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...

Monday 5 April 2021

To be not disappointed

 Although I had two pages in the Sunday Star-Times travel section all to myself yesterday, the triumph was somewhat mitigated by the cover story being about the Southern Lights flight. This is a special organised by Viva Expeditions with Air NZ, to fly from (and back to) Christchurch in a Dreamliner on a 10-hour search for the aurora australis. The plane flies in the dramatically-named stealth mode, all external lights off, internal too, so everyone's eyes can adjust and fully appreciate the aurora.

They found the lights quite quickly, and they were pretty spectacular, according to the photos and video. But - and this is a HUGE but - not according to most passengers' actual eyes. The trouble is, our eyes, and especially older eyes, aren't very good at picking up the colours, so what almost everyone saw were swirls of white - the green and pink only showed up via cameras.

Now I would have found that deeply disappointing, to put it mildly. Seeing the aurora is one of my top wants, but to pay all that money, fly all that way and only see white? Nah, Instagram has spoiled me for that. I want proper colour, end of. And if I have to go to Finland, or Norway, or Alaska for my chance to see it, well, that's just icing on the cake. Or actual ice. Whatever. Even if it turns out my eyes can't do the business, at least I've been somewhere interesting and not just been squashed into a plane for ten hours, flying from A to A.

Travel should not be about disappointment, especially when it involves world-famous spectacles or landmarks. I'm happy to report that right up there with cast-iron guarantees of satisfaction (for the locations, tourist throngs notwithstanding) are the Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands, Easter Island's moai, the Eiffel Tower and Tower Bridge. There are lots of others. As further proof, most of those listed I've been to more than once, and been 98% thrilled to see them again. And, for today's connection, two of those - Machu Picchu and Galapagos - I visited the second time courtesy of Viva Expeditions. Thanks, Rachel.

Sunday 4 April 2021

Another first for New Zealand

I remember when Daylight Saving was first (spoiler alert: or so I thought) introduced in New Zealand. That was back in 1974, to help with the energy crisis of the time by reducing the demand for lighting and heating. It has been periodically lengthened since then, after surveys indicated the public wanted more of it - or maybe they were just keen to postpone the depressing transition back to standard time in autumn, which happened early this morning, and tonight will inflict darkness upon us at what will feel like an ungodly early hour.

But it turns out, not only has NZ played with DST previous to that, but, the whole concept was invented by a New Zealander! Of course I knew we were first with the jetboat, plastic syringes (sorry, environment), electric fences, powered flight (sorry, Wright Bros), bungy jumping, Zorbs, jogging (thanks for the guilt, Arthur Lydiard), the jetpack, the egg beater, the referee's whistle, Sealegs amphibious boats... the list goes on, honestly. But I didn't know about Daylight Saving.

Back in 1895, Post Office clerk George Vernon Hudson presented a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society, suggesting changing the clock by two hours in order to give people more free time in summer to pursue outside interests - for him, collecting insects. His enthusiasm wasn't catching, however, and the idea was ignored until 1927, when it was suddenly recognised as an excellent plan, and introduced.

In 1941, because of the war, it was extended to last the whole year, and in 1946 became NZ Standard Time. Eventually, the idea of summer time was revived again and it restarted in 1974 and has continued ever since, with modifications. Meantime, the idea had been suggested in 1907 in Britain, liked by Winston Churchill but rejected by those in power, and finally adopted, following Germany, during WWI. It was actually a little town in Canada that officially started it first, in 1908.

Today some countries do, some don't. And within countries - well, I haven't googled that far but I can confidently report that, in Australia, the Northern Territory is the only state not to change its clocks. How do I know? Because my 1975 epic rail trip itinerary that I booked in Sydney had me turning up at the station in Alice Springs to catch the train down to Adelaide, to find the gate locked, the tracks empty, and the train already departed. Idiot clerk. I was almost out of money and had to live on peanut butter sandwiches for three days until the next train.


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