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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

23rd Sept – Wuthering Heights

From Balcutha – famous for its concrete bridge and very little else ( and no picturesque in into Dunedin as it was foggy until we got there. )

The first challenge of the day was to walk up Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world as certified by the Guinness Book of Records. At some points its gradient is 1:2.86, and to do it you have to walk leaning forward. I avoided using the steps – more of a challenge and got to the top easier than I thought.

The next challenge was to drive along the Otago Peninsula – with my blonde driving (and in a Transit) the 30 km along the coast, with the other side steep hills. No crash barriers or fence and a drop into the Bay. If I got it wrong by 3 feet we’d be paddling.

WE stopped off partway round at Larnach castle, a Victorian folly. The mist was still swirling around the top, which made it feel eerily like a Hammer Horror film set.

Reading the history of the place, the owner had 3 wives and outlived the lot. One died suddenly overnight at 38, another from blood poisoning – you’d have thought the third one would have known better – perhaps she had a death wish. (two children also died – I’m sure it was all perfectly innocent, but scary.

With the opportunity to see an Albatross on land, we drove further round the coast, but with a 45 dollar admission and no guarantee of it producing the goods, we watched the Shags on the coastline. (Cue for a Frankie Howard ‘Oooh No Missus’)

In the evening we went to Pirates Rugby Club, (est 1882) to watch the inevitable one sided USA v Australia game. Great club – it had its own giant screen and indoor stands to watch the game. The club’s décor was like a deck, with its own steering wheel, bell and poop deck. Most people there were cheering the underdog – the Kiwis could never support Oz, and the Yanks in the bar were shocked by the support – used to moans about Vietnam, Iraq, Bush, etc.

Kate Bush – Larnach Castle was a house at the top of a Moor, surrounded by swirling fog – I expected Heathcliff to appear.

24th Sept – Sunny

Matchday. I wandered over to Pirates Club to watch W and P play rugby league for Pirates. It was just like watching them from when they were 7, it was cold and raining, and several degrees below the surrounding area – Ox Hay sub-climate. It also made the day feel like a real rugby tour, different rugby club, hangovers all round (myself excepted of course). One lad told me that his friend had done the classic, ‘no sleep for days, loads of beer, deep sleep, wet the bed.’ To make it worse, he flipped the mattress to a bigger wet patch, nicked a dry sheet off another bed which straight away, soaked up the wet. The lad was worried about his own bed, as his mate had jumped into his to sleep.

Inside the club, the girls from the women’s team were serving food. Their line to the lads was: take the order, write it down, then ask for their name, followed by their
phone number. This really unnerved the lads as they were the ones who normally had the cheesy chat up lines.

They invited me to sit with them, and told me that they’d only had one day off the beer in two weeks (Monday didn’t have a World Cup game). Top girls – I remember being that young once. I have several Welsh mates who I’ve teased mercilessly about Welsh ‘Orange’ backs. One of the rugby girls saw Jonny coming out a tanning studio on Friday. So it isn’t the south of France lifestyle then. Luckily I am avoiding them for a while.

The club was very well run, with volunteers serving food, and they had organised the bus company to pick up and drop off at the stadium, and back, ensuring easy drinking before the game, and afterwards for the French – All Blacks game.

The game itself was better, England still too lateral, but the Otago students were out in force again with their ‘stand stamping’. I think that this will be the identifying factor of games played there, just as mud and foul weather made Carisbrook the ‘House of Pain’. (The stamping went on regardless of which team was kicking).

Please can someone explain Tindall’s role in the team. At least 3 bombed chances, knock ons and a knee in his captain’s crown jewels does not endear you with fans let alone Zara, who may be a little annoyed about other matters. I don’t think a couple of good games in two years is enough to keep your place, at the expense of Barritt, Geraghty, Turner Hall, Flutey, Hipkiss, Trinder, Tait et al. There’s still room for improvement at the breakdown, who don’t like us there, and we have the masters of breakdowns next – Scotland.

Back to Pirates to watch our potential quarter final opposition. Simon Shaw put in appearance, as he had played there as a Colt and was meeting up with old friends. He smiled for phots and signed programmes until everyone who wanted it had been done, and then he was left to enjoy the night. Message for professional players who haven’t bridged the amateur era – this matters to you old clubs, and players – let’s not lose it.

Sunny – The Muppets Boney M et al – because whilst it rained all day, Jonny still looked tanned.

25th September – If only I could

The cold damp had got into my bones, and I was very cold and stiff when I woke in the van. With no ‘powered’ site, there was no heater to warm me up. We showered and packed up quickly so the van’s heater could go on while we were driving. We left Dunedin – a great rugby city, and drove to Fox’s Galcier. We had virtually no radio coverage all the way – no bad thing, as I’m getting a little bored of the ‘classic’ soft rock that seems to be on every channel. Bloody Queen and Bruce just doesn’t do it for me, especially once an hour. Sadly the monster drive meant very few opportunities for photos today, as we drove through Wales, Scotland, Norway to the Forest of Dean. To me, with a geography degree, it was fantastic to see such good examples of the Thursday 3.15 lesson.

In the evening, I had a certain satisfaction in watching Scotland lose by one point. Apparently at home, they last minute drop goal chance was hampered by an offside not seen by the referee or the one-eyed Kiwi commentators. Everyone in the bar was supporting the Argies, except for Howard and Hilda, English fans in his and hers black England shirts, who were supporting Scotland because it was part of Britain. Obviously they’d never been to Murrayfield and been charged ‘English’ prices in hotels, and talk of 1967, 1990 etc. they stood in front of the fire cutting out the heat as well.

I thought I’d help Moody with an inspirational team talk for Saturday, and ask for the fourth verse of ‘God Save the Queen’ to be sung as well –after all they are singing about Edward’s Army being sent home again. (Bit of homework there for the readers – what is in the 4th verse?).
‘ Forget the crap about Scottish independence, and their oil, which they’ve had back via the Barnett formula anyway, think about the prices your sick relatives have to pay for prescriptions, think about the cost you your kid’s university education, think about the 600,000 who are being put out of work for doing the same jobs as the Civil Service in Scotland who are retaining theirs. Remember Gordon Brown at the 2007 Final, who didn’t sing the National Anthem and then smiled when South Africa won. Think about RBS and HBOS, and how your grandchildren will be paying for Scottish greed. They’d be bankrupt as a country without us – now show them who’s boss.’

(Tongue in cheek of course).

If Only I could – Alexander O Neal – it stood out in a soup of AOR, and it was in my head all day.

26th Sept. My baby just cares for me.

Today was fantastic – again. Another exciting day for a geographer. We went for a walk up Fox’s Glacier. It started by me putting on walking boots that must’ve been from the late ‘70’s – leather with hooks not eyelets, and no Goretx either. We walked for 20 minutes from the car aprk upwards to the side moraine. It is dangerous to enter a glacier by the front face, as its continually moving – this one about 10m pa. This is because it is one of the few places in the world where glaciers are part of a temperate forest (Patagonia being the other area), and thus they move much faster than say in Iceland. (no amongst the frozen chips either).

Once at the Glacier, we had to puton crampons, and follow in single file to ensure that we didn’t fall down any crevases. The ice changes colour from the side to the middle and on top, and has less rocks in it towards the middle. The ice also changes texture on top as it sees more of the sun. We also experienced walking through the glacier in a tunnel, and a lake on top.

Before we started today’s mammoth drive, we nipped across to Lake Mattheson to see the mirroring effect – partially there, the breeze just rippled the top a little too much. The Top Gear drive led us to Punukaiki and the Pancake Rocks – which do what it says on the tin. Really weird stacks and coves, which geologists don’t know how the rocks have led to look like a pile of pancakes.
Punakaiki is one street with about 10 houses, a pub, and a camper park. In the pub there was several Welsh fans and especially a loud welsh girl who covered the All Blacks flag with a Welsh one – you can take the girl out of Swansea…….

The camper park was less than 20 yards to the beach and I fell to sleep listening to the gentle roll of the waves on the shore.

Nina Simone was on as we had lunch at lake Mattheson, looking at Mount Cook for the last time this holiday. Cool.

27th Sept – Little old Wine Drinker Me

It s hard to keep this interesting as a blog, when I keep cooing over the views. I could honestly take a picture every 100 yeards and to put that into interesting terms is damn difficult. We drove across the Buller National park to Blenheim, about 250 km and only passed maybe 3 hamlets and one small town. The sun was beating down in Blenheim, and for the first time this holiday, I didn’t need my coat on. Whilst being Tea Total, past delights meant that being in the heart of the Wairapa Valley was really exciting. We must have driven for the best part of an hour past vines, mostly producing the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world - and not just my opinion either. Past names like Hunter Valley, Villa Maria, Spy Valley, and then the ultimate…. Cloudy Bay. I had to visit it. I’ve drank it several times and it’s a memorable experience every time – especially when we drank 3 bottles and were only charged for two at a certain restaurant in Burton. The views were again lovely – hills either side of a flat sun drenched valley. I must admit, I was tempted, but my vow of abstenence is not ready to be broken yet. We also visited a couple of artisan producers – chocolate and jams and chutneys, and I felt a stab of sadness, as they talked enthusiastically about their products. That was my job to listen, encourage, develop support for them, and it’s now gone, just as things were really starting to happen for them. Dream jobs don’t come along for people very often, and I was lucky enough to have one. I doubt lightening will strike twice.

Little Old Wine Drinker Me – Dean Martin.

Friday, September 23, 2011

22nd September - I can’t stand the rain.

After three days of stunning scenery that may never been matched in terms of what I will get to see in my life, rare flora and fauna, often indigenous to New Zealand, fresh air that awakens the soul, and the feeling of solitude that the surroundings gave, I needed the buzz and vibe of a city, with some semblance of culture. Last night’s pub certainly went some way towards meeting it, and today I went to Invercargill’s Sothland Museum and Art Gallery to stimulate the mind. (Nihootetaniwha – the triangle of knowledge).

I was struck by the artwork of Nigel Brown, who has used his travels to develop his experiences and thoughts into art into a style that is a cross of pop-art, Munch and Gauguin – (I know that they have very different styles.) Art and crafts in New Zealand is huge, many Art Galleries, both commercial and connected to public facilities. It would hard not to be inspired as an artist, by the variety of landscapes – after the museum, we travelled to Balclutha, going through coastal scenery, featuring ‘a Portland Bill’ like peninsula and bay, estuaries, hills and coastline like North Devon, and rain forest, before entering pastureland. We saw a fossilised forest, the southern most point of New Zealand (although I’m not sure what that makes Bluff).

Nigel travelled extensively, experiencing a variety of cultures. His exhibition was introduced by his own quotation. ‘Travel can be described as a ‘kind of invasion of the mind’ by outside influences. I come home with a mind shifted in subtle ways. And from one journey to the next, you are no longer the same.’

After South Africa, I saw the influence of Mandela’s foregiveness and hope for the future, in Chicago, I saw a culture bound by music and art, but also that capitalism doesn’t mean that politeness and respect is lost. I’m not sure what I have learnt so far, from New Zealand, and how different I will be when I come back.

It rained all afternoon, and apparently this morning – although not in the museum, so I chose an Anne Peebles song, ‘I can’t stand the rain.’

Kilometres done in the first 14 days: 2700.

21st September – It’s the End of the world as we know it (and I feel fine).

This morning I remembered the camera on my morning run and got some pretty views of dawn at the lake.

We drove from TeAnau down to Bluff. Bluff was a little disappointing, in terms of scenery. We drove past an industrial dock and through an industrial area to a residential area at the end, with two cafes. It’s New Zealand’s equivalent of Land’s End. At lunch I ticked another box, and ate Oysters at Bluff (in a pie with salad rather than raw or battered – done battered and not brave enough for raw.) The pie rested quite heavy as it was my first pastry for months – and it was steamed Scottish style.

The pastry reminded me of the U15’s tour to Hamilton Scotland. The after match meal was a Scotch Pie. J saw it twice, as she couldn’t get the hang of left handed drinking and had to pay the price by ‘heading’ half a pint of wine, followed by the Scotch Pie. Tour theme was ‘Little Britain’, and dressed as Annie, she got off the coach back at barracks, throwing up over her bedjacket and nightie.

After an hours walk to Bluff Look Out, we saw Stewart Island, an hour’s ferry ride away. New Zealand is very like the British Isles with thousands of little islands around the coast.

We drove down to Invercargill, Southland’s Industrial centre, with many Victorian and Edwardian buildings. We were too late to explore properly, and ended up in Waxy O’Sheas – the inevitable Irish pub at the end of the universe. In front of a roaring log fire, with Irish stew to warm me up, we watched the Tonga Japan game – a great open game – locals surprisingly supporting Japan.

Sadly, while watching rugby, a text came through letting me know that DHM had passed away. A true stalwart of Burton RFC, he put far more in than he ever took out, as both player – excellent flanker, and Promotions and 200 Club operator. For years the all women Promotions committee, plus DHM, looked forward to the monthly draw of his balls (200 Club ones of course). I will miss him.

The day also saw the demise of REM as a group, hence the choice of song.

20th September – Going Underground

My dawn run this morning was along the shoreline of Lake TeAnau. In the half light of dawn, the snow capped mountain tops peaked over the ghost-like mist that floated across the Lake. Mills and Boon stuff that – I didn’t take my camera with me, which was a disappointment, as even my point and press technique of photography would have captured the moment.

Never short of a word, today I can’t articulate the beauty of what I’ve seen today.

We travelled to Lake Manipouri, where we had an hour’s boat trip across the Lake to West Arm. That alone was stunning. When there, we visited Manipouri Hydro Electric Station, driving inot the heart of a mountain, about 2km, where Lake TeAnau water is funnelled down into Lake Manipouri, 100m+ lower through 14m high turbines. The turbine room looked like the scene from a James Bond movie – Goldfinger?  We the crossed the Wilmott Pass on a gravel road 670m above sea level, at its highest point. It took an hour to get there and at the highest point, there was still snow on the ground, some of which had lasted from the first fall in autumn.

We arrived at Doubtful Sound. I’ve posted pictures as words fail me. I drifted into the scenery, with my thoughts, but I really can’t tell you what I was musing over, but it relaxed me.

On rugby matters, James Haskell is rapidly becoming my favourite player in the England team. He is honest enough to admit that some of the England players haven’t been pulling their weight, and have been guilty of sloppy play. How refreshing after the usual double speak of ‘taking positives from the game’.

Going Underground – The Jam. 2km under a mountain, with a rock formation of Gneiss, Schist and Quartz, some of the hardest rock there is, and some of the drilling was done by hand.

Monday, September 19, 2011

19th September – Coffee and TV – Blur

We woke up in the van in Kaikoura Rugby Club car park. No shower this morning – rubbish. We met the Burton couple for a coffee before driving to Te Anau. We just happened to choose the England hotel, and the lads were mooching about. Toby had a cut eye, and I checked with Lewis on the state of his knee – all OK, thank goodness. Next time I’ll meet the boys is probably Sky City Auckland.

I’ve not had much luck with driving the last couple of days. I banged the side of the van trying to line up at a diesel point, and today I was doing 110km instead of 100km. I was spotted by a child policeman who was lovely and gave me a ticket – 80$ fine. He was more interested in what games I had been to, what I thought of England’s chances and the fact that The All Blacks feared England because they knew how to win a game, even if it was ugly. In the UK I’d have been patronised, by some smug police officer who’d have been better off solving real crime.

The prettiness of Lake Te Anau relaxed me back into my holiday, ready for another Bucket List job tomorrow - a cruise on Doubtful Sound.

 Coffee and tv - Blur - not missing the latter in the slightest, but coffee with England - maybe I will.

18th Sept. Sweet Caroline.

Sweet Caroline - Neil Diamond - ably assisted by the students of Otago University.

Match day 2. We drove down from Oamaru to Dunedin via the Moelariki Boulders. There spherical rocks on the beach are like giant rabbit droppings, each raisin being about 4-5 feet tall.

We found Kaikouri Rugby Club on the top of Maori Hill in Dunedin. The hill falttens out to provide space for 4 pitches. We were met by the Secretary who ran us down into Dunedin. He told us that he had been talking to one of the engineers in the stadium. They thought the reason for Jonny and the other poor kicking in the stadium was down to the heat from the spectators mixing in with the cold drafts from the four open corners to move the air around at higher levels in the stadium. The Georgian kicker tonight also suffered from the same problem. The ball seems to stop and change direction mid-air.

We met with a couple from Burton RFC who are living over here along with a couple of lads from the club. There is a corner of a foreign field that is forever Burton.

After last week in the Octagon, it was much quieter. The controversial 50000$ phallic waka had been renamed the whole area the Cocktagon. There were no real Georgian following, sadly, but in the stadium the local students offered their support. They were the instigators of the stand stamping, and again the ends were literally rocking. They also led the half time singing in Sweet Caroline and released yellow smiley balloons – they certainly know how to create a party atmosphere.

There is also a theory amongst the obsessive Kiwi fans – did you know that Colin Pinetree Meads had 8 sugars in his tea before a game – that is the level of detail that they are at. The theory is that the All Blacks will throw the France game, so that they get in England and Ireland’s side of the draw to avoind the Boks and Aussies. The 24 years of hurt is surely addling their thinking.


17th September – Up Up and away – Mike Sammes Singers

I got up this morning at stupid o’clock, to tick off something from my bucket list. I thought I’d been clever, keeping my phone time on BST, and calculated the alarm time. I’d set it 2 hours wrong, and the alarm went off at 2 instead of 4 o’clock.

We drove for an hour out onto to the Canterbury Plains. The driver told us that he had been speaking to the father in law of the blonde in the Tindall dwarf throwing case. His son had been to school with Zara and was now living in Queenstown and had offered to take the lads to a bar. Move along please, nothing to see. We spent half an hour getting the balloon ready, and inflated and then up into the air we went. We were up there for an hour drifting silently, watching the sun rise up, shortening the shadows, and the animals in the fields. Eventually we came down and landed in a field with a young bullock. It had horns.

The bullock was very interested in the balloon and us, especially when we were bending over to put it away. Its horns bothered me. They were sharp and I’ve have preferred him with a Diane sauce and mushrooms.

We drove then to Oamuru, about 90 minutes north of Dunedin, ready for the game tomorrow. When most of New Zealand feels like it is in the 60’s, this place was in the Victorian era, with half day closing on Saturday afternoon. They have made a feature of their Victorian buildings, filling them with Victorian memorabilia to be almost a Black Country Museum, with a modern twist. In the evening, we went to see the little blue penguins. There was a bull seal lazing close by where they came ashore, but he wasn’t interested in the penguins, he couldn’t get the wrappers off. (I’ll get my coat). 

In the Otago daily Times, there was a letter from Happy Feet. Happy Feet was an Emperor Penguin who was found on a beach 1000s of miles away from where it should be near Wellington. It had eaten loads of sand thinking that it was snow and was ill. Wellington zoo nursed it back to health, with the vet’s bills being paid for by the public. It was then let go, with a radio sounder attached to its back. Within a week the radio signal was lost, and the fear that it has been eaten by an Orca. The letter thanked the NZ public for helping him over his tummy problems, and for their excellent hospitality – and all the fish. He wanted to let the public know that he would be out of touch for a while whilst he had a holiday.

16th September. What a Wonderful World

Song by a guy who is known by one name - Louis

We went on the Transalpine train between Christchurch and Greymouth today. A stunning journey across the Canterbury Plain, through Arthur’s Pass national Park and onto Greymouth. You could sit and admire the view from your seat, or get blasted on an outdoor viewing platform. (which I did).

I’ve never been on a train where you get such an adrenalin rush before, but as we were going along, it was great fun trying to switch on and focus the camera, and get the view without bushes or telegraph poles, before the six or seven tunnels blocked the view anyway. The sinuses had a real blast, the air was so fresh on the way, it almost made you feel light headed. The train went through several geographical zones, from flat grassland to alpine to tropical rain forest-all in four hours.

The train trip also reminded me of another scenic train trip- Aberystwyth to Devil’s Bridge. Winding through pretty woods and valleys, with the sides of the train open. We did the trip on a specially organised trip when our finals had finished. Needless to say it wasn’t the soberest of trips, and the train had to be stopped while the lads had to be fetched in, from their cowboys and Indians game.

By the way prostitution is legal in New Zealand. There was an article in the newpapers, where the prostitutes’ spokeswoman was saying how they were looking forward to the world Cup to boost business. She also commented that the English in particular were particularly deviant, and shall we say imaginative. In Queenstown, the walking sleeping bags had the young Englishman in the pink suit, and when I heard on the radion this morning that some of the English team were at a dwarf convention, it didn’t surprise me. Still it gave them somewhere to rest their beer.

15th September – Rolling in the Deep

Today’s song is because Adele must be on the radio every hour on the hour while we drive around – she really has gone global. (how cool am I – I bought it on day of release in January.

Nearly every tiny village we’ve stopped at, for what ever reason has a war memorial. (The one’s that don’t were founded after 1914)>#On each of then there are 10’s of Names. I found Geraldine’s this morning when I was out running – two main streets – 40 names on the memorial for world War 1, maybe Gallipoli or Passchendale fighting for a war half a world away for their mother country. I do wonder when New Zeadland now feels more British than living in Britain, why we courted Europe so much, when we could have traded with the Commonwealth (fastest growing economy outside China is India)., and done more for mutual benefit, instead of paying billions to support crap apples from lazy French farmers, and corrupt Meditteranean countries.

We drove into Rolleston, a small town outside Christchurch – well I had to see it. Well presented houses and a few little shops – a really nice place to live – why leave home?

Then onto the English city, Christchurch. A week on from my last visit and the magnolia are in full bloom in Hagley Park. It started to rain and we fell for the tourist info of go to Lyttleton. (Craft shops and artisan food). Reality was different. Their high street wasn’t just closed – it was falling down – the earthquake had struck it. The fish and chip shop, the baakers, and a soup kitchen were operating out of portakabins. The rest of the shops and bars were closed, awaiting demolition. We bought fish and chips there – such determination to keep operating had to have our tourist dollar. We sat in the van, eating them, pouring down with rain, watching the grey sea – we could have been at home!

In Canterbury Museum, newly opened that day, New Zealand’s history was proudly mapped, and we were greeted enthusiastically as punters. Proudly on display was antique china, brought over by the early settlers. China from Derby, Stoke and Worcester – the world really is a small place.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

13th September – I drove all night

As an aside, in the Otago Times this morning, the campsite we stayed in on Saturday night was quoted as saying that it had broken the record for the number of vans on site
– 700, which was 3 times their previous highest – in 2005 when the Lions fans were in town. The English may not have partied like the Argentinians, but they certainly are here in force.

Today has been much quieter – perhaps a little too quiet for my liking, but stunning scenery. The South island is known as the last great wilderness and from these pictures you can see why.
It gave me time to reflect on my early experiences of NZ.
  1. The number of fat people is proportionate to the number of McDonalds here – very few – and long may both trends remain the same. Remembering correlation co-effecients from Statistics, I wondered if there was one.
  2. Everywhere we’ve ate, from ‘greasy spoon’, to pubs, and bistros, the food has been freshly cooked and of excellent quality
  3. Driving can be pleasurable if roads are not controlled by speed bumps, traffic signs and too many cars and lorries. Speed limits are not broken, because no one is held up by speed bumps, cameras congestion etc.
  4. We have been met everywhere by a great deal of politeness, courtesy and good service. The Kiwis are intelligent enough to realise the value of the tourist dollar.
  5. People respect the land, their towns (no litter) and each other.
  6. They pay a fair price for food so that their farmers make money (it is a bit more expensive that at home, but is fresher, tastier that ours.
  7. They live breathe rugby – black is the most common clothing colour and there are All Black signs, shirts, hats, sheep everywhere.

14th September My heart will go on

Why didn’t the iceberg hit Celine Dion?

Today was my birthday and I woke up to the windows being frozen on the inside. It must have been 40 years since we woke up in our bedroom with ice fronds stuck to the glass. The bonus was a lovely clear sky and a stunning sunrise around Lake Ruatanuaha, as I went for my morning run. Showering after that run and in the cold was like after a hockey game in February. Freezing changing room, with the hot water stinging my rapidly pink skin.

We had an hours drive from Twizel (sounds like the hard toilet roll), up to Mount Cook and there was a dusting of snow on the road as we approached it. The sky was bright blue and we could see the top of Mount Cook – its covered by cloud 2 days out of 3 so we were really lucky.

We were taken and then walked for 20 minutes across gravel tracks taken from the galcier’s moraine basin. The tiny speedboat that was taking us around Lake Tasman to look at the glaciers was smaller than the Titanic, and I wished that Celine Dion had gone down with Captain Smith for her crimes against music.

Lake Tasman was a blue green colour because of the sky, and the icebergs ranged from almost clear ice, through green to white, and held either small smatterings of rock or they were almost black with moraine. They started at the top of the glacier about 300 years ago, and one or two of the bigger ones had broken off when the Christchurch earthquake hit in February.

The morning was like re-living O level geography lessons with the Margaret Rutherford look – alike, Nancy Jones, and the late Henry Earp – sadly he’s passed away, but he always was late for work – usually by about 10 minutes and spent the rest of the day like that. After all these years, I still remember the terms I learnt in those lessons, as the guide explained glaciation. The flat glacier floor stretched for about 40 miles – you just can’t get your head around the length of it. What ever is causing weird weather at the moment, the glacier had retreated by about a mile over the last 40 years.

After lunch admiring Mount Cook in all its glory, we drove over to Geraldine to catch the Scotland v Georgia game – how bad were Scotland? I bet they get themselves up for England though. When we walked into the bar, you could hear the brushwood roll across the bar room floor – strangers were in town.

Had another thought = perhaps Celine Dion dislodged the icebergs into the lake.

12th Sept What a day!

What a day! We went on the Shotover Jet Boat Ride – a real adrenalin rush, as they took the boat to within inches of the river walls at 80km per hour, and then spun us around in 360 degree turns. The driver was chatty, and told us that the England rugby team were rafting and were coming on his boat in the afternoon.

After the ride, I took pictures of the stunning Shotover River gorge, and was rudely interrupted by the Sky tv team getting out of a car and running towards some steps in
the cliff. As they did so, Nick Easter and followed by Haskell, Foden, Shaw, Ashton and Hartley rounded the stairs in their rafting gear.

We went for a coffee and Tom Palmer walked in. I politely asked him for a photo, and as I stood alongside, I smelt last night’s beer coming out of his pores. (2 nights on the piss – they were out until the early hours in Dunedin on the Saturday night, and in Queenstown on the Sunday – rivalling Burton Vets for stamina – a proper rugby tour.)

As we sat with our drinks, in bounced james Haskell, with a gigantic black eye. ‘Aah,’ he said to Palmer, ‘The Vomiter’. Tom didn’t quite make the rafting, and in that state, I’m not sure the Shotover Jet was a good idea.

After a poor performance on Saturday, Johnno seems to have allowed them a bit of rope to let their hair down, before preparations begin for Saturday’s game. It was obvious that they had started their campaign badly, and Johnno has decided that a bit of tour fun is needed to release the pressure. We will see the effect of this on Sunday.

The rest of the lads followed. Easter looked at the sausage roll the Sky cameraman was eating and ordered 4. (He is known as Nick Eater on Planet Rugby Forums. He was followed by the others.

Haskell was at the counter with Foden, Ashton and Hartley, and being the ‘groupie’ thatI am, I asked for a photo. Haskell said, ‘of Course, lets do a power pose’, and we all squatted haka style. W couldn’t operate the camera, and Haskell went over to help, by pointing at the button, and saying ‘use the big round button on the top that has been there since the camera was invented’.

Sky asked if they could film the bungying in the afternoon. Haskell said ‘of course, if I die, you can send the dvd to my mum.’ Funny bloke.

The Shotover Jet is a fantastic experience to do, but I can’t promise that the England boys will be there when you go.

In the café where we had lunch, I looked over and there was Matt Stevens, having a coffee – perhaps looking for ideas for his own coffee shop in Bath? I got the phot of course!!!

What is weird is that I made no effort to find out what they were doing, where they would be, and managed to bump into them anyway. After a gondola ride to the top of Ben Lomond by Queenstown, I landed the big daddy photo – Johnno. Its onto Wanaka and Twizel tomorrow – the players can have a rest from the weird middle aged stalker.

Oh what a day – The Saw Doctors. Fantastic experiences enhanced by meeting a great bunch of lads.

11th Sept - Every breath you take.

We left Dunedin to drive to Queenstown via the Rock and Canyon Range and Ranfurly. On the way we saw less than 20 vehicles going both ways, driving for the best part of three hours. Thisd really is Top Gear driving. Miles of open road, with one or two challenging bends - I wanted to be in something sporty and black a Citroen DS3 perhaps, with orange wheels to play at rallying, but even in a transit van it was exhilerating. Driving how it should be no A38 or M6 Junction 10.

Ranfurly is a tiny Art Deco town named after the settler that enouraged settlement in Otago. He also gave the Ranfurly Shield for New Zealand Clubs to contest - the 'Log of wood.'

It was then onto Queenstown, where we stopped for a coffee, and guess who I saw - Mark Cueto, Alex Corbisero, and Richard Wigglesworth. I promised Mark that I wasn't stalking him - although I feel that I can call him Mark now.

In the afternoon we went on a Lake Wakatipu cruise. The lake is 1m deep in some places and over 390 in others - below actual see level. The trip was entertaining in itself, but was made more so by a yacht that ran aground on the shallow water and the driver had to get the 'coastguard' over to pull him off.

We went into a bar to watch Ireland struggle against USA - why with those backs and back row?, and the Wales v South Africa game. There were some Aussies that had been drinking all day. They were on rugby tour, but the Australia Italy game had been moved from Christchurch to North Island nad having tickets for the England game, they went to Queenstown instead. They were dressed in what could only be described as rainbow coloured padded romper suits. (one told me that they'd seen England earlier, but more people were interested in taking pictures of them rather than the players. There were obviously green and yeallow suits, a couple of black ones for the Kiwis touring, and the one in pink had been given his because he was the youngest on tour - unfortunate when you are English, with a bunch of Aussies.

They were trying to drink the place dry, and had got through 7 bottles of rum (served with coke, moving onto the reserves, as well as 'dare drinks such as vodka, Dubonnet, and whiskey - together, Baileys etc. They paid for they drinks with money from wallets stored in their pants. (the suits had no pockets). Well ladies, we all thought Aussies had big packages, but now you know the truth!!!

Every breath you take - The Police, because I'm not really stalking Mark Cueto.

Sept 10th - Everybody wants to rule the world.

Match day. I got up early (jet lag) so went for a run to liven me up, and saw a beautiful sunrise from Dunedin's white sand beach.

 We then walked into Dunedin, and I've got to say that it didn't have a feel of Edinburgh to me (much friendlier to the English and not as expensive). The railway station was something else - with a definate feel of what Dunedin is all about. It hosts an art gallery, celebrating the local scenery and artists, and the NZ Museum of sporting heroes (Todd, Clarke, Hadley, Hillary, as well as the inevitable rugby stars). Next to it was a farmers market. Not one that just sells things like Olives or garlic - hardly local to the UK, but home grown fruit and veg, meat all served with a passion for the produce to people who wanted to eat good food. The apples were twice the size of theNZ ones we get in the UK - they must think that we are mad wanting the 'runt of the litter' crop. I could go off on one at this point about the quality of food and the lack of iterest by the Brits, but food really is valued here. Even the 'Blue Cod and Chips' I had for tea were very very fresh. Simple food served well.

On match days, life revolves around the Octagon ( a road system, with a 'square in the middle'. Around the square were a variety of bars with the pavement culture that we don't seem to have embraced even though our weather conditions are similar. As it was the RWC, Dunedin had also put on a show. There were bands, Irish and Scottish dancers, my particular favourite was a 75 year old singing duo, dressed as a cowboy and cowgirl, doing a sterling rendition of the Gambler - the spirit of 2007's team is something we need this time.

And then the Argies arrived singing their songs. Most were very upbeat and involved them bouncing up and down. As they walked round, they accumulated more and more fans. This was also accompanied by hire cars bedecked in Argentina flags tooting their horns, driving up and down.

We went for aa walk and bumped into Simon Shaw, Lewis Moody, and Mark Cueto, so I did the groupie thing and asked for a photo.
 (Facebook Friends only).

The ground looks as though its transparent like a glass greenhouse, but its actually more like a polythene cloche - translucent. It has a sports block at one end, and is open at the corners. I sat behind the gaols - the ones where Jonny was missing all the kicks in the second half. The stand was seats on top of scaffolding and was very drafty (like at the NEC). They were metal and once the Argentinian fans started jumping, the noise encouraged everyone to start to stamp and the stand was rocking - I think you would have heard the noise on the tv. I should imagine the cacophonous noise put JOnny off a bit. The less said about the actual game the better, suffice to say that there were a lot of annoyed and frustrated fans. Our one flair player proved his worth - oh for a couple more, who'd have been at home with their cornflakes - JSD anyone?

Still a win's a win, and a better position to be in than Wales who played better and lost. The party continued long into the night, and included a foam party around the Waka penis. ( I  leave it to your imagination.)

Everybody wants to rule the world - seems quite appropriate for the first weekend of the world cup. Tears for Fears 1984.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

9th Sept - Right Said Fred

Continuing the rugby theme, I was a little jet lagged last night so was in bed for 9pm. Sleep was broken, but I managed to sleep through to 5am and woke refreshed, albeit with a headache. (I think 'its airplane flu - over in 24 hours). I put the tv on, in case I could sleep for a further hour, but couldn't. There were 12 hours on the tv, 6 of them had rugby on - beats the coverage of our national game - soccer (women all over the UK say thank goodness), and the talk shows were about the game, not the money celebrity and WAGs.

Later that day I picked up the camper van. It all looked so simple in the van hire place. All I had to do was put three pieces of wood between the 2 benches to make 2 singles. The first time I put weight on it, it collapsed, and I went through - even with my new svelte figure,

With 2 suitcases, rucksacks, 4 quilts, and 2 blankets (it might be cold), re-erecting it was a feat of engineering, which even Brunel would have admired. Everytime we want something, we have to move three thinigs around to get at what we want. The collapsable suitcases have to be stored under the beds, and that's where our clothes are. The fridge is virtually the only space we have for food and drink, the wardrobe has 4 hangers, and the drivers seat has my clothes for morning on. If we want to move around, one of us has to sit on the passenger seat while the other moves the bags around to do whatever, and then back again. Joy - I wonder how long it will be before we crack, or find a solution.

As most middle aged people have to do, I have to get up in the night. Not wanting the palarver of getting dressed to walk to the campsite loos, the van loo can be used for 'wees' only in the night. When I went to flush, the bowl filled with water. I stopped it near the top, but couldn't work out how to get rid of it. I went back to sleep, before the next wee break, when I worked out that there must be a way of flushing it, which I found, and the water button was for 'rinse purposes. Still it took a woman one go to sort it, so why does it take a lifetime and beyond for men to understand that the toilet seat needs putting down everytime they use it. Perhaps it should be called a toilet lid.

Right Said Fred - Bernard Cribbons - from the 60's, because we were getting nowhere.

8th SEPT.- ‘I feel the earth move’

Determined to avoid a mid-afternoon collapse due to tiredness, I caught a bus into the city centre of Christchurch to delay sleep until ‘local time’. I must admit, after visiting New Zealand before, with Christchurch being one of my favourite places, I had a morbid curiosity to see the damage for myself. In Hagley Park, I felt transported back to the English spring. The daffodils were out in force, with blossom on the trees and the Camillia all in full bloom.

There was a nip in the air, as I walked from the bus from South Hagley Park to North. There was a schools rugby competition on, and the cricket squares were beginning to be mowed. There was a little damage from the earthquake, although there was some ground works underway. I walked through the Botanic Gardens to the North part of the Park, along the riverside. A sign advised that the River Avon was polluted and stopped people coming in contact with the water, although there were ducks on the water, which looked pretty healthy.

I crossed Rolleston Avenue (27 hours in flight to end up back at home….) to walk into the centre. The Christ Church College – Alma Mater, I believe to Andrew Mertens and Daniel Carter, as well as many other All Blacks, had some scaffolding, but seemed to be fully functioning as a school. Across the road in Worcester Boulevard, the tram line was closed off, Rolleston House and the Arts Centre were fenced off with RSG’s propping up some of the walls. A valiant Cheesemonger and a Bistro was still operating, although on the door there was a certificate from the local council stating that the building was safe for occupancy. That was as far as I could go, however, as the city centre was completely fenced off. What struck me was that less than a block away, life was going on as normal. The multi-storey hospital was fully operational, businesses were carrying on as usual, and homes were undamaged. The earthquake must have been really centralised in on a small area, but in the hotel, there are signs asking us to boil water, that have recently been lifted and asking us to preserve water by being as quick in the shower as possible, as to the east of the city, locals stll don’t have a supply. (I bet those French props will be helping preserve the water.)

I could not feel the buzz of the city like last time though, although billboards and the buses had defiant advertisements from businesses, and student volunteers that they were carrying on as usual and were determined to re-build their Christchurch. Maybe that enterprising can-do spirit demonstrated by their immigrant ancestors, business-as usual where possible, and the advertisements will carry them through. I do hope so.

On my way back, I was cheered up by a visit to Christchurch’s contribution to the World Cup. The fact that they can’t host games is a tragedy, but nothing in comparison to what happened to them in September last year and February. They are determined to take part, however, and have set up a Fan Zone. To me, Wales and Rugby School aren’t the soul of rugby, Christchurch is, with New Zealand the heart. No other country has the same degree of intensity, in defining their national identity in the same way. Dallaglio has recently said the same. Even the cleaning ladies in the hotels know and understand the game and have opinions on who the New Zealand scrum half should be, but also who their opposition’s best player for the position is. There are people in the UK who are not even aware that the third biggest global sporting event is even on.

In Christchurch, they live and breathe rugby, and on every piece of open space there are rugby posts. On site was a history tent, showing how New Zealanders have watched (and listened) to games in their homes, from the start of the last century to today. They are also using the Fan zone to show the ambitious plans to re-build the city centre. There was a tented nightclub, public artworks and the ‘Earth from the Air’ photography exhibition to add to it. There are obviously rugby posts and a big screen to watch the games – watching with friends and making friends from rugby is one of the things I love about the game.

‘I feel the Earth move’ – Carole King – a little insensitive perhaps considering the enormity of what happened.