Monday, May 9, 2016

New Zealand Duck Hunting Season Begins With High Scoring

The New Zealand duck hunting season opened over the weekend. In early reports the ducks are ahead with 3 hunters being shot in the first few hours. The Kiwi news reporters almost sounded disappointed that alcohol was not involved. Can you imagine in the early hours of the morning on the lake side the ducks all lining up with their short, stubby legs and doing the going to war Haka before the season opener? The number of duck casualties has not been reported.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Wellington Visit

If you live in an area where there is forest fire potential you’ve probably seen signs like this. They have the fire versions all around the South Island. It took a double take before I realized it was an crossing information sign for those getting ready to take the ferry from Picton on the South Island, across the Cook Strait, to Wellington on the North Island. The Cook Strait is notorious for rough weather. The winds funnel through the gap, accelerating to gale force often. In addition, the currents generated by having the Pacific ocean on the east side and the Tasman Sea on the west side of the strait makes for some ugly seas, especially when the wind opposes the current.
It was a pretty light day when we crossed on the 183m long ferry, Aratere. All that waterline made for a smooth trip.  You can see in the pic above that it is blowing pretty hard, probably mid to high 20 kts. If you look close you can see a very reefed down(small sails only) sailboat beating out of the Queen Charlotte Sound for the 55 mile crossing to Wellington.
The trip was cold enough that it sent the crochet team inside to hook up some warm blankets.
 siIMG_5088We really enjoyed the roadtrip with our enthusiastic travel companions, especially the fine dining road stops.
When we arrived in Wellington we bid adieu to our traveling companions, Ken and Di, as they made their way to the airport and plane ride back to San Diego via Auckland and Hawaii. It was an opportunity for them to pass on the Llama Flu (which we all got eventually) internationally. We stayed on for a day in Wellington to spread it around there.
Wellington is the capitol of New Zealand. It has some great museums with the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa being the highlight. Since we didn’t have a lot of time in Wellington we spent most of it the Te Papa and in hunting out some great eating joints. For those of you short on history, or ‘thing’s I should have learned while in school’, Gallipoli refers to the World War I failed invasion of the Turkish coast by the British. The Ottoman Turks had sided with Germany. The British troops were made up primarily of Australian and New Zealand recruits who made up the Australian New Zealand Army Corps or the ANZACs (an – zak). In the run up to the landing at Anzac Cove the operation was known as The Great Adventure – not very accurate, but great for recruiting. The actual operation was one of the bloodiest, poorly planned and wasteful adventures of the war. The landing began on April 25, 1915. The Turks held their ridge lines while the British generals used ineffective tactics from the Boar War in South Africa, loosing more and more troops. By December, 1915 a quick evacuation had finally begun. Those who survived Gallipoli were sent on to more madness in France.
Its hard to underestimate the effect of Gallipoli on the New Zealand psyche. ANZAC Day, April 25, is a big deal. They even shut down liquor sales till 2pm. The Gallipoli display at the Te Papa is very well done.
wellIMG_5384 Lots of larger than life action figures depicting real characters from the war.
Along with a lot of stiff-upper-lip British Empire glorification of war.
The museum also has a large and really interesting photography section (most of these photos are available online). Check the chin tattoos, signalling high status, on this elegant Maori woman.
Of course the men’s tattoos are far superior.

In her quest to see all the rare and wonderful birds of NZ, Chris enjoyed checking out the giant Moa on display. The Moa were  actually 2 of 9 members of this species of flightless birds which ranged in size from 13 or more feet tall to the tiny kiwi birds. They were hunted to extinction by the Maori about 500 years ago. Some bones were still around when the first Europeans arrived.
A walk around the Wellington waterfront brings us to some nice rusty stuff.
They also had a large farmers market down at the quay. This was the end of our roadtrip. Now it’s back to Whangarei and a long list of boat projects.

Friday, May 6, 2016

On to Wine Country (continuing travels in the South Island)

Miles (or should I say kilometers) of grapes. The Marlborough portion of the South Island is New Zealand’s premier wine country, aka Napa Valley South. The vineyards are mostly within biking distance of each other, all with nice tasting rooms, some with small high-end restaurants and all with bottles of wine distinguished by artistic bottle labels.
Located in the balmy northern end of the island overlooking the Cook Straight.
New Zealand actually used to have a tobacco crop. The government encouraged the farms to switch to something more profitable, Chinese Gooseberry. Renamed ‘kiwi fruit’ in a brilliant marketing campaign and turned into a significant export.
Back to wine country. Not only do you get to try some really good wines, but the winemakers usually offer a pretty good education as part of the tasing process.
Trying to decide exactly when we should start harvesting.
Some of the vineyards take grape growing to the extremes. At the Yealands vineyard they play music to the vines on large speakers over hundreds of acres to improve the yield and quality of the grapes. They also use compression canons to make enough noise to scare some of the hungry birds off.
Bug patrol animals are also kept on duty 24/7.

But it wasn’t all about wine tasting. We also had to hunt down the local yarn store, looking for a nice blend of possum fur and wool yarn. Here’s Ken wondering how the local fire marshal could let this store even stay open. It is piled high with every type of yarn. The little lady who runs it seems to know exactly what pile to look under when you ask for something particular.
We spent a few hours at the Omaka Aviation HeritageCenter. The film director Peter Jackson is the main driver behind the museum (best known for directing Lord of the rings and the Hobbit films). The displays are focused on World War I and very well done. This Curtis Flying Boat is in beautiful shape and looks ready to take to the 1920’s air.
This DC-3 is not really part of the museum, it is parked outside on the airfield. These are my favorite planes. When I ran BlueWater Systems I always wanted to buy one as our corporate air force.
While in wine country, we stayed at the Clovelly Homestay B&B. We enjoyed great breakfasts and these two watch Scotties, mother and daughter Gabby and Maggie, who were always on duty. Nostalgically reminded me of the Scotty we had while I was growing up – Robbie.