My workplace is split between Auckland and Wellington and I finally had the chance to visit the capital of New Zealand…all paid for by the company! Result.
I was delighted to discover, on landing there, the sign on the outside of the Airport Terminal…”Middle of Middle Earth”…but the delight didn’t stop there. On entering the main terminal where all of the cafes and shops are I was greeted by an enormous Gollum overlooking proceedings…and then Gandalf flying on a great eagle.
What a marvellous eye-opening start to a day when you have had to get up at 4:45am to get to the airport. A journey along the coast to a compact city was pleasant as was the harbour setting…but sadly work took over then.
I have heard Wellington nicknamed Wellywood, given its association with Peter Jackson and the fact that Weta Studios is based there…there is clear continuing national pride in the success of a small country bringing such a huge series of films to life and to the world. But how long can you really live off this? Lord of the Rings is now about 11 years ago since the last one…The Hobbit has breathed new life but is not in the same league…how long until Middle Earth reverts back to the writings of Mr Tolkien and not a tourist magnet?
Time will tell…but then people still go to Philadelphia to run up the Rocky steps 37 years after the film…so maybe ultimately it is a case of art becoming a part of history.
(Apologies for photo quality here…mobile phones are not good cameras!)
Insects tend to have a bad reputation really. If we come into contact with them on a regular basis, they tend to be in the “pest” category for sure…either they bite you, or try to eat your food (or lay eggs in it!) or spread disease. Mosquitoes are the biggest killers of people in the animal world thanks to malaria. That said, we love Butterflies and Ladybirds generally – maybe the pretty colours?
Anyway, I can’t recall ever being moved in such a really positive way by insects before – I only wish I had a photograph to share with you but they were not allowed. At the town of Waitomo lie caves which Glow Worms inhabit…not the only such place by any means but a great experience to travel by hand-pulled boat underneath a wonder of nature.
Glow Worms are not worms at all, they are actually the larval stage of development. They dangle “fishing lines” from the ceiling of the cave and use bioluminescence to attract prey from the river below. When something gets entangled, they pull it in and eat it…and sometimes they eat their neighbours too! Once the larval stage is complete, they undergo a metamorphosis into an adult with no mouth parts with a primary aim of breeding before death.
Travelling by boat in silence through a cave where all you can see is the insect’s gentle light illuminating the world around you is truly one of the most surprisingly beautiful things I think I have ever seen. Wow.
Before I came to New Zealand, I was asked if I would get a tattoo to enable a much quicker settling in process. You will be pleased to learn, dear reader, that this is not a tale of my first tattoo.
Instead, this is a tale of my first trip to watch Rugby League outside of the UK. I have been to watch the sport only a few times before in memory…Wakefield Wildcats and Doncaster Lakers…
Rugby League was invented in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire and has a stronghold along the M62 corridor in Northern England. They try to grow the sport from time to time without real success. It seems no different over here in some respects with a stronghold in Sydney, Australia. Rugby League is popular but not in the same zone as Rugby Union…but then the All Blacks are a big draw in NZ.
For anyone not familiar with the 2 rugby codes…suffice to say that Rugby Union is generally not as entertaining with a lot of kicking and you can’t see the ball half of the time. In Rugby League there is more running with the ball and you rarely see a bad game. It is surely one of the more exciting things in sport to see someone running the length of the field with others chasing after them and you wonder if they will make it to the try line.
My opinion on Rugby Union is perhaps based on the fact that watching England play is quite dull. I always prefer watching Wales (Welsh ancestry might help!) who seem to have more flair. Perhaps if I get caught up watching the All Blacks my opinion might change.
Anyway, we headed to Eden Park to watch the Vodafone Warriors take on the Canberra Raiders. Bus travel to and from the venue was included in the ticket price and we had a good time…both teams are average at best in the context of the NRL but the Warriors came out worthy winners at 54-12. Not a kick was missed.
Eden Park holds 50,000 people…so a crowd of just over 18,000 was a little lost and really raises the question of playing in a suitable size ground for a better atmosphere.
Here is a photo before the game started for your viewing pleasure…quite a venue…
You realise just how fragile the world truly is when the ground beneath your feet is smoking and bubbling.
I have had the privilege of seeing the devastation that a volcano can cause when I visited Mount St Helens in the USA in 1998 – many years after it had erupted in 1980…incredible to see a mountain collapse…if you have not seen a video of this eruption, please do look at this link. I have also been fortunate to visit Mount Etna in Sicily and Mauna Loa in Hawaii – thankfully none were erupting at the time but evidence is all around to show just how our world is still being created to this day!
New Zealand lies where the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates collide on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”. The country experiences regular earthquakes (much like those seen in Christchurch in the last few years) and volcanic activity which is there for all to see in the Taupo Volcanic Zone – which is growing each year. There are advantages to this such as the fertile soils and the harvesting of thermal energy for heat and electricity…but it all comes with a big WHAT IF?
Where Lake Taupo (616 square km) now sits was a huge volcanic eruption in 181 AD…it sent ash 50km into the sky and the effects of creating a red sky is recorded as being visible in China and in Europe. It is impossible to really imagine. Mount Ruapehu to the south of Lake Taupo is the tallest mountain in the north island and is an active volcano…WHAT IF?
I went to Wai-O-Tapu thermal wonderland between Taupo and Rotorua where the ground smokes and bubbles all around you. Strange that even here, you see a stark beauty at what nature can deliver…the smell of hydrogen sulphide dominates Rotorua’s air but look beyond that and admire the colours and formations and there is so much to be amazed by in this fascinating landscape as steam rises all around you, mud bubbles, the Lady Knox geyser erupts (albeit forced) each day and the world changes in front of your eyes.
When will the next major eruption strike? Where will it be? Will we know ahead of time? Can anyone really be sure? Until then, let’s marvel at the beauty of nature and respect its sheer power…and if it happens, I think I’d rather either be a long way away…or perhaps right next to it!