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So next day headed off at 10ish in the second car that Mary has. It’s a 10 year old Volvo… or is it 20? It’s been around a bit anyway – did like to steer into the left if left to it’s own devices.

Though in my opinion you could market this as a ‘Built in protection against falling asleep at the wheel, the car will automatically steer you to the edge…’ Hehehe, so yeah, that was fun, I think Maeve misses her new Punto from time to time.. still, it’s free so that’s all to the good, and over the next 10 days the car was to do over 1400 kilometres without any worries at all.

So yes, off to Taranaki. It’s a volcano, dormant at the moment. Has claimed more lives than any other mountain in NZ. Even than Mount Cook. The reason – well one of the reasons anyway is that the weather can change unbelievably quickly. It’s a total micro-climate – very close to the coast, but a very high, lone, mountain. Winds can get to be over 200 km/h up there. That’s enough to make you take off! quite literally.

This was a pretty accurate account really of the weather in the area. It hardly stopped raining at all while we were there. It was especially heavy the first day.

In fact, there’s a little poem that some anonymous traveller posted. Here it is.





Rain

It rained and it rained and

rained

The average fall was well maintained

And when the tracks were simply bogs

It started raining cats and dogs

After a drought of half an hour

We had a most refreshing shower

And then the most curious thing of all

A gentle rain began to fall

Next day was also fairly dry

Save for the deluge from the sky

Which wetted the party to the skin

And after that the rain set in.

Anonymous Tramper

1984


So yeah, that pretty well summed up Taranaki. However, well used to rain as we are, this wasn’t going to stop us looking around and getting a feel for the place. We stayed in a DOC (Department of Conservation) ‘hut’. More of a pretty comfortable hostel really, but quite cheap. It had lots of posters up about the place, telling you about the weird flora and fauna that you get, and why. It also tells you that it’s better to walk around in the rain as the colours are more vivid. Though sometimes you have to wonder if they’re not just saying that because it does rain all the time.

In fact, this year they’d already had 11 meters of rain. That’s *a lot* of rain.

The area we went walking through, is called a Goblin Forest because of all the mosses and the stunted growth of the trees. (One of the few remaining reserves of the Kiwi birds) It’s like that because the rain washes all the nutrients out of the soil, and is what mosses thrive in.

So you can see the amount of moss and general weirdness that’s around.

Just went for a 40 min hike down to the Dawson Falls (named after bloke wot found them)

Then it was back to the hut, and seeing as we’d not brought stuff for dinner we just *had* to go for a really delicious three course dinner up at the mountain lodge which was also there. Very nice, all wooden and olde looke!

Also met Basil. The local man – 70+ I’d say, who was full of stories, like 300km/h winds (seemed a little fast to me), and how a friend of his goes up to the summit every year. With a triple bypass. At the age of 82 or something equally savage.

Next day did another walk up and around the mountainside (couldn’t even see the summit – though it still has a lot of ice on it so you’d need crampons to get up it)

Saw this

Well there were lots of them, but it’s a fuchsia tree, it sheds it’s bark regularly so that the mosses and lichen cannot get established on it. Clever eh ;)

Also had to cross this wee bridge.

Which Maeve loved! she’d been on ricketier ones in Thailand. I – well – I was happy enough to get to the other side.. big old drop into a valley bellow.

Then back to Palmerston North.

Christmas day itself – well spent doing the usual family stuff. Mum and Dad were given their EMPAAKOs or special Tooro names which are essential before you can belong in society over there. Dads new name is AKIIKI, which can be translated as leader or pioneer and mum’s is ADYERI, which may mean strong !?

Matt and Chris (my two brothers) have decided to give me Kite Surfing lessons here in ChCh for my Christmas (and birthday!) present.. which is going to be great fun, and probably quite scary too. Personally I reckon they’re trying to kill me off seeing as they failed when I was young…

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So, arrived into Palmerston North and was immediately a little shocked!. Not by the puddles which were on the ground, they were almost a novelty after the month without rain in Christchurch. No, the shock came from my Aunt Mary! It was very strange – I’d never really thought there was a huge family resemblance between mum and her.. but wow – they look incredibly similar. So that shook me for a sec! – just a sec mind ;) it was almost like ‘Wow, wasn’t expecting to see you here for Christmas mum, thought you were still in Uganda’

So yeah, that was strange. Then finally off to see the house which so many of my family have visited. Stupidly forgot to take a picture of it, but the entire house (and it’s quite large) is just on piles. So you can quite literally pick the house up and move it, if you’re so inclined.

Which my Aunt (Mary) recently did – well about 6 years ago they built two houses on a portion of their property, and firstly they just picked up their house and moved it off to one side.

As you do! :)

They’ve just sold them both, but the handover isn’t until 10th Jan. The upshot being that Maeve and I got the house to ourselves, which was nice.

Spent the day seeing cousins, drinking, eating, making plans to head to Taranaki National Park the next day.

Oh, did play scrabble, and getting Yin on the triple word helped, so thanks Domhnall for posting about seeing “The Big Yin” in march. Billy Connolly.. just seeing as I haven’t mentioned I’m going to see Billy Connolly for a while.

I am, in March. :)

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Well not much to say really, off at 5:25am to Palmerstown North tomorrow morning. Really looking forward to it now. Maeve and I are going to have a Volvo for our use, which is going to be great. Pretty much have an idea of the things we want to get done. May get to a volcano that was supposed to be Mount Doom (so Maeve says anyway!). So that should be good.

Had a good look around the Rough Guide website, which was and is going to be a very good thing to keep up with. There’s a section for travellers – with tips and stuff, one of them I will definitely be doing as it’s a site which sorts you out for accommodation and jobs during the ski-season NZ ski so will definitely apply for that one.

Also checked out – just for initial ideas – flights for travelling on. There’s a company called Pacific Blue – the Ryanair of down here, that has flights for $100 (NZ dollars) Each way to Australia. That’s 100 Euro return…. not too bad really :) Mind you that offer is only valid if you book before Christmas day, but then it only goes up to $150, so it’s not toooo bad. Am thinking of heading to Oz in October for a month, then back here, and fly to Singapore, ‘do Asia’, and then head to Africa and maybe head through Kruger and on up to Uganda. But I really haven’t a clue. So if anyone wants to meet up along the way … ;) Climbing in Thailand… could be good…

And then today, after a lazy start headed up to Castle Hill to do a couple of easy routes. Maeve got her first lead in New Zealand.

And me, well I was doing this awesome 7c+ move when the damn hold broke.

What can you do?

Well, there’ll be naught from me for a while, but hopefully will take loads of pics to make ya’ll want to come out here as soon as is humanly possible.

Have a very Happy Christmas, I shall dream of a white one, but I can’t see it happening!

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Well, what a very relaxing last couple of days in work. Though in all fairness I did get all my work completed first of all, and I was told I could play on the net if I did..

So spent a lot of time playing backgammon (if anyone wants a game / to learn just shout ;) go to FIBS and go from there. Well, if you can work it out through an ascii layout and don’t need a funky gui then you can just telnet to fibs.com 4321

Anyway, so yes, played a bitta backgammon, tis an excellent game. And more correspondance chess with Lorcan and Declan. Quite a neat fun idea really, you play online but the moves are mailed to eachother, so you can just make a couple of moves a day. Mind you, as I said, was playing it quite a bit, which was fine for me, a nice afternoon game, but Dec was up until 02:30 or something. Tactics Tactics you see…

But it was nice, got to listen to my music and just generally chill out. Oh, yeah – a handy travel tip from me! I would highly recommend getting either an ipod or a creative jukebox (or Zen) for travelling. Well as long as you have a good access to mp3s. Of all the things I brought, well, barring perhaps digital camera, it’s just great to have one. Really good for car journeys, cycling ;) 2 weeks of music and the same size as a Walkman… Anyway, my travel tip for today.

So once I’d struggled through my hectic day, it was time to see The Return Of The King.

There was a small mount of advertisement about it.

And I must say, I really enjoyed it a lot. There are, of course, a couple of things I would have liked to see them do, but on the whole it was definitely my favourite. 3 hours though.. be prepared!

Glynn has headed off to OZ to stay with cousins for Christmas. I’m sure he’ll have a great time. Maeve and I are heading to my Aunt on the North Island. So have been doing a little ‘bitta research about it, apparently there are some pretty cool glow-worms to see – my sister Liz, and one of my brothers – Matt, have travelled through NZ and they both highlighted that at something to see. Think we’re going to be heading walking up some volcano too. Believe it still smokes too. Should be a barrel o laughs.

Really odd to have Christmas in the sunshine though.

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So a pretty fun last couple of days really, headed out climbing with Glynn after work on Friday. Must admit though I was not really having a good day climbing, think bouldering every day (even if it’s only for 30 or 40 mins) is just too much for my arms.. and I was far too weak for the routes Glynn was putting up.

so I spent most of my time just hanging about.

Mr Squash Captain Man got back to me, so I’m on a wee summer team they have, will be starting games proper on January 17th… should be fun. No I didn’t make the team because of any skill I have!! They’ve never even played me… so it’s only ‘cos I want a game really. Still, it should be a fun lesson in humiliation.

Today though was a laugh in work, see I’ve been there a week now, but tomorrow all the others in the office will be leaving for Auckland for their Christmas party.

Leaving me alone in charge of the office.

After a week.

It’s going to be interesting….

But the fun thing was that they were making a video-skit for the Christmas party. All the different offices have to put something on. Ours was based (loosely) on the tv show “The Office”. Which I’ve never seen, though I believe it’s good!

I really must try to get my hands on a copy of it.. but things like – for example Sonya (the main receptionist / Admin / Finance / Everything person) had her feet in pink slippers up on the desk and would just say things like ‘All busy here, all busy Darling’

And then went outside to relax..with a bottle of wine – in the sun. Sorry for the bad pic.

I was the ‘token male’, even had a little sign, which I didn’t get a pic of.

Our boss – Suzanne, was totally stressed – in the skit only! – she’s great fun.. so resorted to whisky and talking to Pooh.

Hmm, well it was all very funny, but it’s possible that “You’d have to be there”… then at the end I was reading Sonya and Julie a story while they were going to bed with two lovely little pink pig teddies (there’s a fold out bed). That one I wish I’d got a picture of. We had to re-take that scene three times as we kept on cracking up. I was telling a story about a “Little pig called Arthur who’d been working hard all day”.

Yes, defiantly have to be there for that one. Hope it gets a few laughs, I’d be annoyed if it doesn’t. Oh, and I absailed off the balcony (well, was setting it up, they’d not let me go over it – well, actually I didn’t ask, but I doubt they’d have let me anyway!)

So yeah, tomorrow manning the office. Should be a barrel-o-laughs.

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