Archive for September, 2008

John Denver, Wearable Art and Tulips

weekend we attended a couple of shows, booked at the last minute, of quite
different types. On Friday, during our usual pub crawl, we discovered there was
a tribute to John Denver playing at the large St James Theatre, for that night
only. We went along and enjoyed it, though the theatre was less than half full.
A couple of blokes sang a load of his songs, and there were film clips about
his life, but obviously Wellington only has a limited number of John Denver fans.

Saturday we were strolling around the city, following a trail of shop windows
exhibiting items from the World of Wearable Art (WOW) festival, which has been
an annual event in Wellington for the past few years. There is a museum in
Nelson, on the South Island, full of this stuff, but they obviously come to the
capital for the annual event. There is a big ‘awards show’ which runs for several
nights; it is mainly booked out months in advance, but we discovered there were
just a few tickets (returns?) available for Saturday evening. It was held in
the TSB Arena, an enormous venue which was packed out, and was a cross between
wacky fashion show, dance show, and circus. It was quite fun, though one or two
bits dragged slightly. People in way-out costumes were wandering through the
foyer at the beginning, and they did a roaring trade in glasses of bubbly.

Sunday the weather was glorious and spring-like, and we went to the Botanical
Gardens for their Spring Festival and Tulip Sunday. The gardens were crowded
with families, and there was an intensely Dutch theme. In addition to loads of
tulips, there was a windmill, young Dutch dancers in clogs, a street organ and
stalls selling Dutch food. Later we drove to the east coast, next to Wellington
Bay, and did the Eastern Walkway which took us up a high ridge with great views
in all directions, and then back along the coast road. The weather stayed warm and
sunny all day, but then on Monday it went back to winter – strong winds and cold
rain. The weather is never boring here.

Let’s Talk Kiwi!

occasional glossary of New Zealand terms:

Get your ducks in
a row:
organised, sorted out

Dairy: Corner shop

All gone to custard: gone belly-up, pear-shaped

Bach: Holiday home (North

Crib: Holiday home (South



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Between the Mountain and the Sea

Taranaki region, halfway up the North Island on the west coast, is famed for
two things: its many interesting gardens, and the presence of Mt Taranaki which
rises up from the centre of the region as a perfect snow-capped volcanic cone.
We were warned that it could be hard to see, being often covered in cloud, but
last Saturday our luck was in, and as we landed in our little plane from
Wellington we could see that the sky was clear and the white cone was sharply
etched against the blue sky.

spent most of Saturday exploring the slopes of the mountain. Clouds came over,
and often the peak was obscured, but we were still able to catch glimpses of it
now and then. We walked up to Manganui Gorge, which cuts into the mountainside
and still had snow in the bottom. It is reminiscent to Tolkien fans of the
Lonely Mountain Erebor and the valley leading up to Smaug’s lair in ‘The
Hobbit’. We almost expected a fiery dragon to come bursting out.

Around the Mountain Circuit takes about three days to complete, so we only
managed to do a short stretch, along the mountainside to Dawson Falls. This was
still fairly challenging, as on the way back the path we were on forced us to
ford a small waterfall, getting our jeans and boots totally soaked. Despite this,
we enjoyed our 5-6 hour hike on the mountain, with some good views and interesting
scenery. We were quite ready, though, to drive back to New Plymouth (the main town
of the region) to shower and change at our motel before going out for drinks and
a meal.

some other New Zealand towns, New Plymouth seemed fairly ‘happening’ on a Saturday
night. We had a nice leisurely meal in an Indian restaurant, and later on found
a cocktail bar that was open and fairly lively (admittedly everyone else in there
was less than half our age).

stayed cloudy all day, so we left the mountain brooding in the clouds and focused
on gardens and other things. First we did the Coastal Walkway which runs for about
4 miles along the coast from New Plymouth port to the mouth of a nearby river. It
has to be said the beaches and seashore are not too inspiring along there, but it
was nice to be able to stride along on the level for a change. Later we visited
Pukeiti Gardens, on the north side of the mountain, which specialises in rhododendrons
and other spring blossoms. This was quite pleasant, but not a patch on the (free)
Pukekura Park in New Plymouth which we visited just before flying back. This is
very extensive, and well worth seeing – almost rivalling Kew Gardens. We
visited the Fernery and other glasshouses, which were very good and full of orchids
and other blooms. The grounds are very well landscaped, with lakes, a waterfall
and a very fancy fountain which is lit up with colours in the summer.

out we got great views of Mt Taranaki in the evening light. Coming into Wellington
the plane was buffeted about a lot, and when we emerged we discovered there was
a howling gale blowing. Welcome back to Windy Wellington!

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Daffodils and Disasters in the Wairarapa

Wairarapa is a fertile and rural area of the North Island, to the east of Wellington
across the Rimutaka Hills. Last Sunday was the Daffodil Festival in Carterton,
a little town in the Wairarapa. We drove along the steep winding road across
the Rimutakas to spend the weekend over there, including visiting the festival.
The weather was glorious, definitely spring at last, with blue sky and hardly a
cloud except over the hills. The festival itself was fun, and the town was
crowded with people and stalls. We looked round the stalls and visited an art
exhibition and a flower show, but the main attraction was catching a bus out of
town to the farm where the daffodils grow. We joined the families wandering
about picking bunches of daffodils of all kinds, and then paid on the way out
for what we’d picked. The proceeds go to charity, and it was altogether an
enjoyable event, helped by the great spring weather. One thing about Carterton
is that everything, including the public conveniences, seems to be

disasters, not to us, marked the weekend. One was on Saturday, driving on a
back road from Martinborough to Carterton. We rounded a corner to find a car
upside down in the middle of the road! There were people already stopped, and
apparently no-one was hurt, but it was a fairly startling encounter. On Sunday,
just leaving Carterton on the bus, we noticed a column of flames and smoke from
the town centre. Apparently a house had caught fire, while the occupants were
at the festival. No-one was hurt, but the police suspect arson.

over at the Wairarapa we paid two visits to the Tararua Forest Park, which
includes the range of snow-capped mountains which separates that region from
the west coast. On Saturday we climbed a ‘moderate’ hiking trail to get a view
over to Mount Holdsworth. This involved scrambling up a steep hillside, with
only a vestigial track, but we made it (just about) to the top and enjoyed the
view and a well-earned cup of tea. On Sunday, daffodilled-out, we drove along a
narrow gravel road to reach Waiohine Gorge. We were going to do some walking
there, but this involved crossing a long narrow swingbridge high above the
gorge, and Ian chickened out. In the end we walked into the gorge to the
riverbank and back again.

Let’s Talk Kiwi!


occasional glossary of New Zealand terms:

Moderate (of paths): incredibly steep

Awesome: jolly good

Morning tea: piles of cakes, muffins etc. to
give an excuse to stop work for a bit

Manchester: soft furnishings

Farewell (verb, transitive): to say goodbye to


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Dancing, Books and the Rimutakas

week we attended a couple of community events in Wellington. On Monday we
watched a public show entitled ‘Dance Your Socks Off’, in which local dance
groups performed in the middle of the Reading Courtenay Complex. There were a
variety of styles (tap, jazz, belly-dancing, salsa and lots and lots of
hip-hop) and a wide range of ages from tinies to people even older than us
(imagine!). It’s amazing to discover just how many different dance groups there
are in the Wellington area.

Saturday morning we went to the Downtown Ministry Book Fair, held in the TSB
Arena. The place was crammed with secondhand books and people looking through
them. It was very well organised, with books sorted by category. We were quite
restrained and only bought 10 books.

Sunday the weather was bright and sunny. We took our newly acquired car
(‘Tottie the Toyota’) out for the day and drove round the head of the Bay, to
the Rimutaka Forest Park. Once there we took the Orongorongo Trail, a two-hour
walk through a river valley and over a ridge down to the Orongorongo River.
This was pleasant, with the sun shining through the trees. We had lunch in the
sun on a log by the river, before heading back to the car.

From there we drove
down the road to the coast, and walked on the beach, which is really a sandbank
between the river and the sea. There were a few people having their Sunday
afternoon stroll, and lots of interesting driftwood on the bank. On our way
back we stopped at Petone (at the head of Wellington Bay) and went to the
Lighthouse Cinema there. The cinema is a typical cosy little Kiwi theatre:
double sofas, with cushions even, and of course wide wooden arms to park your
glass of wine.  Later we went to a pub
and ordered a couple of pizzas. They were so big we couldn’t finish them, so
brought them back in a box when we drove home.

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