Sunday, 13 June 2021

Essential purchase

Satisfying links today. Cast your mind back, regular 😀 reader, to the very end of 2017, when I was in Buenos Aires en route to Ushuaia for an Antarctica cruise over Christmas and the New Year. The day after I arrived, I got up earlyish and headed off to the Sunday Market at San Telmo. It was lovely - pleasantly busy with locals as well as tourists like me, safe, colourful and interestingly varied. I was especially taken by the stall selling saddlery, and the man festooned with feather dusters. One other stall that I was particularly drawn to had a display of colourful lace-up shoes, trimmed with traditional brightly-patterned fabrics. I wanted some, but they didn't have my size.

Move forward three and a half years, and umpteen kilometres to the Saturday market here on Waiheke. What do I find, as I wander around with my coffee? Only those same style shoes, except boots this time, made in Peru, displayed on a stall run by Clara, a friendly young woman from Grenada. She had my size so, clearly, it was meant to be. I bought them - or, rather, took them away with me, to pay for online later from home, at Clara's suggestion.

And then I went back to my car to pick up my shopping bag to go to the supermarket. My big Silversea shopping bag. It was a Silversea cruise I'd been in Buenos Aires en route to. On which, amongst many, many other delights, I was pleased to meet again my favourite Silversea staff member, wine waitress Miriam. Who is from Peru.

Sunday, 6 June 2021

Up to 16 metres of plankton-eating fish

This was sad to see. It's always a shame to read about dead whales - and it's not an uncommon sight here, especially at the top of the South Island, where the sneaky Farewell Spit confuses them and they regularly end up stranded, often in large numbers. I don't remember it ever happening here to a whale shark, though, (they are not actually, of course, whales) and I'm especially sorry about that.

That's because, though I've often seen whales, especially humpbacks, out on spotting cruises, it's only whale sharks that I've knowingly shared the water with, at close quarters. It was back in 2011, when I went all the way across Australia (and it really is a VERY long way) to Exmouth, north of Perth. It was a brilliant day that began with watching the sun rise over the sea. Think about that - I'll wait.

Yes? No? Perth is the capital of Western Australia, right, so in that state you watch the sun set into the sea. Classically, at Cottesloe Beach, which I've done, and which Tim Minchin (who I'm going to see in concert here next week) mentioned in a song that Missy Higgins sings beautifully. 

But Exmouth is on the eastern side of the North West Cape, which sticks up like a rather rude finger from the mainland, so you can sit on the beach there and see the sun rise over the water. It's a novelty they're quite pleased about there. They also tell you all about their naval history, which includes a fair chunk of US Navy occupation, their VLF transmitters, their very high lighthouse and, er, that's about it really. 

Apart from, of course, Ningaloo Reef, which is why everybody comes - to swim with the whale sharks, to snorkel along the reef, to luxuriate in the 30+ degree Leeuwen Current. Which is all, honestly, very well worth going all that way for. Though, be warned - and it was news to me - it's entirely possible to feel seasick while floating in the water, riding the swell as you wait for the sharks to loom up through the water like the Cheshire cat, spots first. 

Sunday, 30 May 2021

Morality, eh

You forget about Canada's dark side, eh? Their national image is so friendly and polite and sensible... so it was a proper shock to learn about all this ghastly stuff back in 2013 when we had an unscheduled day in Kamloops because of a freight derailment interrupting the Rocky Mountaineer schedule. Flown in to the town for a hastily-arranged famil, we were shown around by Tara, who took us first to the Wildlife Park, where I was delighted to get up close to lots of their iconic wildlife.

Afterwards, she drove us through the Badlands to show us something even badder, and totally unexpected: the Secwepemc Museum and Heritage Park. We heard the bleak story of how so many thousands of young native people - "Indians" - were uplifted to be "civilised, Christianised and assimilated" and, inevitably, exploited and abused. It's a horrific story, but what makes it so much worse is that it's so familiar. 

I'm relieved to report that nothing along quite those lines happened to Maori here (apart from, er, the Land Wars, the near extinction of their language, the horror of Parihaka, and the fact that even today Maori dominate poverty, poor health and imprisonment statistics), but we only have to cross the Tasman to hear pretty much identical stories about the Aboriginal people. In so many of the countries I've been to, through the Pacific, Indonesia, Africa, the US, indigenous people have been subjugated by colonisers with boundless, and entirely misplaced, confidence in their own superiority. It's hideous.

Though, of course without wishing at all to diminish the awful treatment received by those so-called inferior peoples around the world, I'm wondering now if my pleasure in getting so close to all those poor, incarcerated wild animals was equally wrong.

Friday, 28 May 2021

Happy just to have been in the running. Honest.

Heading into the city for an evening meeting earlier this week, I was a) surprised to see these huge and eye-wateringly expensive container cranes actually in use for once and then b) inevitably reminded, because of the hint of sunset in the clouds behind them, of the start of the best day I've ever had in London.

It was August 2019 and I'd got up early for our arrival on Silversea's Silver Wind into the heart of the city, through Tower Bridge to moor alongside the Belfast. It turned out I'd actually got up an hour too early, by mistake, so I was on deck to see dawn behind the cranes as we passed Tilbury docks - which was total compensation, it was a beautiful sight.

Of course, most things, however prosaic, look dramatic in that light, but as it happened, the entire day that followed was 100% gorgeous and everything looked at its best. That made everyone else be in their best moods too, so it wasn't just the surroundings, but also the overall ambiance that was brilliant. I loved it all. So I'm not letting it get me down that this evening it's the Voyager Media Awards and my entries for the Travel section, which included a description of this cruise (as well as an actual piece of proper reporting) didn't even earn me a finalist place. (This time.)

But at least the Firstborn is in with a chance. Good luck!

Tuesday, 25 May 2021


While I would, naturally, have preferred a better - in fact, any other - angle, it was still a bit of a thrill to see myself on the front page of the NZ Herald* last week. The initial pleased Oh! was, though, immediately erased by a puzzled Huh? For two reasons: my story inside the Travel section was about Waiheke walks, while the photo was of me doing a Segway tour of Devonport back in January to write about for the SST; and I had no recollection of that photo being taken, let alone submitted to the Herald.

The Segway lady had no clue either, so I asked the Herald's Travel editor, who told me, with some surprise since she hadn't (I'm happy to say, given the afore-mentioned angle) recognised me, that it was a stock image randomly taken by one of their staff photographers. Who just happened to be up on North Head at the same time as me. Once she'd said that, I did in fact remember seeing a young man mooching about up there with a big camera as I was gliding around.

So, there's a coincidence for you - and, unlike most of the so-called coincidences I've claimed in this blog, it is an actual, real coincidence and not what is officially termed Frequency Illusion (or the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon**). It's cognitive bias - where if, for example, you've just discovered you're pregnant, you suddenly see pregnant women everywhere. They were always there, but it's only now you're one of them that your brain is selectively registering them all. 

The more you travel, the more you notice those places you've visited cropping up in the news, on TV, in conversation and so on - so, being fortunately in that category, that's why I'm always tripping over references to countries, towns, even buildings, that I've been to. It's fun. Even if, sigh, these days it's a bit sad too.

* I would like to disassociate myself completely from that grammatical error in the tagline on the banner.

** While not disputing the phenomenon, I have to note that, having read all the way through the Wikipedia article, I personally cannot find a single link between me and anything to do with Baader-Meinhof. Which is a good thing, of course.

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Goghing... gone

Naturally, going to the Van Gogh Live show that came to Auckland recently was always going to remind me of Arles. The show is a multi-screen projection of a good selection of his paintings, from early to last, with a bit of modest animation in some of them. The screens are all around the arena, at different angles and heights, and there are several paintings projected at once, so you have to keep looking around - including on the floor (though clearly not everyone felt that responsibility).

Each set has an accompanying quote from his letters or diary, in a handwriting font that takes a bit of effort to read, and the pace is brisk enough that it's far from a relaxing experience. It's good, though, and his paintings, especially the starry night ones, really benefit from the large-scale, super-bright treatment. It's fairly short, so I watched it twice. Overall, though, the story is sad. Poor man. He sold only one painting in his (self-shortened) lifetime. 

Regular 😀 readers will recall that I went to Arles back in - sigh - 2012, beginning a river cruise there with Uniworld along the Rhone, which finished in Lyon. Arles is where Van Gogh spent his most productive, if dramatic, years, and on a tour around that lovely, and appealingly lived-in, town, we visited a number of the scenes that he painted, most memorably the yellow Café la Nuit. 

Incidentally, the self-portrait with the bandaged ear confuses a lot of people: it was the left ear that he sliced at (possibly off) with the knife, but the picture shows his right ear bandaged, because he was painting his actual mirror image. 

Anyway, it was several days later, when fishing the next clean coffee mug out of the drawer, that I saw it was decorated with one of his swirly cypress paintings. I'd forgotten all about it - and also, where I'd bought it. So that occupied me on and off for a few more days, until the mug reappeared in the morning coffee cycle. I suddenly remembered then that I'd bought it at the National Gallery in London, where I'd gone on a Silversea cruise in - sigh - 2019. 

Shamefully, despite having lived in England for years and going to London many times, it was my first visit to the gallery - it was always one of those 'next time' things. If nothing else, recent events should have taught us not to put stuff off, don't you think? Just made that one in time.

That was a chastening lesson, but I was still quietly triumphant about having remembered where I'd bought the mug. Turns out, though, that all I had to do was turn it over.

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Trans-Tasman bubble, yay!

Well, thanks for including Tassie, Scott - but, the Apple Isle aside, you’ve left out some of the best bits. Victoria, yeah - but what about South Australia, and the Northern Territory? I’ve had some of my best Aussie fun in those states. 

Both my home town, Christchurch, and sister city Adelaide owe some of their history to the same dubious character, Edward Gibbon Wakefield (his page on begins with the throwaway sentence: Wakefield developed his theories of colonisation while serving a term at Newgate Prison for abducting and marrying a teenage heiress. They don't talk about that in SA when they're telling you, as they always do, that they're not convict-settled.) 

So I felt comfortable there, with the grid road system, heritage buildings, central square, all that - but it's outside the city that I've had the best times. Riding a camel, herding cattle on horseback, glamping, hiking through the Flinders Ranges, sighting an enormous feral cat, swimming with tuna and sealions, spotting koalas and being wowed by cuttlefish on Kangaroo Island, sleeping underground in Coober Pedy, surviving a dust storm, eating sheep's milk haloumi, cuddling a roo joey, being awed by amazing ancient rocks, lying on my back in the grass waggling my legs in the air to - successfully - attract an emu. And people think SA is just about the wine!

And then there's the Territory. Where to start? With Darwin, the frontier town? Japanese bombing, Cyclone Tracy, a-dingo-ate-my-baby court case, NT News headlines, rough and ready citizens. Really, though, it's all about the Outback - gloriously empty mile after mile of red soil and blue sky, and a flicker along the edges where the colours meet. Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Kings Canyon. Aboriginal culture, ancient and modern art, music and stories. 

Even rougher and readier Alice Springs, where the annual Henley-on-Todd regatta involves people holding boats around their waists as they run along the dry riverbed. Opals. Road trains. School of the Air and the Flying Doctor. Stone curlews screaming like murder victims in the night, dingoes howling, bats ticking past like clockwork toys. More water than you'd expect - lakes like mirrors, waterfalls, rivers below towering canyon walls, or between sandy banks draped with untrustworthily sleeping crocs. Barramundi on every menu. 

I could go on, and on, and on. I've had so, SO much fun in the Territory and South Australia. Terrific places to visit, and guaranteed to deliver great stories. Go there! You can, Kiwis, now...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...