Category Archives: Adventures

A Hundred Shades of Green

One of my first pictures of the new Zealand countryside outside of Auckland – so GREEN.

I live in South East Queensland and it can get very green here in the Spring, particularly after rain. However, I didn’t really know what green was until the visit to New Zealand. Aussie trees – particularly gums – have a grey tinge. It’s not unpleasant, but the greens are subdued when compared to other tree species. Our grass tends to be bleached by the sun into a grey-gold; again, not unpleasant. In winter, the frost turns the long grass grey-brown. But I tend to get excited when we’ve had proper rain and everything looks lushly green.

Since the New Zealand trip, to my eyes, our local landscapes just look drab and undramatic. My late mother came back from Ireland raving about a hundred shades of green. New Zealand give Ireland a run for its money.

Green to the tops of the hills!
The green of Zealandia
Even the river water looks green.
The green of the mountains

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New Zealand Scrapbook

The Hobbiton page in my scrapbook

As I mentioned in my last post, I made a scrapbook for our New Zealand trip. My arts & crafts projects tend to lean more into making Steampunk accessories and jewellery, so this was a new experience for me. I didn’t want to throw away all the mementoes I had collected, and this seemed to be the perfect way to preserve them. It would be a way to relive the trip, I thought – and even putting it together gave me a great deal of satisfaction.

I had some problems getting an actual scrapbook. Spotlight had all the gear for scrapbooking except for the actual books! I thought about ordering online, but ended up popping into Target on the off chance they would have any. They did! Just ONE! But one was all I needed.

Double-sided tape is the scrapbooker’s friend. So are really sharp scissors. I had bought these in preparation. I decided the sensible thing would to be set out the scrapbook to follow our day to day adventures. And off I went.

We went to Zealandia and the Cable Car Museum on the same day.
The Larnach Castle Page

Items too bulky for the scrapbook were put through the photocopier, such as the Larnach Castle Christmas ornament and my patches from Lumsden and the Steampunk Headquarters. I included several coins in New Zealand currency for a bit of bling; they were thin enough not to cause any issues. I also photocopied a few photos to add colour and backgrounds to some pages. As I haven’t taken any scrapbooking classes, I have no idea if I was doing anything the right way. I just arranged things to my liking.

The Steampunk Headquarters, Oamaru, page in the scrapbook.

It took me a week to complete the scrapbook, working about an hour a day after dinner. When it was finished, I gave it to my husband to flick through. his comment: ‘I wouldn’t have thought this would have turned out so well. I didn’t think we kept so many souvenirs. How did we get all of this home?’ ‘The magic of saving mainly flat items like brochures and maps,’ I replied.

My next goal is convert my handwritten diary into a computer file. That way, I can add in details that I may have skipped while travelling.

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More Thoughts About New Zealand

The view out to sea from Larnach Castle, Dunedin

I’ve made a scrapbook from the paperwork, brochures, pamphlets, and other bits-and-pieces I collected while in New Zealand. It was a rather pleasant experience, being both a creative endeavour and another way to relive our travels. It’s not something I’ve ever done before, but if we ever get to travel overseas again, I plan on doing it again. I kept a travel diary as well. You think you will never, ever forget such wonders, but human beings are forgetful beasts. Memories fade, particularly when piled up on top of each other.

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Leaving New Zealand

Artwork at The George, Christchurch.

Our last day in New Zealand was spent running errands and packing. We wanted to mail my snow gear home since it took up so much room in my suitcase. This way, I had room for the souvenirs and presents I had bought, and I wasn’t lugging around the extra weight. Our concierge found us a box to pack everything in, and then wrapped it in tape for us. If you are ever looking for a nice place to stay in Christchurch, I can’t recommend The George highly enough. The staff are the best, the art is inspiring, and they even gave us George, a sweet little bear to take with us on our travels.

The courtyard on the way to the Library at The George. This display is made of plates that survived the earthquake, out of sets that were destroyed.

We popped out to the post office. and had an early lunch at a café – you know the food is good when a place is packed even though there are plenty of eateries close by. Then we went back to the George for a nap. We had to get up at 3AM.

Dinner was at The George’s restaurant. I had the duck and I still have daydreams about that duck.

George – now in Australia – sitting with Esme, the Fashionista bear.

In the wee hours of the morning, we set off to the airport. We were so early, the QANTAS lounge wasn’t yet open. So we set up on the seat next to the door. There were robots in a glass room! Alas, it was closed and wouldn’t be open until well after we had flown out. (And it was for children, but that’s never stopped me before.) When the lounge did open, we had breakfast. (Then we were given meals on both flights back to Brisbane, New Zealand-to-Sydney, and Sydney-to-Brisbane.)

Every minute or so, it would shift into a new pose. Those anime eyes!
The second robot, ready to play soccer.

We left just as the sky was brightening. My last glimpse of New Zealand were snow-topped mountains just starting to glow in the pre-dawn light. I found the trip home tiresome, as I was both tired and still feeling ill. And I was already missing New Zealand.

Once home, I went straight to bed. And I spent nearly two weeks there, with antibiotics. I had developed secondary infections in my ears and throat. So it was my throat that was causing all the coughing, not my lungs, which was a surprise. During my convalescence, both mail parcels got home safely.

Over the next few posts, I’ll add in details about the trip and what I’ve done with some of our souvenirs.

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The Antarctic Experience, Christchurch

Getting close to penguins

The Antarctic Experience is run by the Australian Antarctic Science team – and it is right next to the airport, so we were able to see how long it would take us to get the airport on the day we were due to fly out AT 6AM and we needed to be at the international airport three hours early. Driving through Christchurch, you can see where it gets its name, with so many pretty churches. All the blossom trees were flowering and the daffodils blooming, the city was wearing her best clothes for us.

First experience was the 4D theatre. You got to feel icy waves slapping your face!

Then we went and investigated the storm room, mimicking the arctic temperature and full of ice. We did not go in; I thought that I would die from asthma and my cold combined with frigid conditions. One bloke went in wearing shorts – they supplied coats and boots but not leggings. I thought that bloke would end up as a block … an iceblock. They also had the huskies in there playing for a bit – one adult female and two not-quite-adult male pups. Later on, we ran into the handler and the pups outside and I got to cuddle all three. The handler showed me how they were shedding, and gave me a handful of one of the pup’s fur. He took it off me, bit by bit, with a cheeky grin, until we were in a cloud of his fur. Such lovely animals!

The dignity of the adult female husky.
Feeding time at the penguin enclosure.

We watched the penguin feeding and then we went for the penguin experience. Which meant we were first allowed into the enclosure, and then taken downstairs (backstage) to the penguin research centre. So, we sat in the compound and watched the penguins go through their post-prandial grooming and general gossip session.

In the research centre, we were introduced to the star of the day, a little female penguin called Suki. The animals look bluish, but under that top layer of feathers they have dense white down. Most of their penguins are too old or disabled to breed and their eggs are infertile. However, because of the limited space in the centre, they removed all eggs and replace them fakes. A penguin bred in captivity can’t be returned to the wild by New Zealand law; it’s too cruel as they will most likely starve to death. They also need the spare spaces in the centre for any ill or injured penguins that require vet care.

The Nice/Naughty board kept by the research centre.

They had many stories about how they had received their birds. My favourite story is about the little female found in a cow paddock quite a distance from the sea. They discovered she didn’t know how to swim! Nor did she groom herself enough to remain buoyant. another female penguin took her under her wing (yes, a pun!) and taught the poor sweetie how to be a penguin. The little one still needs swimming therapy, provided by the keepers and scientists.

The disabled birds have had toes bitten off by sharks, legs lost to fishing wire, dog attack, wing paralysis from unknown causes, being underweight, blindness, and just suffering from extended old age. Their oldest inmate – now passed – was a lassie called Toto, who lived to be 25 years old, which is twice the age of a wild penguin would achieve ordinarily. Penguins lose fertility at eight to ten years of age, so this makes sense ecologically – Mother nature isn’t always kind.

My favourite part of the display is the Nice/Naughty board, that keeps track of the behaviour of the flock. This isn’t as silly as it sounds, as penguins are social creatures and the scientists want to keep track of the social dynamics. Science doesn’t have to be stuffy all the time.

Suki

This was our last planned outing of the trip. The next day, we were getting ready to fly out to Sydney, and then back to Brisbane. I found it hard to believe the trip was nearly over…

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Steampunk Headquarters, Oamaru

The pinnacle of Steampunk artistry.

I was sorry to leave Larnach Castle and Dunedin; there was so much more we could have seen and done. Visiting New Zealand was beginning to feel like a European tour; the fjords of Scandinavia, the snowy peaks of Switzerland, Scottish moors, English farmlands, with the extra excitement of its unique wildlife. Our next stop was going to be another highpoint of the trip: Steampunk Headquarters in Oamaru. The drive was as scenic as anything we’d experienced previously, with rocky tors looming along the ridgelines.

On the trip between Dunedin and Oamaru, I expected to see the Orcs or the Rohirrim, when I caught sight of these rocky tors.

I was still burdened with my cold, but the excitement of seeing Steampunk Headquarters burnt a lot of my discomfort away. Adrenaline is great stuff! When I caught sight of iconic train outside the Headquarters, I squealed with delight. My husband rolled his eyes, he isn’t a Steampunk Enthusiast. This outing was for my benefit only.

The Airship

When I walked into the entry, I immediately started blabbing about being Steampunk Sunday, Queensland, Australia on Facebook. The lass had heard of me! She was going to wave the entry fee for both me and my hubby, but my hubby insisted on paying. Then it was a walk into Steampunk heaven.

The Mega-Galactic Pipe Organ
One of the numerous Steampunk vehicles on display.
When you need to cross a lava-hot terrain.
Another vehicle in the process of being constructed.

I could easily share the dozens of photos I took, but my drooling over everything would get boring. Then again, this IS originally a Steampunk blog. We also spent some time in the gift shop.

The Tank
One of the cosplay outfits on display.

We spent a couple of hours in the Headquarters, then we headed off to Christchurch, our last stop in New Zealand.

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Albatross and Taking Tea, Dunedin

A Juvenile Royal Albatross, Dunedin. Note the downy feathers still visible.

For our second day in Dunedin, we had a full itinerary. The morning was going to be spent at the Royal Albatross Centre at Harington Point (I keep wanting to spell that as ‘Harrington’). My hubby trusted our car’s Navman, and took our Navman’s route suggestion. This turned out to a scenic drive over some the narrowest, twisty roads we’d experienced in New Zealand, along the ridge of the point. As I was still suffering from my heavy cold, feeling lightheaded, I found the experience rather unpleasant. I was scared we would meet another car coming the other way and there was no where for us to pass. We didn’t meet any cars in the narrow spots … because it turned out the Navman had taken us ‘the long way’, and the actual route was the coastal road.

The Royal Albatross Centre was situated on the very tip of Harington Point, and is home to the albatross, a shag colony, and a colony of red-billed gulls. Red-billed gulls are also in decline throughout most of New Zealand.

Red-billed Gulls
The Shag Colony

I felt breathless on walk up to the lookout from the centre, but once I caught sight of the birds I forgot all about needing oxygen. The juvenile albatross were nearly fully fledged – if we had visited a few weeks later we might have missed seeing them. There parents visit them daily, until one day the young birds lift their wings and they are gone. They were sitting in the grass, sunning themselves, and I was enchanted.

Grooming those enormous wings.

The point had been a fort in its day. There were still ruins and tunnels.

A remnant of the fort – the jail rooms. You’d freeze in these most of the year.

I skipped the second part of the tour, as I was just not up to climbing any more. Instead, I sat on a sunny bench and watched the gulls. The gulls watched me back, hoping for a feed. By taking this quiet time, I was able to start understanding some of the gull’s language. They had the usual gull skrees and squawks, but they also had a three-note call, and a grumbling-under-the-breath noise.

High Tea

In the afternoon, we went to High Tea at the castle, in the ballroom that had been converted to a café. It was where we had our breakfast. It is a warm, caramel-toned room with fireplaces and Baronial décor. The edibles were dainty and delectable. There was a tea menu, and I had the Christmas Special Blend; very fruity.

Do you have the feeling you’re being watched?

That afternoon, a stampede of Ferraris turned up. As it turns out, Dunedin was having festival that weekend, and they had come to attend a car show. I spoke with the organiser, and he told me that New Zealand had the greatest density of Ferrari cars per capita in the world. I am not a car person, but even I can appreciated a nice Ferrari.

As the sun fell, neither Hubby nor I felt like dinner. So we spent a quiet evening in our room. Well, as quiet as I could manage. I was coughing during the night, so I didn’t get a proper night’s sleep.

The painting decorating our bedroom in the Lodge of Larnach Castle.

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Darling Dunedin

Larnach Castle, Dunedin

From Lumdsen, Dunedin was a pleasant three hour drive. The scenery – like all of New Zealand – was dramatically pretty. I was beginning to feel weary as we finally reached the outskirts of Dunedin, but it turned out that Larnach Castle was another half hour drive from the city centre. It was worth the extra drive: dry stone walls, witchy marcrocarpa trees, glorious views of the Otago Harbour, and Pukehiki itself was quite lovely. And then – THE CASTLE! Oh, it was lovely, just like a Scottish Manor mixed in with a Queenslander’s verandas. We were staying in the Lodge, as the castle is basically a museum.

The view from our window in The Lodge, looking over Otago harbour towards the sea. There is supposed to be the Dunedin Volcano in that view.

That night, we attended a banquet in the Music Room of the castle. It was an imposing room, and the food was perfection. As it was decorated in the style of the Victorian era, it felt quite Steampunk to me.

On of the chandeliers in the Music Room of Larnach Castle.
The Music Room during the day. The banquet’s tables and chairs have been cleared away.
The view from the fountain to Dunedin. The fountain sits in the circular driveway in front of the castle.
The Alice Garden of Larnach Castle.

After the banquet, I had another rough night, coughing frequently. I felt sorry for my husband, because I thought I was keeping him awake after he spent the day driving. But he was so tired, he was able to ignore most of my coughing. I managed to get enough sleep to make up excited for our plans for the day – The Royal Albatross Centre in the morning, and afternoon tea at the castle in the afternoon. Stay tuned for that update, where I get to meet a stampede of Ferraris.

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A Town Called Lumsden

When I was in my early twenties, my great grandmother and my great aunt went on a bus tour of New Zealand. When they came back, great grandma said she regretted that they never stopped in the town of Lumsden, the tour bus just drove through it. The bus driver did announce that Mrs Lumsden (great grandma) was in Lumsden. For some reason, this story always made me want very much to visit Lumsden.

They named a whole town after me…

I still wasn’t well, but the day of rest in Te Anu had knocked the worst of the cold on the head. Part of my improved outlook was knowing I was finally going to see Lumsden. I was prepared to be disappointed, but at the same time I was rather hopeful that Lumsden was something special. Whenever we mentioned the town, people had heard of it, and the café in particular. It was famous for its cheese rolls.

The welcoming committee: the Llamas of Lumsden. When we stopped to take the photo of the sign, they came over to see what I was doing. (They are alpacas, not llamas, but I wanted the alliteration.)
The Steampunk toilets of Lumsden
Inside Café Route 6

Lumsden embraced its name. There were Lumsden-named parks and buildings. It felt surreal, seeing my maiden name sprinkled everywhere, with such exuberance. There was no problem in finding Café Route 6 – it was across the road from the public toilets. even the toilets proudly proclaimed they were ‘Lumsden Toilets’ from a sign shaped like the front of a steam train (Steampunk!).

In the café was a whole red Chevy. This turned out to be the post office! We sent a parcel home from there. By now, I seriously was in love with the town. It was so much more magical than I could ever have hoped. There were Lumsden souvenirs on sale, and I bought my father a coffee mug and bought a t-shirt for myself.

The Lumsden Post Office

We had lunch at the café, but we didn’t have one of the famous cheese rolls. I was feeling better, but the thought of a cheese roll made me squeamish. My husband went with sweet rolls and coffee for both of us. They were delicious.

We wanted to get on Dunedin before sunset, so we couldn’t spend more than a couple of hours in Lumsden. But I’d love to go back, and maybe spend days there.

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Sick Day

If you read the comic Calvin & Hobbes, you might remember that he believes if you’re sick on your holidays, you should get those days back. Don’t I wish. I didn’t manage to sleep the night we rolled into Te Anu, as I kept waking up to cough. My ears hurt. My nose was clogged. Even my eyes were gummy, particularly the left eye. The day was overcast and drizzly, and this was the day we were supposed to spend the entire day on a boat on Doubtful Sound. Common sense said that I would most probably expire if I spent the day out in the cold and rain; so I made the decision to stay and get bedrest. I asked my husband to take lots of photos for me. We asked permission for me to remain housebound from the owner of the Bed and Breakfast, and she said ‘yes.’

The view from our suite in Te Anu.

I spent most of the day sleeping, with a break to soak in a hot tub with bath salts – bless the manager/owner of the Bed and Breakfast. She also supplied me with fruit and muffins for a light lunch. As you can see, the view from our suite was divine. I enjoyed being out of the cold, with some regret at missing out on an adventure. At least my hubby wasn’t missing out – he had threatened to stay with me to make sure I was okay. But what could he do but watch me sleep?

He took some magnificent photos.

Doubtful Sound. Sister to Milford Sound, but less frequented by tourist boats.
One of the dozens of waterfall that encircle the sound.
Even the waterfalls have waterfalls.
The Land Before Time
Cloud scraping.

As you can see from the photos, even on a wet day, Doubtful Sound is very beautiful. My husband came back and was pleased to find I was still alive.

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