venus.

Sunday sunrise with Moon and Venus

Several shots were taken of which, this, the first, is probably the best. An easy distraction from the task of packing. The only extra item I had to squeeze into my pack was the apologetic bottle of wine from a couple of nights ago.

At about 11pm, we heard a very loud, humungous crash. We checked on Jyoti, she hadn’t fallen through or out of bed and everything else seemed to be OK in our little apartment.

When we left the building in the morning though, we had to limbo dance under the Police Crimescene tape around the entrance and the neighbouring passage. We could see no evidence of a car crash or any crime. We’ve found nothing in the news so can only be grateful we weren’t delayed for interrogation.

We took a tram, then a Skybus to the airport. The flight to Sydney was uneventful apart from the disappointment of not being offered any tea or a snack. Don’t sit in row 22!

It was a joy to be collected by Helen again and although it was warm here, it wasn’t as hot as Melbourne had been. And Manly looks magnificent as it always does when the Sun’s out.

Most of the afternoon was taken up with watching some fighting on TV. Adam’s a big fan of UFC. The Ultimate Fighting Championship, is better/worse/bloodier than boxing, takes place in an octagonal ring, usually over five 5-minute rounds of jabs, kicks, holds, bars, parries, jumps, punches, with elbows, knees, feet, fists all involved. I don’t think this will ever become my favourite sport.

Despite discouragement, I went for a walk in Manly, keeping to the shady side of the street. I watched people playing and/or sunbathing on the beaches.

Manly Beach

Helen walked down the road and we met at Fish Bowl where we collected bowls of rice plus veg plus sauce for our dinner. At the grand old age of 31, I still take twice as long to finish a rice-based meal as everyone else. Ridiculous.

We watched “Bohemian Rhapsody”, the new film, on TV, which we found very enjoyable. I was especially pleased to see Kenny Everett portrayed, back at “Capital Radio when it was good” which I am trying to get everyone to adopt as its official name. And of course now, we just want to hear all those old Queen albums in full again, especially A Night at the Opera.

Monday in Manly was mainly medical matters, refilling prescriptions (me), typhoid and hepatitis A jabs (both), dental check-up and clean (both). My plans for a massage made the cutting-room floor: no need to stir up typhoid and hep A juices unnecessarily.

So here I am once again, in Manly Library, typing away in the corner, this time sitting next to (inter alia) books by Keith Waterhouse, who I used to enjoy reading, gulp, decades ago.

Keith Waterhouse books

Meanwhile, Helen and Liesel have gone to a shopping mall to do some shopping. I missed out there. (Didn’t really.)

The results are in, they have been independently verified and certified and all the judges agree. Shine on You Crazy Diamond (pts 1-7) was the final track we heard in the car. Partway through the Ss, nowhere near the Zs. We’ll pick up this alphabetical trawl through our music on another occasion. Meanwhile, Liesel and I have decided we do need a much wider range of music, by a larger selection of artistes. We need to find a way to balance out the discrepancy in volume between loud and soft songs. And we need a random shuffle that is truly random, that doesn’t discriminate against certain people or certain tracks or even some whole albums.

Oops sorry, I usually warn uninterested viewers that this “Music News” is about to appear. But I didn’t this time. If only there were some way to go back in time and fix it.

Two Walks, Two Dips in the Sea

I didn’t make it, but Jyoti was up early today to watch the sunrise. She joined in with all the activities on offer, as well as a few of her own invention. Balancing on one foot without falling over is a skill we should all adopt.

The main event today was the walk up to North Head. The three of us set off hoping to reach the end and to arrive at the Quarantine Station before it became too hot.

On the path down to Collins Beach, we saw warnings about 1080 poison and ‘soft jaw traps’ being present in an effort to eradicate foxes. Not very nice for the foxes, but who are the vermin who brought them to Australia in the first place?

There were just a couple of people on the beach as we walked by and up the hill again, past the Australian Institute of Police Management and on to the Barracks Project.

Possibly the only bandicoot we’ll see

We walked on through the moving War Memorial area to Fairfax Lookout which looks towards South Head over the entrance to Sydney Harbour from the Tasman Sea.

Jyoti and Liesel walking towards Sydney

In the distance, you can see Sydney’s skyline, including Sydney Tower where we were to venture later on. (Oops, spoiler alert.)

I’m glad I’m no longer a postman and really glad I’m not nine feet tall. As a postie, one of the hazards of the job was walking face-first into spiders’ webs, carefully wrought overnight, across paths to people’s front doors. Here, in the heathland, the spiders make their webs higher than our heads, but it’s still a bit worrying walking underneath, you never know whether one of those gigantic arachnids might drop down your neck.

Just one of many big spiders just hanging around

Jyoti was heard to say something along the lines of “I won’t be going for a walk in the woods”, because of the spiders.

We were on the lookout for lizards too, but no luck there.

North Head view
Sydney viewed from North Head

After lunch, accompanied by a turkey, we walked down to the Quarantine Station. Jyoti and I went for a walk along the beach and on hearing the siren call, I ripped off my clothes and plunged into the briney sea to cool off. We looked at the shells on the beach, the barnacles and the limpets on the tidal rocks. Realising the tide was coming in, I recovered my clothing from the secluded rock and we went back to rejoin Liesel.

Oh to be in quarantine

The Q Station itself is very interesting, and as the poem shows, humour didn’t totally desert people struck down by horrendous diseases.

While waiting for the ferry, we had a drink in the café where I was horrified to see that they serve alcohol to mynas.

Myna on the mooch

We enjoyed the Fast Ferry ride to Circular Quay but I was horrified to see the slow ferry fart a large cloud of black smoke.

The Famous Manly Ferry

SailGP launched over two days here in Sydney Harbour. Six international teams, including GB and Australia compete in identical supercharged F50 catamarans. They can exceed 50 knots. While the race is on, we mortals on workaday ferries have to slow down to 6 knots. Which is great when you’re not in a hurry and want to get some photos! Unfortunately, at the time, I didn’t really know what was going on so photos of the racing boats will have to wait until later. (Oops, spoiler alert.)

Our new boat

We gawped at The Explorer of the Seas, docked in Circular Quay with its 3000+ passengers and scientists on board. Even though it was only one stop, we caught a train to be closer to Sydney Tower.

Model inside Sydney Tower

I last visited this building in 1986, with Sarah and 2-year old Jenny, when it was known as Centrepoint. Then, we were amazed that we could see the airport in the distance. From the viewing deck today, though, I couldn’t see the airport either because the Sun was too bright or because Sydney has literally grown, mainly upwards, in 33 years.

View from Sydney Tower
View of and from Sydney Tower

I won’t be trying Betty’s Burgers any time soon, I’d be worried about the ingredients, and not just the meat.

Betty’s Burgers and … what?

In the evening, we met up with Helen and Adam at Mex and Co, a restaurant that we’d been to before, overlooking Manly Beach.

The following day’s long walk was from Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach, along the east coast, in the full glare of the Sun.

Coogee Beach
Bali Memorial at Coogee Beach

This fascinating, intricate sculpture is a memorial to the 88 Australians killed in the Bali bombing of 2002.

Clovelly Beach’s clear water

There are several beaches along this walk, all gorgeous, all tempting, the water was clear, but we held off until we reached Bronte Beach. Here, there’s a small ‘pool’ separated from the main thrust of the sea by well-placed rocks.

Bronte Beach

Jyoti and I jumped in for a quick, refreshing dip. What I hadn’t anticipated though was that the water was so shallow, my knees would graze the rocks below. We walked to the next refreshment opportunity where, to remove the taste of sea water, I indulged in a chocolate milkshake.

We walked through Waverley Cemetery and mourned the loss of so many people at such a young age. Most of the graves are over 100 years old but the most recent is from only a couple of years ago.

Occasionally, the path approaches a cliff edge and one of us was brave/daft enough to venture that little bit closer to the edge.

Jyoti living life on the edge

And finally, round the corner, we saw Bondi Beach in the distance.

Bondi Beach, a welcome sight

Adam had recommended a place to eat. I had no ID so I wasn’t allowed in. L&J had theirs, they got in and had a lovely salad. I’m not looking for sympathy, but in the first place I went to, the staff looked up and continued to chat with each other. The next one thought the idea of takeaway coffee was infra dig. But I did eventually find coffee and a biscuit.

We’d travelled by ferry and bus to Coogee and we returned by bus and ferry.

In the harbour, the SailGP races were taking place and again, the ferries had to slow right down.

China and GB catamarans
Australia and France cats

Helen is Manly’s top hairdresser and she offered to give me a much-needed trim. As usual, it was the perfect haircut and I am very happy with my hair. My offer to return the favour was declined.

The Australian mangoes were described by Jyoti as being aphrodisiac while Liesel suggested that they should ideally be eaten in the bath, naked. (It’s a long story.)

This was our final evening in Manly, for the time being, and as the weather was so good, we had a barbecue down by Manly Cove beach. Helen prepared all the food and Adam barbecued the meat, corn on the cob and veggie sausages, thereby gaining credit for all the work, as is the way with bbqs.

Adam looking for his head under the barbie
Helen, Jyoti, Adam, Mick, Liesel

We enjoyed watching the Sun set, the sky change colour and as it got darker, we visitors were surprised to see bats flying back to the tree we were under, that being their roost for the night.

Sunset, what a stunner
Looking up at the bat tree
Gotta be quick to catch a bat!

While sitting there, leaves and twigs fell from the tree and Liesel especially was pleased that (a) they all missed her and (b) it wasn’t bird deposit, something she has a magnetic attraction for.

Wide Sky for Anna

Back at the flat, we were treated to Amarula, a cream liqueur from South Africa made with sugar, cream and the fruit of the African marula tree. It was very tasty, very more-ish.

A perfect end to our week in Manly, thank you for your hospitality, Helen and Adam. And congrats again, Adam, on your exciting new job! Cheers!!

One night here, while unable to drift off to sleep, I calculated that on October 30 last year, I was exactly twice as old as Helen. I need to check my mental arithmetic of course, but while that’s an exciting revelation, I felt sad that I hadn’t realised at the time!

Koala Park

It rained overnight, dusty rain, the wind had brought dust in from the desert. There was a slight orange haze in the distance, but it didn’t cause us any problems.

L&J (Liesel and Jyoti) (I thought it was about time I used an abbreviation to avoid having to type both their names over and over, thus, saving time, effort and power, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of this blog, doing my bit) had pedicures and other beautifying treatments while I walked down to the library to write.

By the Manly Cove beach, there was a man feeding birds. He wanted to feed the cockatoos, but the pigeons outnumbered and out-bullied them. The man fought back with a stick. Waving it and throwing it at the pigeons. In the end, he threw his arms in the air. When they came down again he walked off.

Cockatoos v pigeons
Chicken (my birding correspondent will correct me, I’m sure)

Thank goodness the days of totally quiet libraries have gone, otherwise my keyboard would have been deemed the most offensive item. But there were children in one corner singing songs, and in another, someone was reading stories to a separate group of children.

A propos of nothing at all, some nominative determinism in Manly

Sitting next to me was a very smelly man. Not BO, but his coat had absorbed the smoke of a million cigarettes. He popped out a couple of times for a puff and during these intervals I tried to make head or tail of the notes he was reading. He’s a budding musician, and one day, all these (non-musical) notes will be turned into wonderful music. One day. I won’t hold my breath. And I won’t breach his copyright but his doodles, cartoons, random words, phone numbers, games of hangman and other miscellany might well become a beautiful symphony. Equally, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were to become a horrible, noisy cacophony.

I walked around Manly for a short time and sat down with a coffee and biscuit to listen to a real musician. This lady had a good voice, not very strong, perhaps, for busking, but I enjoyed her rendition of songs from many eras.

Pleasant busking at lunchtime

When I met up with L&J later back at the flat, I admired their new eyelashes and painted toenails, and I hope I didn’t miss anything.

Sunset over Manly Cove

I was up at 3am as is often the case (biological requirements) and I woke up again at 5.50. Perfect. I got up, got dressed, got myself out of the house and walked down to Manly Beach. I walked all the way along to Queenscliff hoping to see the glorious sunrise.

Well, there was 100% cloud cover at the time, but as the Sun rose, the clouds parted and small patches of blue appeared. I had fun with my camera, trying to capture the perfect shot of the Sun rising out of the Tasman Sea.

Sunrise over Manly Beach

What was impressive though was the large number of mostly fit and mostly fit, young people up and out so early, each participating in their activity of choice. I did feel sorry for those who had to go to work later on. Boozers, losers and jucuzzi users, the human race was well represented here.

Some were on the beach playing volleyball, though not fully undressed as is the customary outfit. There were yoga classes, tai chi, some folks exercising with “towels and sticks”, weighlifters and the ubiquitous muscle man doing his thing while looking around to see who was watching. A few, more mature, men were power-walking, just look at me baby, swinging these arms, swinging these arms.

Sticks and towels may break my…

There were surfers, cyclists, cyclists carrying their sufboards, dog-walkers, skate-boarders, skate-boarders being towed by their dogs.

Surfers

In the pool at the Queenscliff end of the beach, swimming lessons were taking place. One learner kept apologising for running out of breath. I feel your pain, brother.

The best job probably belongs to the tractor-driver, cleaning the beach.

Tractor cleaning the beach

There were other people taking photos of the sunrise too, some with phones (eg, me) but a couple had the whole kit, big camera, zoom lens, tripod. Amongst the more esoteric activities were pushing over a tree and sleeping in a children’s playground.

Tree pusher
Sleeping in a playground

Back at the flat, some cockatoos were making a noise on the neighbour’s balcony.

Sulphur-crested cockatoo

It was still early in the day and the main activity after 9.00 was attempting to buy tickets for Elton John in concert, in Sydney, in a year’s time. His three-year Farewell Yellowbrick Road tour is very popular. We both sat there watching the wheels go round and round, but eventually, Helen was successful in her quest. I looked at the prices for shows in the UK. We’ll see…

Helen took the three of us to Koala Park where we had a great time making friends with the animals. The park suffered substantial damage recently in strong winds, but no animals nor humans were injured.

Koala

The koalas are very cute, very soft, very sleepy. I didn’t ask the guide whether it was true that all koalas suffer from chlamydia. I do know that we washed our hands quite frequently.

Cassowary

The kangaroos weren’t interested in the food we’d purchased especially for them. But the goats enjoyed it and one of the caged cockatoos was quite happy to receive some free feed too.

While it was interesting to see a wombat, he wasn’t very photogenic, lying on his back with his wedding tackle on full display.

I made friends with a kookaburra, his laugh was fantastic, we all laughed along. Guess what my new ringtone is?

Kookaburra sits in the old aviary

Here I am feeding an emu.

Mick and emu

I feel that I am now on good terms again with the emu race. When I first visited Australia in 1986, I was chased around by Gonzo the emu who thought I had food in my camera bag. (At least, I think that’s what he thought. In the photo, the overall shape of me with a camera bag on my back is very similar to that of a sexy female emu…)

There were some reptiles too, wallabies, a café and the whole place isn’t too big, we came away without feeling that we’d missed out on something.

In the evening, Adam joined us for a picnic down on the grass by the beach. It was very pleasant, bread, cheese, dips, chips and a wonderful sunset.

Helen, Jyoti, Liesel and Mick

To Coromandel Peninsula

We had a quick chat with Raewyn and Craig while we packed for our final house-move within New Zealand. It was hot standing in the porch. We left and headed north for our final kiwi week, in the Coromandel Peninsula. This is a venue we haven’t had time to visit on previous occasions, so we hope to make the best of our time there.

But a quick diversion was called for. We stopped at and enjoyed a nice long walk on the Papamoa Beach.

Mt Maunganui

For the last time, we saw Mt Maunganui in the distance and came to the conclusion that every beach should have a mountain at the end.

16-lb cannon to deter foreign invaders

We stopped at The Orchard House Café where we had eggs on toast and a coffee. “Two breakfasts in one day” is the name of the new single by Crowded House, apparently. This venue caters for canines too.

Doggos welcome

The road was quite narrow in places, and very sinuous, but the views were lovely. Unless you were driving, in which case, you couldn’t see much apart from the road immediately in front. We stopped at a lookout, and after a short 10-minute walk, saw the Forest properly for the first time.

View of Coromandel Forest Park

We bought some food before moving into our new home on the M25. No, not M25, it’s SH25. Or, as our Google Maps navigatrix insists on calling it: “New Zealand State Highway 25 State Highway 25”. And glad to report, it’s one lane in each direction, nowhere near as busy as our “favourite” orbital motorway, and the house is a nice long way back.

Most of the road surface is fantastic in New Zealand but every now and then, we come across a section that reminds us of home. Patchwork quilt of tarmac, potholes, “men at work” signs but no men at work. Now and then we find a lay-by (pull-out) but the view in concealed by a group of trees. We think they should chop down those trees, there are just too many getting in the way.

No, not really.

Two beaches in two days? I’ll take that. Whangapoua is our nearest little town and its beach is big: long and wide and some lucky people live in houses overlooking it. We set up camp on the sand, after a bit of a walk and then we both entered the sea. The waves were so powerful though, I didn’t go in too far: the thought of being tumbled like I was that time in Hawaii was too scary. Yes, clear sinuses afterwards would be great, of course, but, still too scary.

Where’s Liesel?

I walked the length of the beach, saw a few people in the water, a couple in a boat, a few people learning to kayak, one little chap trying to dig a hole in the sand but the water kept filling it in. I wondered whether the water would be less forceful where it was sheltered by the little island, Pungapunga. But no, just as strong.

The tide was slowly going out and I found standing in the water as it came in and out quite mesmerising. The small ripples on the surface moved in one direction, the foam flowed in another and the pressure on my ankles suggested the water was moving in a third direction. Very strange: who needs recreational drugs when something like this can make you feel a little bit ooky?

Foam and waves arguing over the direction of gravity

One more quick dip then we decided to move on. If there were any shade on the beach, we would have hung around longer, but we would have been in the full glare of the Sun for the rest of the day. So we packed up, changed into proper clothes and set off.

Where’s Liesel?

Back at our new gaff, we read a book or watched a movie while drinking coffee, sitting out on the patio.

We had a little visitor sniffing round, seeking attention. I couldn’t see a ball so I picked up a stick and threw it. Chico, for that is his name, ran after it, picked it and the took it further away. Eventually, he brought it back, but wouldn’t let go. I tried wrenching it from his mouth, but either the stick or his teeth were cracking and creaking, so I gave up. Chico is a little 2-year old fox terrier.

Liesel cooked up a fab meal for supper, rice and chili (non carne, of course). My contribution was to cut down an ear of corn from the garden with a machette: well, a 3-inch long kitchen knife.

Fresh Corn

It was very sweet corn, sweet and succulent. Chico came to investigate while I was pulling the husks off and he ran away with some of those silky corn strings on his back.

The thinnest and most useless bead curtain in the world

Meanwhile, in other news: Helen and Adam are currently in Fiji but they’ll be home next week to welcome us into the bosom of their home. Australia is going through a heatwave right now, experiencing the hottest temperatures since records begun, in many places. We’re hoping it will cool off a bit before we arrive. Meanwhile, Klaus and Leslie are in Hawaii for a month, away from the sub-zero temps and snow in Anchorage. Lots of sympathy for Jenny and Liam and the children making the best of the cold and snow in Manchester!

The Android Pie upgrade has caused two major problems so far. It drains the battery much faster than before, but that just means more frequent recharges are required. We were driving along somewhere and the phone died. I said it was dead as a dodo, then realised, I should have said “dead as a moa”.

But worse than the battery issue is, my Fitbit will no longer sync with my phone. How will I be able to keep tabs of my steps if I can’t sync my Fitbit? A truly terrifying prospect. Never mind, I thought, Google and/or Samsung and/or Fitbit will address the issue and it will be resolved very soon. But no. Fitbit have been “working on a solution” since the problem was first reported, last August. Not holding my breath, then.

The Wrong Hat

The glorious Sunrise was visible from our bathroom window, over the lake, but with a few obstacles, of course. It was going to be a nice day. I was tempted to get up early again, maybe go for an early morning stroll. Nah. That didn’t happen.

Sunrise over Lake Taupo

We went out for a quick visit to The Craters of the Moon. This was a fascinating place, but wasn’t the venue I had in mind. I’d mentally assigned this name to a totally different place. And the actual name of the place I was thinking of still eludes me.

Ever-expanding craters

But, this was meant to be a quick jaunt. So, unusually, I decided to go out without my bag. I just had some cash and my phone on me. When we arrived, I turned round to retrieve my hat from the back seat, where it wasn’t. “I took it indoors,” said Liesel. Hmmm. She continued, “But I’m surprised you didn’t bring your bag, you take it everywhere”.

“Yes,” I agreed, “but even if I had my bag, my hat wouldn’t be in it, because I left it in the back of the car”.

It was a hot day, I was going to suffer without a hat. Liesel offered to lend me hers, but then she’d be without one. Ilkley Moor bar t’at is one thing, subtropical, geothermal, noonday Sun without headwear is another.

So, while Liesel was queuing to pay, I went over to the little gift shop, and chose the least worst offering, a black Craters of the Moon baseball cap. I would have preferred a wide-rim sunhat but they didn’t have any. I placed the cap on the counter just as Liesel was paying for the tickets. “I solved the problem,” I announced.

“Oh yes, you’ll need a hat in this weather,” said the assistant, vocally. “Especially a bald-headed old git like you,” she added, telepathically.

The right hat (left) and the wrong hat (right)

And then, no tickets. Instead, we received a dayglo coral coloured handstamp.

We walked around for about 45 minutes under the beating Sun. Steam was venting, there was a very slight sulphurous smell. I could tell I was wearing the wrong hat because the Sun had full access to the back of my neck. Did I apply sunblock? Well, no, of course not. It was in my bag and I’d left that behind.

This was Liesel’s first visit to such a geothermally active place. I’d been before, but I was still surprised at how much vegetation there was, plus insects and birds.

Lush vegetation in a harsh environment
Steam vents
Liesel being hot and steamy
A deep crater

I was disappointed that the mud pool wasn’t bubbling away, but maybe there needs to be more water in it. A bit of rain would have cooled us off beautifully, of course, but the few clouds in the sky seemed to be enjoying the sunshine as much as we were.

Mud, mud, glorious mud

On the way back home, we paid a visit to the gorgeous Huka Falls. Huka is Maori for ‘foam’ and it’s easy to see how they got their name, and why the water is such a stunning colour.

Huka Falls
Not a bad selfie

Even here, that evil alien lifeform known as bindweed has taken hold. Yes, pretty pink and white flowers, but come on, give the other plants a chance!

Grrr
Look at it, taking over the world

We drove up to a lookout from where we could see not only the great Lake Taupo but also the volcanoes in Tongariro National Park, hundreds of miles away…that’s how clear the air was today, different to the mist of yesterday on Kapiti Island.

Lake Taupo and in the distance, Tongariro National Park

We found a nice little coffee shop called Bubu at the Rangatira Shopping Centre. The coffee was so good, I had to have a second cup straightaway. If I didn’t sleep the night, it would have been worth it!

After a spot of recovery in our Airbnb’s air conditioning, I went for a walk down to the lakeside, where I enjoyed a much lower temperature, a slight breeze, and the sight of people, ducks and black swans all swimming together.

Swimming in Lake Taupo
Great Lake Taupo

Later on, Liesel and I ate our fish and chip supper in the very same spot, only one of us (me) didn’t eat any fish. So just chips and chips for me.

You know sometimes on TV dramas, there are butterflies? And to keep them in shot, it looks like they’re dangling from a wire hanging in front of the camera as it pans around? Well, that might not be the case. Here in the garden of our Acacia Bay studio apartment, orange and black butterflies have flown by several times, exhibiting the same behaviour. They flutter by too fast to capture photographically but they seem to be dangling at the end of a puppeteer’s strings. Other butterflies have been observed too, which is fantastic, plus a couple of dragonflies. But, despite the raucous noise of the cicadas, which ceased spontaneously as soon as the Sun disappeared, the only one we’ve seen was dead, and being processed by a swarm of ants. Nature at its wonderful best.

There is a dam at Aratiatia Rapids and if you look closely at the picture, you can just make out rainbow colours in the spray. As ever, not as obvious as it was in real life.

Dam

We paid a quick visit here after leaving Acacia Bay and, yes, we couldn’t resist visiting Bubu once again for more of their delicious coffee, in our takeaway cups.

Our next place is near Tauranga but we made a detour vis Whakatane.

Never mind Cox Lane, Chessington or Church Road, Northenden, this is the sort of address I’d like.

Thermal Explorer Highway

After our terrific success a couple of days ago, I’m still on the lookout for kiwis. And in Whakatane, we struck gold again! Well, bronze, anyway.

Kiwi Boy by James Pickernell

We would love to visit Whakaari, aka White Island, as it’s an active volcano.

White Island (model)

This picture was taken from the model at the Information Centre, we didn’t fork out for a helicopter ride, nor have we invested in a drone.

Amongst the wildlife we didn’t expect to see in New Zealand was a Loch Ness Monster. But they’re here and living in a place called Matata. And yes, I did start singing Hakuna Matata to myself.

Loch Ness Monster but not the real one

And while I was quietly stalking Nessie, I made friends with a couple of pukekos.

Pukekos

We arrived at our new place in Oropi, just south of Tauranga and we sat in the garden, in the shade. A little chick was looking for his Mum and when a larger chook turned up, we thought, oh good. Until she started pecking and biting and picking up and throwing the little one. Nature at its wonderful best. Well, I encouraged the so-called grown-up to go back home, next door, and then all we had to worry about was the cat eyeing up the baby.

Our new, noisy neighbours

We made plans for the next few days, we had a quick chat with our new host, Raewyn. And while typing, I’ve been listening to Chris Evans’s new breakfast show on Virgin Radio, complete with all the old jingles from the Radio 2 incarnation, plus Vassos Alexander but no Moira Stuart, sadly.

We were just drifting off to sleep when suddenly, the room was fully illuminated. In my stupor/delirium, I thought we were about to be kidnapped by aliens and was torn between fear and excitement. I thought mybe the alien bindweed overlords were coming to get me. But it was only the motion sensors turning lights on outside the house. And, while I’m all for security, it did rule out any intention I had of sneaking out in the middle of the night to look at the stars.

We dragged ourselves out of bed, and set off for our day in a Living Maori Village.

The group of visitors was encouraged to learn how to say the name of the place, Tewhakarewarewatangaoteopetauaawahiao, and after a few attempts, I think most of us got it. Fortunately, it’s usually shorted to Whakarewarewa and, sometimes, to just plain old Waka.

Our guide was only 19 years old but was very confidant telling us about the village and about her people. She apologised for her English, but she had only been speaking the language for three years and she did very well. She used to be a penny diver. There’s a cold pool near the entrance to the village and young children jump in to dive for the coins that we visitors throw at them. It’s a long drop, and was one of the activities that Liesel and I both chose not to join in with.

Penny divers, diving for coins

Steam was venting all around us and any concerns I had about the fumes affecting Liesel’s asthma were soon quelled. The sulphur clears the sinuses beautifully. Our guide (whose name I apologise for forgetting) told us about their bathing regime in the hot, mineral-rich pools. They go au naturelle but only after all us visitors have left. The minerals clean the skin and leave it feeling nicely moisturised, no need for soap. But she told us that she does use soap as she doesn’t want to go around smelling like old people!

Quite a big tour group

We looked over at the geysers that were only spouting at half-mast on this occasion, but even so, what a remarkable sight.

Two old geysers, Pohutu and Prince of Wales

We watched a performance of song and dance, poi and sticks and after six weeks in New Zealand, we heard arguably NZ’s most famous song, Pokarekare Ana, for the first time!

For Helen
Maori performance

I managed to get a decent picture of a bug. It sat still while I fished my phone out, it didn’t fly, jump, hop or run off or vanish in a puff of smoke. I didn’t realise until today that New Zealand has some indigenous species of praying mantis.

Praying mantis

We went for a walk a little further afield to be rewarded with the sights and smells of a Green Lake, bubbling mud pools and a dragonfly (that was too fast for the camera) who was about to burn his feet on super-heated water. 140°C as it bubbles and sizzles up from below.

Bubbling mud pool
Green Lake (Roto Kanapanapa)

Sometimes, inanimate objects take control and so it was today. My phone spotted a beautifully tanned foot and decided to press its own button. And I am very proud to share the image.

Nominated for Accidental Photo of the Year in the ‘Body Parts’ category

We had to wait until the steam had dispersed a bit and for our spectacles to clear, but here it is:

Selfie of the day ft the right hat

Today’s Ridiculous Enviro-nonsense comes from a supermarket.

Don’t buy something we’re selling

One suggestion would be to stop selling this one item, if you’re that bothered. But then, I suppose you’d also have to stop selling all the other single use plastic in all these freezers, never mind the rest of the shop.

Buy all this, though, it’s fantastic, plastic

I did my bit for the planet today by again having coffee made in my new re-useable cup (thanks, Pauline). Or, as we used to call it: cup. Sometimes, I wash it in between uses.

While we were suffering in 27° heat, our family in England were below zero and building the biggest snowman in the world!

Martha and her snowman

Suffering? No, it was hot, yes, but what a fantastic place. And we did have an ice cream, of course. The diet starts tomorow…

We drove back via Rotorua and passed the signs for all the various activities that we just won’t have time to enjoy. Active things:

Skydiving, Sailing, River Cruise, Jetboating, Kayaking, Jetboard Tours, Lion Feeding, Zorbing, Sky Swing, Railcruising, Offroading, Horse Trekking, Lugeing. Nor will we visit the Cat Café: yes, there really is one in Rotorua. Some of the walks look interesting though, at ground level and in the canopy of a forest.

More music news. In our alphabetical journey through all the songs on my phone, we have reached the letter I. I never realised how many Dusty Springfield songs are in the first person. You don’t know what to do with yourself? Just close your eyes and count to ten. You can’t make it alone? You only want to be with me? Come to me, Try anything, You’re Coming Home Again. And Riot Squad made an appearance: I’d forgotten they were there too, totally ignored by ‘shuffle’.

Gallipoli

‘Gallipoli’ is one of those words that evokes immense sadness, along with ‘Passchendaele’, ‘Ypres’, ‘the Somme’, all battles during The Great War that caused so much bloodshed, loss of life and heartache.

On a return visit to Te Papa, I enjoyed the Gallipoli exhibition. Neither ‘enjoyed’ nor ‘exhibition’ are quite the right words, but as the display itself demonstrated, there are no words strong enough to describe the horror.

Visitors are presented with stories told by survivors of the battle and from letters from some who subsequently paid the ultimate price.

There are warnings that some of the exhibits are quite graphic, Parental Guidance advised. And veterans are warned about the sound effects being realistic.

The stories are illustrated by larger-than-life size sculptures of soldiers and medics.

Fantastic detail

Despite the 2.4:1 ratio, they are very realistic. You can see every pore, every drop of sweat, every hair, every scar. Every tear drop.

Lt Col Percival Fenwick (?)
Private Jack Dunn (?)
Nurse Lottie Le Gallais
Horrendous conditions
Hell

The story is told of why Gallipoli was invaded, how the ANZACs were stranded for eight months, how the Turks were much better fighters than they’d been led to believe. Some very bad decisions made by some very safe people back at home. Aussies and Kiwis fought for ‘The Mother Land’. Maoris wanted to take part too and apart from a few tribes who didn’t fight at all, this was the first occasion in which all Maoris had come together to fight for the same cause.

Total deaths
Poppies with personal messages

I came out feeling slightly shell-shocked. I had a crick in my back from the slow walk around the exhibits. I was thirsty for a swig of water. But I felt so lucky to be here at all. My troubles are nothing compared with what those men and women had to put up with. Thoughts turned to my grandfathers who I’m sure fought in the first world war.

I would recommend Gallipoli: The Scale of our War to anyone who lives in or is visiting Wellington. Just take some tissues.

Outside the museum, people young and old were milling around in the sunshine and the hardest thing they had to do was decide which coffee bar to go to next.

I thought about going up to Mount Victoria Lookout, but as I’d taken much longer than anticipated, I went back to join Liesel who’d had a nice, quiet day at home.

When we were at Te Papa a few days ago, we knew it would be an emotional display to look at, so we decided to give it a miss. So why did I go back to the Gallipoli exhibition today? Well, yesterday, we’d visited Weta Workshop, the company responsible for many special effects and props in films such as the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.

Hobbits’ feetses and legses
Gollum (l) and Liesel (r)

They are also responsible for the sculptures at the Gallipoli exhibition.

We arrived at Weta Cave to find that parking was limited. In the end, we were glad we parked closer to the venue than we’d been back at the b&b!

Weta Cave, site of the Workshop

The tour of the workshop was very interesting. This is the sort of job both of us would love to do, if only we had the necessary skills and imagination.

No Smoking

There are 3D printers all over the place, bags of resin and other model-making material. I will be looking out for a particular object in all films during the next few years. One day, I’ll be able to say, “I was there when they were making that…” But I’m not allowed to tell you what.

I didn’t know until today that Weta are involved with the latest incarnation of one of my favourite childhood TV programmes. Thunderbirds are Go has been updated and instead of chain-smoking cigarettes, lady Penelope now strokes her pug. She has to keep her hands occupied.

Creighton Ward House, home of Lady Penelope

It was a pleasure to fly Thunderbird 2 with Virgil Tracy. Something I’ve wanted to do for over 50 years!

Mick (l) and Virgin Tracy (r)

We were botha bit creaky after all the slow walking inside, so we decided to spend some time sitting down indoors, for a change. We watched ///Mary, Queen of Scots/// at the cinema, along with about eight other people in the auditorium. The special effects were very good, especially Queen Elizabeth’s poxy face, but I don’t think Weta were involved. And we certainly learned some new history!

We like Wellington buses: they are more comfortable than taking the horse, faster than taking the tractor. Official.

The side of a bus… but in a benign way

The Te Aro Park mural in the city centre is painted by Princess Diana. It acknowledges the relationship between the seas and navigation, both so important to early occupiers of the area. No, not Princess Diana, but Diane Prince, the multi-media artist.

Diane Prince’s Mural

We made it up to Mount Victoria Lookout from where we could look out over the whole city and beyond, in all directions.

Mt Vic Lookout

It was a little windy but it can be much windier here, thanks to the Cook Strait. The idea of ‘wind chill factor’ was developed by an American scientist, Paul Siple, and he is memorialised at this location.

Wind chill

And here’s Richard Byrd, looking south towards Antarctica: he was the first aviator to reach the south pole but his claim to have also reached the north pole is disputed.

Richard Byrd memorial
Te Papa takes centre stage in this view over Wellington

We drove to Ata Rangi Vineyard where we had an errand to run. Better late than never, organising a birthday present for my oenophile daughter, Helen!

At the Rimutaka Crossing, we stopped briefly to gasp at the view.

Gosh, what a view

And this war memorial is quite stunning too.

Rimutaka Crossing War Memorial

We drove over the pass, easy, but many hundreds of soldiers have marched over, in the past. And if it was as hot then as it was today, they would have been very hot and sticky.

In fact, the assistant at the vineyard told us it was 32°C today.

Liesel drove there and I drove back, and so we ended our final day in Wellington, at our place, eating, writing, listening to the radio, packing, tidying up. Tomorrow morning, we give Wellington the boot!

Meanwhile, in other news, little William is proud to be wearing his first pair of shoes.

William and the Shoes