Don’t worry…I am not about to preach…I wanted to use this blog to reflect on the sometimes barbaric nature of nature and an adopted “pet” in our new recently-tidied-up garden.
Picture the scene…I was out doing a little sweeping of the seating area by the decking after the garden had been cut back and I heard a gentle buzzing sound from nearby. I looked into the trees trying to locate the source of the noise, worried that I may be the target for an angry wasp and saw something surprising…a Praying Mantis which had caught a wasp and was busy eating it alive. The wasp was buzzing and I could see its jaws moving as the Mantis (who we have named “Peter”) proceeded to eat it alive. Gruesome. I have since seen him with another wasp as well.
So, Peter is our resident Praying Mantis (who was since seen moving to higher branches) and our new pseudo-pet. If he keeps the wasps away, he is OK with me.
It is quite amazing to see how aware these insects are of their surroundings close-up. I couldn’t resist gently tapping on his leg with a key as he sat in wait, blowing like a leaf, and he turned his head to look at me. Just goes to show, there are amazing things happening just outside your door! Enjoy the photo.
We recently visited the Tasman Sea for the first time at Piha (which I am told is pronounced pee-ha). Another beautiful beach with beautiful scenery on the way as we go through the Waitakere Ranges National Park. The sea is much rougher on this West coast than we have seen on the East and as such attracts that interesting breed of hobbyists we call surfers. Did you know that at its narrowest, in Auckland, the distance between the Tasman and Pacific is only around 1.5km?
The sand at Piha and at Karekare just down the coast is very dark indeed (see the photo of my feet!), indeed at Piha it is part gold and part black which will be related to volcanic activity I dare say. The area is famous for people getting into difficulty due to the strong ocean currents in the area (they even have a TV show about Piha Rescue!) and having had the chance to frolic in the Tasman Sea (you will be pleased to know there are no pictures of me in mid-frolic!), I can confirm that my calves were aching the following day just from trying to stand up in the surf – fair to say that there isn’t much between here and Australia if you get swept away!
Piha beach is split into two by the enormous presence of Lion Rock which looks very much like a lion when you view its profile – a little like the Egyptian Sphinx I thought. Lion Rock is a sacred Maori site and historically was used as a fortification – you can walk part of the way up but not all of the way due to safety concerns over falling rocks.
I want to open this post up for comments (so please do comment)…but what do you think you would miss most when moving to a new country?
Note that I exclude people when I think about this.
Before we came to New Zealand, we were told we would miss British sausages, cheese, chocolate and real ale. Having now had the chance to sample all of these, I can say that you just have to try different things. The sausage in NZ seems to have a higher meat content so they are harder to eat but probably better quality (strange eh?). The cheese is absolutely fine although one called “Tasty” makes you worry about some which miss that label. The chocolate is not as good but my wife who enjoys Hotel Chocolat in the UK (i.e. she has been spoiled) seems to have found Whittakers which is pretty good. And finally there are lots of breweries in NZ and I have already sampled some pretty good ales such as Epic at 5.4% from Dunedin. The food we have tried has been good overall…fresh fruit and veg and fresh meat/fish is a lot cheaper than back in the UK, packaged goods, not so much. It all balances out. So in summary, it really is all good.
So, given you can only bring so much in your case and you can’t bring big items…what do you think is the one item I have missed the most? Well, there are 2 things which having moved into a new house are a problem…one is a surprise and one is not. The first one is not the surprise and that is broadband. Not having the internet at home yet is like missing a limb in an abstract sense. Hopefully it will be sorted soon but it is amazing how we rely on a modern invention – tablets and smartphones become largely redundant without it. Thankfully at least we have it at work.
Bearing in mind we have borrowed a fair bit of stuff when moving into our new rented place, the second item which surprised me is the lack of an airer (or clothes horse, or maiden (never heard it called that until recently))…not having somewhere to dry laundry is a real pain. We had to use curtain rails which is really not sensible…so in the end we bought another one.
So, what would you miss most? What couldn’t you live without? All answers welcome…please comment!
There comes a point after several weeks of concentrating on moving and finding a place to live and doing the essentials…and acting like a tourist…that you have to start earning some money once again and I am no different. Let’s be honest…even long term holidays can get boring eventually…although I was not at that stage yet!
I am lucky to have had people in my previous job to throw in a good word to help me out getting a job over here which is great because it helps my wife and I to settle in more quickly and meet new people.
We have established a Park and Ride commute from our new home in Auckland’s North Shore (the bus drivers drive like bus drivers everywhere…like they own the road). There is a dedicated bus lane which enables the buses to zoom past all of the other traffic for most of the journey (in the words of ELO, hold on tight!)…with great views of the cityscape (shared in previous blogs), over the harbour bridge and then a 10 minute walk at either end. Works really well.
The walking part even includes views of the sea, Lake Pupuke (volcanic crater) and Rangitoto Island. To use a Kiwi phrase “It’s All Good”…”Sweet As”.
The people in a working environment have been great so far…the content of my role becomes a little clearer each day but I don’t want to bore my readers with that sort of detail. One thing that is interesting me is how to get involved in day to day conversation when you aren’t aware of the news or of simple cultural things…I guess this will change over time but you do take things for granted in your homeland when you just have an assimilated handle on cultural things. We talk the same language but with different frames of reference.
Small world but I discovered yesterday that some of our neighbours are from the UK! We are still getting items set up at home (and waiting for our furniture to arrive by ship) so the blog frequency is lower due to a lack of broadband…but hope to be back in full mode in the coming couple of weeks.
Nestled not far from Auckland CBD is the pristine Rangitoto Island. Along with Motutapu Island, it is regarded as a Treasure Island. Part of going there by ferry from pier 2 in Auckland ($28 (£14) return) requires you to ensure you are not taking any ants, skinks, mice, rats, soil or seeds with you – they are totally serious about preservation – especially after clearing the island of possums, wallabies and hedgehogs (to name a few of the pests) in the last 20 years or so.
Rangitoto was formed around 600 years ago as a result of a volcanic eruption. It is the youngest island in the Hauraki Gulf and the last and largest to be formed in the Auckland volcanic field. There are no people living on the island and you have to take food and water with you…and take your rubbish away too.
A moderately difficult walk to the summit at 259m takes around one hour, with add-ons to see (and go into) the Lava Caves. There are also numerous other walks. It is really special to pass through mangrove forests and also to see numerous ferns – including some between 20-30 feet tall! We also saw some birdlife present such as the tiny New Zealand Fantail (not my picture sadly as they were too quick).
Well worth a trip…hard to do it justice with the pictures…but you can see the crater and me outside one of the lava caves below…
Starting out in a new country has to involve a fascinating trip to the supermarket to see all of the delights that pass for local home cuisine…so how does a trip to Countdown in New Zealand go I hear you ask?
For UK readers, Richard Whiteley (RIP) and Carol Vorderman are nowhere in sight (phew!).
Well, of course there are plenty of similarities to supermarkets anywhere…but some differences I noticed to the UK is the ability to buy live mussels – big ones by UK standards. There seems to be a little less focus on pre-packaged items although of course you can still buy things like ready-made lasagne and frozen pizza. There is more cultural diversity in goods due to the demands of a diverse population. There is also a great selection of pies. I was quite pleased to see Heinz Baked Beans and Marmite…although UK Marmite is actually branded up as “Our Mate” in NZ as someone else uses the Marmite name…to be honest, I am quite tempted to try the local brands anyway – when in Rome and all that…or even in Auckland…but a love of UK Marmite can run deep…
I have also seen trolleys referred to as trundlers. Being something of an aficionado of crisps, I am able to vouch for the quality of the local produce in that regard already…although I am yet to sample the green onion flavour…
Anyway, a couple of items I thought worthy of a photograph to share with you…the first is some wine on the shelf…check out the prices!!! Who on earth pays that? At a 2:1 exchange rate to the UK, that is £400 for a supermarket bottle of red wine.
The second made me laugh when I saw it…Lynx Legend body spray…in a gold can with an “Extremely Irresistible” warning…with this much gold and a “legend” tag, now everyone can be as irresistible as Mr T. Pity the fool who doesn’t choose it.