Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Five Generations Family Celebrations.

Katie-May Castle

Five Generations Celebration.

On October 30th 2007 Katie-May was born into our family, the 5th generation of first born female children, still living; there have been at least two more that we know of, we are a Matriarchy family, (female dominate.)

This weekend Teagan and Josh, Katie-May's parents brought her over to Blenheim to meet her Great-great-grandmother, plus all the rest of our extended family.

This just happened to coincide with Christmas celebrations that are always held at my Mothers house every year.

Seventeen of the family crammed into Mums lounge to welcome Katie-May into the family, everyone except a couple of young lads not very interested in babies at this time! And Nyle's Husband Shane who was busy and unable to come over for the day.!
It is so seldom that all my own family are able to join in these family occasions, since they all live in Nelson, so I sat in the lounge with a big grin on my face and a warm glow in my heart to see them all mixing with the Uncles and Aunts and many Cousins and their Great-grandmother.

After a long noisy time of family catchups, huge afternoon tea feasts, Christmas wishes, and baby cuddles ( you can be sure I joined in the cuddle line for my snuggle with the new babe) a newspaper photographer arrived to take a photo for the local paper, because 5 living generations of female first borns is extremely rare.
We feel we are very Blessed.

This is my photo of Great+great+grandMother holding Katie-May with Teagan the Mother beside her, Nyle and I standing behind.

Great+great+grandmother enjoying her cuddle with her Great+great+granddaughter. Taken by my daughter.

Baby was so good all afternoon, allowing everyone all the cuddles and smiling the whole time, amazing since she is only 6 weeks old.

This is the photo that appeared in the local Newspaper of all five of us, out in Mother's garden in the brilliant sunshine.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Marlborough's Wine Industry

A small selection of Marlborough Wines.

Marlborough’s Wine Industry
My district; Marlborough is the major wine-producing region of New Zealand, producing quality mainly white wine, though there is some quality reds produced here too.
The very first few grape vines were planted for wine by Montana’s Winery in 1977, Hunter’s Winery also planted a small number of vines, and their Winery started producing small quantities of wine in 1983. Montana's wineyard.
Not very long ago, by any means, from these small beginnings Marlborough’s Wine Industry started. Now it could be said Marlborough’s wine industry is on a roll! The whole district oozes prosperity and growth, with a mind boggling 3 million vines being planted this year, more than 12,000 hectares of land under grapes! Wine being produced by 104 known wineries in the district. Its hard to keep up with all the new development, new wineries are being planned and built, some huge productions that will nearly double the production of wine; mainly Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, some Chardonnay and Shiraz.

A panarama of the wairau plains of Marlborough.
The special climate we enjoy in this region is perfect for producing the crisp clean fruity tastes in these wines, our hot day temperature and the cold nights plus the sheltered stony ground are the key to this. Though we are very subject to adverse weather, we do often get hard late frosts, in October just when the leaves and small fruiting buds are starting to immerge from the bare vines, these are very vulnerable to the intense cold, so to protect these tender growths up to, 100 helicopters to take to the air and hover over the vineyards most of the night, displacing the cold air and bringing down the warmer air to ground level. Some vineyard owners use a type of windmill that spins large rotors high above the vines, others light smoky oil burners to attempt to keep the frost off the new growth, all of these methods are moderately successful, especially the helicopters – but ofcause these are by far the most expensive. However there is much money to be made from the wine, even though it is estimated to cost an average of $40,000 to develop a vineyard in Marlborough, (this is only for the cost of plants, posts and training wires, preparing the land and hand planting, not for the cost of land or for and buildings required,) a substantial investment, which ofcause is very good for all facets of Marlborough industry, the economic benefits spill over into many trades and retail sectors in the districts, including tourism, right down to the taxi business!
People come to Marlborough from either overseas or from the cities bringing with them a small fortune, which they then proceed to spend on buying land developing a vineyard and building a very up-market million dollar plus mansion of a home; all very good for the economy of all Marlborough. Confidence emanates from the region as more and more demand for quality wine grows throughout the world not just in New Zealand.
One of the most important men in our district, Peter Yealands, a local multi- millionaire businessman who is now grape grower/winemaker has the largest, independently owned, acreage of land under grapes in New Zealand and maybe in Australia too, he mainly grows his grapes in the Seddon district of Marlborough. His soon to be opened Winery is a vast building, one of the largest in New Zealand, looks splendid and will be a great asset to the district. He is the other Grandparent to our young grand daughter Stephanie, so I suppose that we are almost related!

More than $400 million of wine has been exported from this region!

Another aspect to the industry is all the manpower required to keep it all growing healthily. Thousands of men and women from all around the world are brought to Marlborough to assist with the planting, training and pruning of the vines, also this manpower assist with the picking of the top quality grapes. Mainly the harvest is done by mechanical means, only the very best are hand picked. This large migrant labour force, put tremendous pressure on the accommodations in the district, many new backpacker type buildings are operating to accommodate them, boarding houses are springing up all around the district, plus many choose to rent their own homes and share expenses with several others. This means there are less rental houses available to local people.

It is thought that there are as many as 2500 foreign workers employed by the wineyards from about 15 different countries maybe more.
The diverse mixture of nationals, creeds, cultures, religions and colours make Blenheim streets alive and vibrant with many languages and brings many new festivals, foods and manners of dress to enrich the lives of everyone living here. I feel very fortunate to be living here at this time.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

My 15 minutes of Fame!

More Taxi adventures.

On Wednesday, while driving the taxi on a day shift; something I seldom do now days, perferring as I do, the Saturday night shift, I had a lady and her two quite sullen teenage sons as passengers. As I turned into MacLauchlan Street I could see a strange unusual sight ahead of us; a Mobility Scooter that the elderly and the disabled use, upside down on the roadway with all kinds of little bits and pieces scattered all around and an old lady trying to crawl out from under it all!

I quickly asked the lady if she would mind if we stopped and assisted the old dear, and would one of her boys like to help me pickup the mobility scooter. I was barely stopped before one of the boys jumped out and raced around the taxi with me to lift and right the scooter the while he piled neatly, all the soft cushions back on the seat, I gently helped the very flustered and upset old lady to her feet. She was so upset because it had been her own silly fault, ( she said ) that the scooter had tipped over. She should never have driven over the curb on an angle, so only one wheel went over, leaving the scooter unbalanced and three wheels up in the air, it could only tip over once that happened. Together we picked up all her parcels and goods, then I tucked the knee blanket around the old lady and she was back under way up the street like nothing had happened, but as we drew near and passed her she raised her hand to thank us. I looked back in the mirror and the boys eyes and mine met; warm with the glow of satisfaction at having done a random act of kindness to someone in need.

I didn't tell anyone about this incident except Erle when I got home at night, so thought no-one would ever know. I reckoned without a sweet old lady who really wanted to thank us properly now she was cool,calm and collected.

When I read the local Newspaper on Friday this thankyou was printed in the letters to the editor;

The sweet old lady Mary had not noticed that I was a lady as she had been too flustered and as a friend said, had most likely only seen my navy trousers that are the taxi uniform.

So far from keeping this quiet, the whole town and the taxi company know, so I may as well publish the story here in my blog!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Taxi Drivers Tales.

More Taxi driver Tales.
Another dangerous incident occurred while I was driving my taxi shift on Saturday night.
I had picked up a couple and was driving them to their home, about 11pm. As I drove up to the top of Howick Road, in to residential suburbia in a better than average area. There were a couple of cars parked on the side of the road opposite each other effectively narrowing the road considerably, I said to my two passengers ‘Oh Oh there are people all over the road’ then I noticed the people were spacing themselves evenly across the road; always a very bad sign, leaving me just two options either stop or drive into the people blocking the road, now ofcause that is not allow under any circumstances.
People sometimes do this, when they are desperate to stop a taxi late at night, it is always scary. So I said to the passengers ‘ this is quite dangerous I am going to have to slow up’ I pressed the central locking device to lock the doors and slackened off. When I drew near I saw the real danger, these men had fire on both sides of the road that they were playing with, they stepped out of my way leaving a clear path so I immediately gunned the engine and the taxi leapt forward, just as one the men threw the fire at the taxi, and it smashed noisily on the road where we had just been, with the sound of breaking glass! When we looked back the road was on fire where it had smashed. It had been a Molatov cocktail! Virtually a homemade bomb! A molatov cocktail is a bottle of petrol or other flammable liquid, with a rag sticking out of it that is lit just before it is thrown, in places like Ireland or Iraq, not in quiet
peaceful New Zealand suburbia.
I immediately ordered the dispatch operator to call the Police; and she did. I know three squad cars were sent to deal the problem, but I was never interviewed so it couldn’t have been as bad as I thought it was. I was left quite shaky when I thought about just what could have happened if the flaming bottle had hit the car or worse gone threw the windows. I spent a few extra moments calming my passengers, one of whom was in tears, when I got them home, and also taking their names and address in case the Police needed them as witnesses.
As we were very busy at the time, as soon as I called clear I was given another job in the vicinity. I had only just picked these people up and was under way to their destination when the operator said the police would like to speak to me when I had finished this job; but the job was quite a long drive in the opposite direction so it took me a long while to get back to the site in Howick Road. While driving there I passed two police squad cars leaving the scene and the remaining one was still parked when I was pulling up beside it, but the Police must have received another urgent call for assistance at that moment, because they turned on the lights and siren and raced off.

You can be sure I didn’t hang around there on my own either, so I have no idea what the outcome of the incident was. Only that it frightened me somewhat.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Teagan 21 years old.

Teagan is my eldest Grand-daughter, of three grandchildren, is living in Nelson and is soon to be a Mother herself; next month.
Yet, I can remember the great excitment 21 years ago (though it doesn't seem that long ago)when my daughter Nyle gave birth to her, how my sister and I drove over to Nelson, to get the first glimpses of a new generation. On the drive over there were wild daffodils growing along the roadside looking so pretty that we stopped and picked a bouquet of them to take to the hospital to welcome the baby. She is a child of Spring.
Teagan grew to be just the most delightful little girl, she truely was a credit to my Daughter's upbringing. Now she is a women and I hope she can bring up her own baby as well. As girls run in our family it is almost certainly going to be a little girl, I hope she looks just like Teagan.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Our holiday in Vanuatu

Just imagine waking up each morning to that lovely veiw of the sunshine glinting on the clean clear blue waters of the harbour at Port Vila, Vanuatu.


While sitting dejectedly around the fire in the lounge trying to get warm for the 5th day in a row of the depressingly cold, greyness and rain of winter, Erle and I asked each other just why we were here freezing when we could quite easily be somewhere else in the world, much warmer and comfortable! We decided to see where there was a reasonably inexpensive trip going anywhere that was warm and tropical. First place that caught our eye was Vanuatu in the Pacific, near Noumea but much hotter, as we started checking it out we knew we would be going as it sounded like a good place to relax in the sun.
We very quickly decided to stay firstly at Sebal, a brand new smaller place on the harbour side, near to the town centre that had a swimming pool and coffee making facilities and air conditioning, our only extra requirements. We tried to check this Hotel/motel out on the internet but as it was so new there was almost nothing to find, except it shared facilities with Iririki Island Resort; a much bigger establishment built on its own private island with a free ferry to get there. We would have 7 nights here, then to go on to another much bigger place with its own private beach with free water sports and a Casino for me to play at! This place, Le Meridian, while still in the same town of Port Vila looked like it was quite some distance away on the opposite side.
As per usual, for us, there was a slight hiccup with the bookings; Erle had all his tickets issued under the spelling Earl and had to pay $85 extra to change the spelling for the airline. We didn’t want him refused entry to Vanuatu on the ground that the name didn’t match the passport, or in fact refused permission to leave New Zealand on false papers.
Vanuatu was a very popular destination so we couldn’t just jump on a plane instantly; we had to wait 3 weeks before there where spare seats on the plane, by that time temperatures were warming up here in Blenheim, but we still looked forward to our holiday as usual, and time flew.
I mentioned to my Mother our plans to visit Vanuatu; she told us that her Church had a Mission in the country on the Island of Ambrym. They run a school at Utas had recently had a group of local church people over there repairing buildings and working generally. I suggested to her that we would be happy to take any mission goods they wanted, with us, if it would assist them. She contacted the Minister of her Church and a large bag of goods were duly delivered to us, plus a bag of goods my Mother had donated, so we also filled the rest of a large suitcase with pens and pencils, books, toys and footballs and tennis balls and lots of pretty hair clips for little girls.
One of the coincidences that seem to happen to us; was that the little old lady sitting beside me in the plane turned out to be a missionary going to Ambrym on mission work, she was a Catholic Sister going to the other side of the same Island we were sending Presbyterian goods to!
I have long been drawn to the idea of sponsoring an overseas child, we who have so much as compared to those who have nothing at all, but always reject the idea because I wonder just how they select one child from so many millions of all so needy children, I imagine it must be the Chief’s favourite child or some one like that who is the lucky one. (The person least needy in the whole village) But it does seem that my wish to help in some way has found a way that appeals to me, in assisting small village schools where every child has a chance to benefit a little. Remember we did the same kind of thing in Fiji. We are limited by weight on what we can take, but one extra suitcase is not a lot of a problem. We don’t send money, only goods at this time though that could change very easily.
After a relatively short flight we arrived in the hot sticky but fragrant heat of Vanuatu, where customs gave no more than a cursory glance at Erle’s passport as they stamped it. We asked if he would have been sent back home if he had travelled with the wrong spelling on his tickets and they laughed and said ofcause not. We still felt it better not to run the risk of deportation or something like that.

Sebal Hotel, from the water.

Time was only 1pm when our transfer dropped us off at Sebal Hotel, the biggest newest in fact only, 6 story high-rise Hotel in Port Vila! What a surprise, we were expecting a small cosy place and we got the height of luxury with the best view on the whole island. We quickly changed into tropical gear and were off to the local market for fresh tropical fruit to feast on while we set out to explore the town of Port Vila.

We also bought a packet of the local delicacy Laplap to try; laplap is a little like a meat pie, it has a ‘pastry’ outer layer of snow white tapioca completely enclosing a delicious meaty centre all wrapped up in a piece of banana leaf to form a small parcel. The local ladies cook hundreds of these every day in an in-ground oven at their local village; it is transported on the back of a truck every morning to the market to sell. There is also 3 other different types of laplap, these other three are cooked flat in huge sheets and are cut into squares at the market, these are made of either sweet potato, banana or taro and have a piece of chicken or a whole fish cooked on the top of each small square. We didn’t try them all, only 2 of the different kinds, we found they tasted delicious and smelled even more so when you unwrapped them, but they really were rather too stodgy and heavy for our taste, very filling. As the Islanders do not have potatoes I guess they have to make do with what they do have.
As most of you will never go to Vanuatu, I shall tell you a little about Port Vila and the country generally. Vanuatu is made up of 80 islands some very small but other quite large, spread out quite widely in a ‘Y’ shape, nearly all are very volcanic, several still erupting and shooting our red hot lava regularly, there are tours that take you right into the crater of active volcanos, but we were not that adventurous, this is to be our lazy relaxing holiday.
There is a population of about 200,000 dark skinned people, clustered in small areas and tiny villages, they make their living from the sale of Copra and exporting beef and fish plus some logging, marketing fruit and vegies and ofcause tourists! Most of who come from Australia. Port Villa is the largest town, in fact there is only one other town of any size in the nation, the town is built of a mixture of French and Colonial English and Island kind of design, some of the buildings are quite attractive, the town looked pretty from our 5th floor view at the Sebal Hotel, built as it is along the waterfront and harbour. The whole town revolves around the huge Market, which is the size of two football fields, all built undercover in Island style with high pointy roofs full of the most interesting array of fruit, vegetables, fish, crabs, flowers,
firewood and the laplap and there is a part of this market where ladies have set up small restaurant stalls selling hearty meals mainly to other stall holders and shoppers, and also to us as well once we found the place, we had some lovely meals here at a cost of $2.50 each, plus we had the company of some very nice friendly local ladies. You can buy a fish or a crab and these ladies will most likely cook it for you if they are not too busy at the time. When we tried to do that we chose a lady who was too scared of the crab we wanted to buy as it had the most wicked claw pincers I have ever seen, designed to break its way into coconuts to eat the flesh, it could snap a finger without even trying, so we never got to try the famous Coconut Crab unfortunately ….. next time.
The next day we were up early for a walk before breakfast, not like us at all, early morning temperatures are just perfect. We visited the elderly men who were fishing along the waterfront and they showed us how they catch their fish, already they had two lovely fish so they had the secret. All they used was a long piece of nylon line with the smallest hook on the end you have ever seen, considerably smaller than my little finger nail, not much more than a bent pin we used as little kids to catch cockabullies. The men bait this tiny hook with a big chunk bread and hurl it as far as they can; not far because there is no weights attached to the line only the weight of the bread carries it through the air, when it lands it floats on top for ages then slowly sinks, giving the fish plenty of time to nibble. The sea was very shallow with lots of knobbly bits of coral so the tiny hook with no sinker might be the only way to fish here.
After breakfast we caught a small bus and went to see the local Parliament buildings built high up on the hill above the town, as it was Sunday everything was shut, no worries we didn’t want to go into the establishment anyway, we walked on from here exploring in all directions till drawn by sound of singing and Church Bells pealing all around us, as there are many Churches, we went to the closest one that turned out to be the Presbyterian Church we were looking for to deliver our mission goods, later in the week. We thought about going to the service but as the lovely singing was all in the local Bislama language, so we just stood in the grounds listening and watching all the ladies in their Sunday best colourful dresses all decorated with lace and ribbons, arriving.
We decided to head back to our Hotel and just relax around the pool for the day in the sun with our books and suntan lotion.
In the morning we joined a round the Island tour, with 7 others from all around the world, (Danish, German, English, Australian, Philippine, Vanuatu driver and us Kiwis) this trip takes a full day on roads only slightly better than Fijian tracks. The roads were all made by the USA troops during the war and have never been touched since then, we were taken to the old US airfield and base, not that there is much to see the tropics quickly over-grows neglected buildings, we also saw several old tanks and other vehicles that had just been driven into the sea and left to rust away, at the end of the war.
We were taken into the small village of Watu on the far side of the island and met by 3 lovely ladies who placed flowers in our hair and welcomed us shyly into their village. The tour lady whispered ‘don’t be scared’ just before with loud whoops and bloodcurdling screams a dozen half naked warriors leap out from behind every blade of grass and small coconut tree, brandishing clubs and spears in the most menacing way possible! Terrifying! I can imagine just how the poor explorers and missionaries of old felt when confronted by hostile natives; unarmed settlers wouldn’t have lasted very long at all with these fierce warriors. Once we had been challenged the men all started dancing around us and put on a great cultural show for us, a small band of musicians also appeared from nowhere to assist them. I imagine that also would of happened of old, just before we had been put into the cooking pot!
We were able to enjoy swimming at the villages’ nice beach and buy a few handicrafts from the ladies, before we journeyed on to another lovely beach and a tiny open air Sara Restaurant, this place has no floor, only beach sand and only side wall and poles to support the roof, it was most pleasant enjoying a delicious meal in the sunshine, it was in buffet style with several ethnic dishes to choose from as well as more, to us - ordinary food.
After a long drive we pulled into another village where we all went snorkelling and swimming among the little fish and the pretty coral and chatting with the natives over a hot coffee made with local coffee beans, nice too. It was here that we saw and patted the only cat we saw on the island, though there were a few scared cats on Efira island, this one was a real pet.

On we drove past a beautiful series of cascades at Mele, we didn't walk up to the main waterfall but did see the smaller cascades and they were lovely.

We all had an enjoyable day; more so because of the great mix of foreign people, there were some diverse opinions on some things. Later that evening we met up again with some of them over our evening meal.
We spent the next few mornings trying to contact the Paster of the Ambrym Presbyterian Church to deliver the mission goods, it proved quite difficult, but we were assisted by Mildred and Christopher at the front desk of Sebal, and became quite good friends with Christopher
who invited us to visit his own home on Efira Island a place where no tourists go as it is just a village settlement with no accommodations or shops, though there are two Churches. We were most happy to accept this offer as we had been watching the small boats heading for this island full of natives day and night – all the workers arriving and departing after their shifts. Christopher could not go with us as he was working, but he arranged for his lady friend Neevan and baby Tricia to meet us and show us around the small island. Everyone on the small boat going over to Efira wanted to know just why we would be wanting to go to Efira, there was nothing there for us they said, who were we meeting and why? All were very curious about us.
The island was really very pretty with many flowers everywhere, and a delightful covered walkway, made of trees and vines and flowers that was cool green and inviting to walk through.

Neevan a French speaking Vanuatun, met us and the delightful young lady enjoyed showing us all around the island, the 2 churches,
her home, the women’s house, chiefs house and the special tamtam drum used for calling everyone to a meeting, and all the pigs fattening in small cages at every small house of which there were many all close together with no fences much. There are no motorized vehicles on the island, no roads either only narrow walking tracks. We intended to have a swim at this island on the nice golden sand beach but the wind came up and the sea got rough, so we gave it a miss. Neevan couldn’t understand why anyone might want to swim really as it is wintertime in Vanuatu, though it is very hot to us. A hot sweaty kind of heat that leaves your skin moist at all times, so you don’t really get a good suntan, just very hot.
After the guided tour we returned to Neevan’s home and all ate a picnic of food we had brought with us, on the lawn, with Tricia the dear wee baby playing happily beside us. There could be no cuddles of the baby; Tricia had not seen a white person before and was frightened of us. Christopher is from Ambrym and rather black skinned, Neevan was born on Efira and is less black, so baby was very pretty.
Erle and I both got wet with waves breaking over the small boat on the way back but we agreed it had been worthwhile to meet a real local native and see how they really live, and more importantly to us, to do something almost no one else ever did.
We also took the free ferry to Iririki Island to have a days swimming in the enormous swimming pool complex on the island. There were four huge irregular pools in the part we swam in and at least two other pools we saw in another part of the island, goodness know why they ever built so many pools in such a small area. There are several very expensive resorts on this island; maybe everyone expects a pool of their own!
Took several days of trying but finally we got hold of the Paster from Ambrym and made an appointment to visit him at the local Church where he is staying at the moment. We had really built this up in our minds til it was a huge event of great importance and significance; we were to be humbled!
When ushered into his office, we shuffled past all the big high piles of paperwork and boxes and met the big very black man with a huge smile, he welcomed us and said thankyou for the big bags of goods we had brought, and we settled down to have a nice talk with him, but the phone rang and he sort of waved us out and attended to the phone, it was all over in a few short seconds, we left feeling very up in the air, wondering why we had bothered. Still our name and address are in the parcel so maybe we shall hear from the children of the school in time; maybe. It would have been so nice to hear all about this school and the children in Utas, Ambrym and the area generally, and also just how these goods were going to get to Utas and when.
We did later in fact run into a taxi driver who was from this very small place and he had attended the Utas School and he was very pleased to think the School was getting some extra support.
Every where we went we seemed to meet people from Ambrym Island, I bought a nice carving from one man and a great unusual pendent from another, it is made from the spike of a sea urchin he told me, it is all carved with totem faces, quite unlike anything else I have. We also bought a storybook for children about an Ambrym legend written in English French and the Bislama they speak in the islands; this we will give to Mums Church so all the people who donate to Ambrym will get something back they can have a read of.

Two faced Carved Tamtam Drum from Ambrym Island.

Heard of a Melanesian night being held at another resort just down the road, so we went to along for the evening. The meal was possibly the worst we had in Vanuatu, a BBQ meal where we were the unfortunate last people in the queue who got the odd left-overs of steak and a sausage and the dregs of two tired looking salads, followed by scraps of dessert, not worth paying for at all but in fact it was very expensive because it was followed by a cultural show.

Now this show of mainly dancing was very good, the men wore the native costume which is only a few flaps of leaves that covers very little, plus masks and head gear and ladies wearing grass skirts and coconut shell bras and flowers, the men drummed on their tamtams and the music was very stirring, just a pity the meal let the evening down.
Our time of staying at the Sebal came to an end all too soon and we had to leave for the Le Meridian Resort and Casino, we had been looking forward to this but we really missed the fabulous view from the 5th floor balcony of the Sebal, plus Christopher and Mildred at the front desk, and an especially smiley young waitress who were so friendly and cheerful.
It was unfortunate that when we arrived at Le Meridian our room was not ready for us and we had to wait in the lounge for 3 long hours just wasting time, surrounded by our entire luggage. When we finally did get into our room the whole room smelt musty and everything was damp including all the bedding, because the air-conditioning system was not working well, on hindsight we should have asked for another room, but I think it might have taken another 3 hours so we just accepted it, and by the end of the next day we had both come down with colds, in my case it quickly became the flu with a raging temperature. I was very sickly for the rest of our stay in Vanuatu, fortunately I was able to buy a packet of sustained relief cold and flu tablets that are no longer available in New Zealand because there are so useful when making ’P’, I was very grateful to get them and be able to continue to enjoy our holiday without ruining Erle’s good time.
One reason we were at the Le Meridian – beside the fact they have a casino – was that they have free water sports including catamarans and kayaks both of which we really enjoyed playing with on the resorts own private beach. Skimming across the bay with the sail full of wind was fun, the small boat just flew, and then, sitting around waiting for the wind to blow again was also rather nice way out on the water in the sunshine.
Erle also was able to play a few rounds of golf, while I set about loosing heaps of money in the casino, $100 just vanished as quickly as snow would if it ever fell in Vanuatu. The odds must have been terrible no body seemed to making much, specially not me, so surprisingly I soon gave it up as a bad job, while I still had some money left!
Decided to have a massage on the beach where two lady masseuses wore putting their strong hands to good use, while I was relaxing getting my lovely massage I listened to the ladies discussing how old they thought I was in their own language, I was very amused to hear them decide I was 45 years old. Then when they asked me how old I was, they were amazed to hear I was in my sixties, they were both 54 years old but both looked much older than me. I was told ‘the years had been merciful to me’ and I guess that’s true.
A big surprise for us was turning around and spotting an old friend of ours staying in the same Resort, he was pleased to see us as well since he had been travelling on his own, it was most pleasant to have dinner together and spend an evening catching up with all the things we had both been doing during our holiday. He left the next day and we left the following day. Although there had been many disruptions of the airline flights previously both our flights went smoothly and on time.
Because we staying in two different places we were in the unique position of being able to judge how each resort did things, both were good in their own way, but the training given to staff at the Sebal was vastly superior, everyone had a smile on their face at all times and gave the impression of being over joyed to assist you in any way at all, they all spoke to you as you left the lift or the swimming pool or the dining room, even the ladies cleaning in our room were friendly. Nobody did that at Le Meridian and we really missed those smiling faces, in fact I asked a couple of waitresses to smile for me and after that they did when they saw me, but it was not the general thing, no one of the staff spoke to us unless we spoke first, we missed that too. But service was still very good it just wasn’t with a smile or joyful. Food was excellent in both places.
We do intend to go back to Vanuatu, its such a pretty sweet old fashioned kind of a place, where life is lived as it used to be and most people are happy and content and very law-abiding. Most likely won’t stay in either place, both are too big and expensive for us, we would rather have a smaller cosy little place close to town and the market.

What a lovely sunset as seen from the 5th floor of the Sebal Hotel Vanuatu.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Link to my friends blog

Quick link to my fine Finnish friends blogg, which has lovely photos of Finland and beautiful music.

Bathing the cat!

Raisin, on the table in our conservatory garden.

Bathing the Cat.
Raisin; our big black Persian long haired cat, came home completely soaked to the skin not only with water but also with a thick messy, smelly, primevial swamp mud from the bottom of the local ditch. We live in a rural area where there are some open ditches around cattle paddocks, it was into one of these that Raisin fell, probably while he was trying to catch a duck or duckling, or maybe a frog.

He arrived home during the night and jumped straight up on to our bed! Leaving a thick layer of slimy, smelly, ooze all over our bedspread! He got a very short shift.

We had to get up and run a tub full of warm water and then put our fluffy cat that looked like a drowned rat, in to the water! Not an easy mission! He behaved much better than we expected really, he only struggled briefly, but my Husband held Raisin strongly and securely, but still took a few scratches, while I poured water over him and rubbed as much mud and frog porridge and filth off him.

Then we had to dry him off, it took three towels to do so. He was really still quite muddy but the worst of it was washed off, we left him to wash the remaining mud out of his long fluffy fur, by night he was almost back to normal. As Raisin is almost 14 year old we were a little worried about him catching a chill, but he is just fine.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Wild Pig hunt

Wild Pigs
During the last week Wild Pigs have featured in my life, twice!

On Saturday night while driving my taxi shift, 4pm - 4am I picked up a young man and took him home, he told me about his big wild pig hunt earlier in the week, when he had caught a huge wild pig with the help of his dogs, up in the mountains. I suggested to him that I would be pleased to accept some wild pork instead of money for his fare, he was amazed at this and very pleased to run inside and come back to me clutching 2 big parcels of frozen wild pork. These turned out to be a shoulder of pork and a big pack of pork chops, I was way paid more than I had originally asked for.

We have already eaten some of the pork chops and they were lovely and tender, the rest will be cooked later in the week.

Then on Sunday we drove to Picton, just to sit in the sun and enjoy a coffee on the foreshore, and to stroll along the beach looking at the scenery, which we enjoyed, then started to drive home. We came apon a group of people clustered around something that looked kind of interesting, so in we drove to the carpark of the local hotel. In the back of the carpark there was a weigh-in of Wild Pigs for a pig hunting competition, as the young men were proudly displaying the pigs they had hunted. I took a photo of these brutes - the pigs not the young men.Haha.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The New Zealand Army comes to Blenheim

Today while I was out shopping I was surprised to come out of the Supermarket and find four New Zealand Army Tanks all covered in camerflage nets, sitting outside, while the Army personel were also in shopping and across the road buying McDonalds Burgers for their lunch.

Went up and spoke with some of the Army guys and asked if I could have a look inside one of the tamks, the men were pleased to show me inside the underneath part, and offered to allow me to climb up on top and have a peep in the turrent as well. I am not quite athletic enough to be able to clamber up to the top so I had to pass on that one. Apparently seven men travel in the underneath part two in the turrent, with the guns, and four in the driving compartment, also with guns, so these beasts are quite big. These tanks were not the kind that have 'tracks' these ones are the modern kind, that have lots of huge wheels along each side, so they can drive over any terrian.

Not every day the Army is in our town, they were just passing through from Burnham Military Camp across teh Cook Strait to Ohakea Army Base in the North Island.

Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me, so no photos; sorry.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Our Wonderful Adventurous Holiday in Fiji.

Our Adventurous Fijian Holiday.

The adventure of getting there.
Our good friend Jonathan, ( my meeting with Jonathan is in a previous blog, taxi tales, ) invited us to Fiji to stay with his family and in his village, which is in a very remote part of the interior of Fiji, where white tourists just do not go. We knew this was going to be an adventure, but didn’t know just how much of an adventure! Just getting there was an adventure!
Our Fijian friend Jonathan.
Before we left New Zealand, Erle had an accident and tore the calf muscle very badly, so three weeks before we were to leave, Erle was on crutches going to physio each day and generally in a lot of pain, by time to depart he was able to walk for short strolls and it was improving every day.
When we paid for our airfares it was discovered that my Passport, while not being out of date, would in fact not have the require 6 months validity left by the time we came home, so I had to get a new Passport under urgency at double the usual price; thankfully it arrived a week ahead of our departure.
Porsche our lovely Silver Blue Burmese cat developed a strange rash on her tummy that the Vet couldn’t identify, he thought maybe she was allergic to something she was sleeping on outdoors, and gave us ointment to be rubbed on twice a day. Fortunately this rash vanished just in time for her to be allowed to go to the Cattery, just where she would have gone otherwise I couldn’t imagine, but some kind of quarantine somewhere I guess.
Packing our suitcases was a bit of a problem too, as we were taking so very much in the way of books, musical instruments, pens, gifts and a whole suitcase of clothes for the village people. There was more than 30kg of goods just for Jonathan and his family, so we were not able to take a great deal for our own use, in fact we have never travelled so lightly ever before; just the bare basic necessities of clothes and toiletries. First time ever we have used our full 40kgs aeroplane allowance.
We had booked our air travel; air fares only, no transfers or accommodations, first time we have ever done that either! But Jonathan had told us many times he would be there to meet us at the airport, and take us to his home, where we planned to stay about 3 – 4 days, after which we would just go any place that took our fancy, within the tourist circuit.
Our flight to Fiji was uneventful and enjoyable, not too long, just about 3 hours.
When we got through Customs we walked happily, out to meet Jonathan, But we couldn’t find him anywhere, so we waited patiently an hour for him, thinking maybe he had broken down on the long 3 hour journey from his home to the airport, but still no sign of our friend! Time was now 11pm.
We went over to the Help Desk to check if any message might have been sent for us, but sadly no messages! Next we visited the tour desk and booked into anywhere they could find close by. The Capricorn International Resort had room for us for $130 a night, but we took it as we could hardly camp in the terminal for the night.
There were masses of beautiful tropical flowers in the gardens. Red Hibiscus.
After settling in, we became aware of the predicament we were in; we didn’t even know Jonathans real name, sure we knew he was really Iosepha but there are two more long Fijian names after, that we can’t say at all and didn’t even have written down with us. Nor did we have his full address just that it was inland from Vatukoula, what we did have was a mobile phone number for his family, but we couldn’t phone him at such a late hour, so resolved to wait for morning to try and contact him. We were actually sure we had no chance at all of finding him and giving him all the heavy goods we had dragged around with us, we fore saw our holiday weighing heavily all the way. Sleep disserted us for the night, we tossed and turned and worried til the morning.
A nice breakfast helped us feel a little better, a visit to the Resorts tour desk also helped, the lady would phone the family for us and speak in Fijian, if we just bought a Fiji phone card. Amazingly, it was Jonathan that answered, so I was able to talk to him myself. Apparently he had mixed up what day we were to arrive and was expecting us that night, he said he would try to get to the hotel by 3pm if we would just wait there. The hotel agreed to allow us a slightly later checkout so we could have a swim in their pool while we waited, then we could sit in the foyer and quietly read, very good of them. But at 3pm a phone call from Jonathan told us he had run into problems and was just going to leave home then so it would be at least 6pm before he arrived! The hotel staff looked rather long suffering on hearing that but said ok we were no trouble. Buying a couple of drinks and snacks helped sooth them even more. At 6.30pm I had to phone again to ask just where he was! Finally he arrived at about 7pm in the pitch dark, by Taxi! So at that time of night we had to go about hiring a rental vehicle – not a car, Jonathan said, the roads are ‘not very good’ (an understatement if I ever heard one) so we hired a van with big wheels at enormous expense we thought, but that was ok, what was not,’ ok’, was that the hire company demanded that my VISA card (which did come with us on our trip this time, unlike our trip to Langkawi last year!) be run through the zip zap machine again and the slip signed so that if we damaged the van at all or didn’t return on time, they would simply bank the VISA slip for the whole cost of the vehicle!!!! As I have a very high credit rating, because I always pay off the whole amount every month and never ever use the credit facilities, I knew the bank would simply pay out no questions asked! This fact preyed on our minds for the whole 3-day hire, just because we are excellent taxi drivers does not mean we can’t have an accident, specially on roads we don’t know and the locals are very poor drivers plus the state of the roads was appalling! Also after a sleepless night and his bad leg still painful, Erle was not at his best to head off into the very dark night for a three-hour drive. Nightmare material really; two days of it, and more to come!

````````````````````` The hired van parked in Jonathan's driveway.
It wasn’t a fun drive for any of us, at first the main highway was not too bad but there was a lot of traffic, few street lights, driving rain, people walking along the road, and dogs everywhere, but soon the road deteriorated to a mass of deep pot holes, and eventually worsened till the road was totally unsealed, then to just a cart track and finally to a narrow goat track with rivers of water flowing down the mountain roads. Finally when we climbed to the top of a mountain covered with forest trees, Jonathan said, “right we are here; home” and over in the trees we could see a glimmer of light. The last 100yards was the most slippery and muddy, Erle struggled to make any headway with the van, the wheels just spun, so he backed back down to get a run on and managed to slither up and over the top to Jonathans home driveway. The next day we checked where he had backed back to, and found he was inches away from backing into a deep drain beside the track! We were so lucky as it was very dark with no visibility at all.

More of our Fijian Adventure

More of our adventures in Fiji.

Jonathan's Forest home on top of the mountain.

All the trouble getting to Jonathan’s home was worth it when we were made so very welcome. His whole family had come to meet us, his dear old Mama a huge lady first threw her arms around me and drew us to her feather-bed softness, his older brother and wife, his older sister and husband, younger sister and baby, and his younger brother, Josephine; Jonathan’s young wife and two little children, plus several other young people that we are not sure exactly who they were, they were a lot to take in the near darkness. Hugs and kisses, handshakes and shy smiles all around, the warmest of welcomes and we were taken inside the home. Mama, Josephine, Theresa and older sister in the kitchen by the little kerosene cooker.
I shall try to describe Jonathan’s home, without meaning to be judgemental, or culturally insensitive, just so you will have some idea just how a real Fijian family lives.
Jonathan's forest home on top of the mountain.

Shoes must be taken off when entering a Fijian home; we left our wet shoes on the covered veranda with all the others and stepped on to several layers of warm dry coconut woven matting in the lounge. The lounge, would be about 15 feet x 20 feet quite spacious very clean neat and tidy and fairly empty, there was much to our surprise a colour TV and a DVD player at one end and a huge comfortable easy chair and a two seater settee at the other end, a bookcase with many books and even more precious things like huge sea shells and fancy gourds a pretty bowls, photographs and ornaments along one wall. The construction of the whole house, built on a concrete pad, is corrugated iron and wooden uprights, both roof and walls, mainly unlined as warmth is never needed, just waterproofing is required, but the family have put lots of beautiful pictures, tapa cloth and material to beautify the inside. At each end of the lounge there are small bedrooms, we were shown to one of the two, with a comfortable double bed at ground level, (Jonathan and Josephine’s and their two little children’s own bed it turned out), on the otherside of the lounge another long narrow room ran the whole width of the house, this was the dining room/kitchen, with very long (15 feet) low table about 8 inches high off the ground that you sit on the floor mats around. Along one wall was a cabinet with lots of pretty china mugs and plates, also utilitarian plastic ones and also huge containers of flour and sugar etc, on the floor at the end was a small kerosene burner and several saucepans with steamers, off from this room there is a small lean-to that is open on the sides to let out smoke, there is a waist high iron table where a fire was kept burning at all times, this was the kitchen stove and from here huge meals were beautifully cooked, including bread! I was amazed at this kitchen! There was no electricity in the house; but there was a small generator that supplied enough power to run the TV and one light in the dining room, no more, also there was no running water (all the water used was carried up from a pure mountain spring in 3litre plastic jars) so ofcause no hot water either or washing machine! Not even a kitchen sink, I didn’t inquire how all the dishes were washed or where.

Washroom shower cubical and toilet at the back. Cement bags and hoses still on ground.

The toilet was outside as was the washroom. Jonathan quickly showed us to outside flush toilet saying it was new. Just how new I didn’t realize till I said thanks just what I needed, and found a brand new roll of loo paper and a pristine toilet bowl sitting proudly on a small slab of concrete, the outside walls were plaited bamboo in the Fijian style with an iron roof. Apparently this construction had only just been finished before Jonathan left to meet us, so I was the first participant!
Close besides this building was the washroom also made of bamboo plaiting but roofless, with two huge barrels of fresh rainwater with dippers to scoop out and pour over your body. The floor was made of smooth river stones for drainage.
The brothers told us, that this was a middle class home; not the best quality but far and away from the worst, it was 4 years old and built by a carpenter not by themselves. We felt it was very comfortable in its own way – for a short time.

Veiw from the top of the mountain in of the Vatukoula Gold mine, which is in some way owner by Jonathan's family, not the actual goldmine but maybe the land it is on is owned by his whole extended family.