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February 26 2011: And now, a public service announcement

My thoughts go out to everyone affected by the Christchurch earthquake. If you're reading this overseas, or even in New Zealand, and you want to help, the best thing is to donate to the NZ Red Cross: www.redcross.org.nz . Come on the diaspora, get in there!

Good on Kiwi Corner, the only New Zealand restaurant in Paris, for hosting a fundraising dinner on Tuesday night. Don't even bother trying to book, it was sold out within hours. And never mind the French, it will be wall to wall expat Kiwis. I think they could hold a fundraiser every night of the week and still book out. Please support this great "little restaurant that could" any other night that you can.

And don't worry about me - my family and friends are largely in the North Island so I don't know too many people affected by the quake. Seems like the few people I know in Chch have come out safe and sound, despite the shock. Kia kaha guys.

Now, back to our normal program schedule. 

26.2.11 17:24

February 19 2011: A Partridge in a Pear Tree

There's a new man in my life... and his name's Jamie. Surname Oliver, to be precise. Yes, I know he's already married, but for once I might bend my principles and declare my undying love.

It's all Tsar's fault. I was looking for something to read with my morning coffee and so I picked up 'Ministry of Food'. I sneered at the patronising introduction where he exhorts people to pass recipes on, like some kind of gourmet 'Big Society' - and then I started reading the recipes.

Simple, easy to follow - for the first time in years, a recipe book made me think "I could make that right now." Within about five pages, I was hooked. I started reading bits aloud to Tsar. Perfect roast lamb! Banana tarte tatin! And then I got to the vegetable jalfrezi and jumped up off the sofa - I have to buy this book!

And yes, I know you can get recipes online. But I'd much rather spill curry sauce on a paper book than on my laptop keyboard... and I am actually one of those old fashioned people who is rather attached to books. The more people talk about the digital revolution, the more of a forcefield I exert on the printed word, before it feels like books are just falling out of the sky...

Ok, so this has been exacerbated by the fact that my birthday has just come and gone. 9 out of 10 presents were books, and very welcome they were too. Here's what's on my bedside table right now:

  • Marie Antoinette (biography) -  Stefan Zweig
  • Big Weather: Poems of Wellington (thanks Dad - very subtle!)
  • Cats in Books - A Celebration of Cat Illustrations Throughout The Ages
  • Se Croiser Sans Se Voir - Jean-Laurent Caillaud - letters sparked by an In Memoriam plaque (looks fantastic)
  • The Help - Kathryn Stockett - black servants in the American South
  • Finest Years - Max Hastings - Winston Churchill, 1940-1945 (thankfully for my bookshelves, this is a loan).
  • The Book of Salt - Monique Truong - the imagined story of the Vietnamese chef of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. I started this on the Eurostar and am 3/4 way through it... food! Paris! What's not to like?
Crikey - and I have a suspicion there are more yet to come.

Fast-forward to Saturday, and Emma, Miles and I are paying a visit to their local butchers. This is exactly the kind of old-fashioned neighbourhood butchers you would expect Jamie (look, we're on first name terms already!) to drop into for three pounds of organic mince, with a camera crew in tow of course.

[Incidentally, vegetarians may want to look away now]

There are three men behind the counter, but no-one is in a hurry, so we wait patiently, reading posters extolling the tastiness of wild venison, welsh lamb and their free range chickens.

I have a recipe in mind which needs three quail. I tried it at Christmas with poussin (essentially baby chickens), but I want to spread my wings, so to speak. I inspect the freezer, and there are some little birds nestling in their own individual wrappers, but I want some for tonight. Have they got any fresh?

No quail today, unfortunately, but they have partridge.I know what the recipe says, but I like hearing from the experts, so I ask him how long he reckons they should cook for. A beardy chap with glasses behind us in the queue pipes up "15 minutes, tops, if you sear them in the pan first". Typical. Everyone's bloody Jamie Oliver these days. 

So I take three tiny partridges home with me and marinate them lovingly in olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. Then I go out with Emma. Shopping ensues.

I come home several pairs of shoes later and carefully plan the whisky risotto, green vegetable sides and partridge to all be ready at the same time. I pull the partridge out after 15 minutes and poke it confidently. It runs a rosy shade of pink. I blanch. Not wanting to poison two of my best friends in the world, I call Miles for a second opinion.

Hmmm. We stand around and think. WWJD - What Would Jamie Do? Eventually Miles prescribes popping them back in the oven with foil over the top. Another 15 nervous minutes pass before they are pronounced cooked. Bloody amateur Jamie Olivers, I mutter, as I pick at my over-cooked asparagus.That's the last time I listen to a beardy guy in a butchers (who isn't actually wearing an apron).

But a good pinot gris cures many ills, and the setback is soon forgotten. It is agreed I have outdone myself with dessert - thinly-sliced pears (what else?) on flaky pastry, with an orange marmelade glaze drizzled over the top.

Ooh la la, I hear you say. How Frainch! Confession time: I got the idea from Mum. I never would have bothered until she showed the way - but it's an incredibly simple dessert and you can use just about any fruit at all. If you're at all nervous about the outcome, buy some rum and raisin icecream as a backup... easy peasey!

21.2.11 23:20

February 18 2011: Aga Saga

Maybe booking a Eurostar ticket first thing in the morning after my birthday wasn't such a good idea. Got home from the restaurant at 12.30 and was up again at 6.30. Yawned my way across Paris on the metro and then nodded off completely in the Chunnel. Woke up with a start and realised I was in England. Jumped up just in time to get off the train in Ebbsfleet. Not as glamorous as arriving in St Pancras, but on the other hand it's not every day I get picked up from the train.

Suspicious Minds

Oh, but first I had to get on the Eurostar. The part that always makes me nervous is UK Immigration. They have this way of looking at me like I'm a shifty customer, just dying to ditch my return ticket to Paris and crash illegally in Surbiton for months on end. Huh.

This time I negotiated the usual interrogation by a dull-eyed official - how long are you going to be in the UK? What is the purpose of your visit? What do you do in Paris? Do you have a residents card? I pulled out the card, and then before she could even spot the expiry date, I pulled out another official-looking bit of paper and said "I'm in the process of renewing it, and here's my recepisse." Her shoulders sagged. Catherine one, UK Immigration nil.  

Walking along the empty platform in the misty English morning, I felt oddly like I was coming home. The train guard saw me passing and I smiled at him. He smiled back and gave me a friendly nod. Yep, you're not in France any more, Toto.

At the top of the escalator, a bulky gentleman stood behind a booth marked Kent Police. This is more security than they have when you get off in London, and I had a moment of paranoia. He inspected my passport and said "Whereabouts in New Zealand you from?". I said "Wellington" and he broke into a smile. "I'll be there in a month", he said. 

I come over to London so often that arriving is not a matter of slow-motion running and tearful reunions, but a quick hug and "Awright love, how are you". It's really my home away from home, staying with the Kiwi Mafia. I don't come over to be a tourist, I come over to see some of my oldest and closest friends. So it was straight home to Tonbridge to inspect the new digs and have a cup of tea on the sofa. 

Tsar's new place is huge, massive - quite disorientating after my tiny apartment. I wandered into what I thought was the kitchen, but is in fact just the Aga room. Through an archway is the actual kitchen, which, no kidding, could eat my apartment for breakfast and still have room for lunch. I popped my home-made banana muffins in the Aga to warm up and we sat around with a cup of tea. 

We did the school run, through gorgeous English countryside, starkly beautiful in winter. The school is on one side of the village green, with the cricket club grounds at the far end and the medieval village church, complete with tower, at the other. These kids are growing up in a landscape straight out of the books I used to read when I was growing up.

Swimming lessons were in a private school just down the road, in a country house like a mini-Hogwarts, all glowing honey-coloured stone and battlements. The sun was a huge fiery disk on the horizon. When we came out, the sun had been replaced by the lemony moon. The kids were fizzing with excitement, because tonight was the school disco!

Murder on the Dance Floor

I know what you're thinking - I mean, I didn't go to my first disco until I was at least 10. But the school is frantically fund-raising for new classrooms - behind the idyllic rural facade, the Con-Dem cuts are biting deep. So some volunteer teachers and a wedding DJ had hired a disco light machine and bulk-bought the crisps. When we arrived, the party was already in full swing. There was possibly more running and sliding than your average nightclub, but the volume level and incidence of fisticuffs was about the same - except that they had their mummies to kiss it better.

I've never been to a disco that finished before tea time. The younger classes had their party first, and then the older kids were starting. I sat around watching 5 year olds get their freak on to Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, thinking "discos were better when I was a kid", but then the DJ made a daring retro move with Kylie Minogue - and Madonna! And I cheered up a bit.

Most of the dancing consisted of jumping up and down and flailing their arms wildly - a pure joy in movement that far too many adults have lost. But some kids had seen more than a few music videos and were pulling some pretty fancy moves - there were even a few floor spins and arm waves.

But at 6.30 the lights came back on and we had to drag the ravers away, aided by the inducement of lightsaber bubble-blowers.

First, Annoy Your Cheese 

Back home, we fed the kids sausages and I unwrapped my master-stroke, the Vacherin Mont d'Or. Vacumn-packed on rue de Sevres, it had survived the trip under the Channel, to release its perfume in Tsar's kitchen. "Trust me", I said, "it'll taste better than it smells", hoping that this would be the case.

I found a tray, wrapped the box in foil, sprinkled a bit of Savoyard white wine on top, and popped it in the Aga, feeling like I was having some kind of colonial/mother country homecoming. Steamed a few veges, unwrapped the ham and salami, and voila, dinner. The cheese went down all too easily, as did the white wine and then we collapsed on the sofa with the DVD of 'Boy', by Taika Waititi.

It's a lovely movie. I'm not sure how much English Pete absorbed, but Tsar and I were in fits of giggles at recognising large chunks of our childhood. Michael Jackson! Poi E! Lollies from the local dairy! Daggy haircuts! But then we never had to deal with the heartbreak of absent parents or the despair of poverty. The story was bittersweet, but the acting was superb. I'm not sure that finishing the film with the Poi E / Thriller mashup was quite the right tone after the wrenching story had played out - but good on them for thinking of it.

19.2.11 12:55

Heaphy Track Day Two: How Green Was My Heaphy

[The stars have finally aligned - i.e. I am home, alone, and not completely dead from jetlag. My blog site is up and running. And I have fresh content!]

You know, there’s a reason the West Coast is so nice and green. It rains there. A lot. Now, rain on the roof is a nice comforting sound when you are home snug in bed, be it in Wellington or Paris. However, when you have to get out of your sleeping bag, roll it up and walk for six or seven hours in the rain before you get to the next hut… the drumming on the roof takes on a more ominous tinge.
From Dec 2010-Jan 2011 Xmas holiday

It was raining when we woke up, rained while we had breakfast, and was still raining when we set off from the hut. You get the idea. But in the middle of the Heaphy Track, there’s no bus to catch, no-one to give you a lift, so you just zip up your raincoat and get on with it. There’s something very zen about walking in the rain – the world reduces to the track and the dripping trees on either side, the sound and feel of the rain, the weight of the pack on your back, one foot in front of the other – and the faint possibility that you might get hypothermia.
Totem to the god of tramping - a tramper lives or dies by their feet.

The path goes over tussocky downs for three or four hours. We plodded on, and got to the Gouland Downs hut in time for morning tea. Finally, some respite. As we walked up to the hut, a ranger approached me. Did you come from Perry Saddle hut? Are you the last people off the track? He was standing between me and shelter from the rain, so I sidestepped him and headed for the awning. Oh to dump my pack and get warm. Dad came up a few seconds later and the ranger interrogated him too.

Turns out there was a severe rain warning in place for the area, and there was a danger zone further down the track. If we got to a particular bridge, and the track on the other side was waist-deep in water, we were to turn back. But if it was only knee-deep, it was probably ok to cross. Riiiiiiight. This area was after the next hut, so I figured we could deal with that on a full stomach.

We had a cup of tea and caught our breath, and I pulled on polypro tights under my sopping wet trousers before we headed back out into the rain. I was still wet, but now I was warm. The creeks were now rivers and the rivers were foaming and pounding. I almost expected Liv Tyler to step out from behind a tree and calm the water horses down.
Gouland Downs. It was a bit wet.

To cross anything wider than a footpath, DOC had helpfully put up a swing bridge. Now these seemed pretty robust, and you have to assume after Cave Creek they are on top of the maintenance. However, it is still an act of faith setting one foot in front of the other on a narrow metal platform which sways and wobbles, while below several thousand litres of water roil and churn. Halfway across the first one I just decided to put myself in the hands of fate, and be at peace with the universe. This may not make any difference to the outcome, but it did keep the panic at bay.

Two more hours of plodding brought us to Saxon Hut. We walked into a wall of heat – the wood stove was already going. Tramping makes you very unselfconscious - I stripped off my wet layers and hung them up over the drying rack above the stove. Took off my boots, propped them up outside the hut, and watched the water run out of them.
Helpful weather forecast left by the ranger.

We took our time over lunch, with the 1000 mile stare of soldiers after battle. I fell asleep on the hard wooden bench next to the fire – and when I woke up, the sun had come out!
From Dec 2010-Jan 2011 Xmas holiday
We pulled on the warm and slightly steaming clothes and set off again. After half an hour, we got to Blue Duck Creek, where a tui was methodically going through all the flax bushes, pillaging the flowers, completely oblivious to our presence. After several fruitless attempts we got a few good photos.
From Dec 2010-Jan 2011 Xmas holiday

On the other side of the bridge we had our eyes peeled for a swollen torrent, but in fact all we saw was a big puddle. Waist-deep? Knee-deep? I raised one foot – sploosh! The water covered my boot and tickled my ankle… and that was it. Sploosh splosh sploosh. And the most danger we encountered was wet boots. Of course after three hours this translated into some quite impressive blisters.
From Dec 2010-Jan 2011 Xmas holiday

The James Mackay hut is off to the side of the main track. After the day’s walking, the extra 50 metres seemed like the last straw. We were greeted by the ranger – a very chirpy woman who proceeded to give us chapter and verse on the weather forecast and the state of the track before we’d even put our packs down. What is it with these rangers? It’s great that they’re so enthusiastic, but couldn’t DOC include a page in the manual on how to mix a gin and tonic?
Drying the boots at James Mackay hut.

James Mackay hut is on the ridge that marks the edge of the downs, and on the other side the hill drops away to the sea. From the kitchen you can see the next day’s route, all the way to the mouth of the Heaphy river, six hours walk away.  The forecast was for rain, but right now it was dry and still. The sea was silver in the evening light.
From Dec 2010-Jan 2011 Xmas holiday

A few words about dinner. Dad bought these nifty bag meals – you boil the billy and pour hot water in, fold the top of the bag over, and leave for ten minutes. At the end of a day’s walking, most of it with rain sluicing down our legs, it seemed almost miraculous that hot, tasty food could be produced with so little effort. The first night was sweet and sour lamb. Tonight was honey soy chicken. And the best part was that I didn’t even have to lift a finger! I got it all served up for me. Thanks Dad.

Six hours walking doesn’t sound like a lot, but actually it’s plenty with a pack on your back. Add the rain factor and there was a severe risk I would faceplant in the honey soy chicken. So going out into the bush to listen for kiwi was out of the question – I think then we hit the sack before it even got dark, and I got a solid 11 hours sleep, the most I’d had in a long time.

Things I was glad we had brought:

  • Raro (masks the taste of the hut water supply)
  • Swiss army knife (to get into the meal bags)
  • Whittakers Dark Chocolate with Orange Bits (self-explanatory really)

Things I wish we’d had brought:

  • More dried fruit
  • Milo (I never drink Milo, but for some reason it was exactly what I wanted at the end of a long day)
11.1.11 21:35

Heaphy Track Day One: Unemployed, of Paekakariki

From Dec 2010-Jan 2011 Xmas holiday

I am guessing most of my readers may not know where the Heaphy Track is. Well, you know the week before Christmas, how there was that heavy rain and galeforce winds warning for the north-west corner of the South Island? Yeah, right there. The track starts near Takaka and crosses over a remote National Park, where there is no road for miles, and comes down the edge of the West Coast until you reach civilization. This is the story of our adventure…

The first leg of the track (going east-west) is five hours straight up from the Brown Hut. To make sure we were on the track by 11, we got up at 6am for the 9am flight to Takaka. Of course, this didn’t require me to wake up at 3.30, but I did anyway.

We who are about to tramp, salute you.

Dropped off the bags, parked the car, and still had time for a (much-needed) coffee at Mojo and read the paper. Then look for Gate 21 – not part of the main Air New Zealand gates. Not part of the Jetstar gates either. Finally found it down a flight of stairs, behind a vending machine. No sign of the plane though. No staff either. Called the airline, and the plane was stuck in Nelson, but would be leaving shortly.

[Two hours pass. Much coffee is drunk.]

Our taxi^H^H^H^Hplane

The plane turns up, and it’s even smaller than I thought! The pilot climbs out onto the wing and comes into the terminal to get our bags. Checkin formalities are non-existent – I think they would have taken anyone who was still waiting at the gate after two hours. Security procedures are equally absent – just as well, because everything is hand luggage, and my liquids and swiss army knife are kind of essential where we’re going.

View of the Marlborough Sounds.

The flight was short and fairly uneventful, with lovely views of the Marlborough Sounds, inflight copies of Woman’s Day and free Minties. But we landed at 1.30, and the shuttle dropped us off at Brown Hut at 2.30. Only five hours of track ahead of us. Right.

From Dec 2010-Jan 2011 Xmas holiday

The track description says that it climbs gradually on the first day. And I was glad to find this was actually the case. After a few hundred metres in the blazing sun, the path ducks under the trees, and it winds its way up the hill with occasional views back down the valley.

Some progress.

For the first hour we are oohing and aahing at the bush, the sunshine and the general loveliness of it all. Then I spend a couple of hours trying to get the straps on the pack balanced so it isn’t digging into my shoulders and the weight is balanced. This is really, really important. Then the last couple of hours are spent wondering how much further it is to the hut.

Aorere Shelter. Are we there yet? ARe we there yet?

By 7.30pm we have climbed 600 metres and made it to the Aorere shelter. I am fading fast, and have already eaten my rations of chocolate, muesli bars and dried fruit. Then I remember my impulse buy at Pak’n’Save – a tiny block of Mainland Tasty Cheddar. I pull it out of the pack, wondering how it has fared in the approximately 13 hours since it was last refrigerated. I can’t be bothered digging out my Swiss Army Knife, so I just break off a chunk. And did you know that the best way to ripen Mainland Tasty Cheddar is to stick it in a pack and take it for a walk?? It was so… what’s the word I’m looking for… tasty.

8pm and my feet are starting to hurt, not to mention my shoulders. Do I want to take a side path to see the view from the highest point in the track? I don’t think so - I just want to lie down and go to sleep, but there’s a slight absence of hut. My spirits are flagging. I turn to Dad. “You realize this calls for desperate measures, don’t you?” “You mean…” “Yes! I’m going to have to sing.” And I start belting out “Say a Little Prayer”.

We run through as many Beatles numbers (the cheerful ones) as we can remember the words to. Then it’s Elvis, Hound Dog. And DD Smash, Outlook For Thursday. There has to be Crowded House, “Weather With You”, and my own personal favourite, Walking After Midnight (either the Patsy Cline original, or the Fairground Attraction cover, take your pick).

Curiously, singing revives me. I discover that the louder I sing, the higher my boots lift off the ground. The hut, wherever it is, could have heard us from halfway down the valley, but I don’t care. I also discover that Dad knows all the words to Harry Chapin’s Taxi. And embarrassingly, he knows more words of the Marseillaise than I do – I get about three lines in and am reduced to going neh-neh-neh-NA, neh-neh-NA, neh-neh-NA…

Dusk starts to close in, and the white stones of the path shine in the fading light. The path has flattened out, and widens out onto a tussocky plateau. We have reached the hut. It is booked out, and everyone else has arrived and eaten dinner hours ago. They have left the last two mattresses for us.

I have a confession to make. I have this slight character flaw (ok, one of many, but), I don’t like talking to people when I get home from work. I specifically don’t like it when I walk in the door, and before I have even had time to put my bag down and take my shoes off, someone is all over me with “So how was your day?”. I mean, do you actually want me to grunt at you? That’s a big question – if you want a considered, civil answer, please give me the space to catch my breath, shed the stress of the day and incidentally any homicidal impulses I may have collected en route. At this point in my day I am incredibly vulnerable and should only be approached, in silence, if holding a cup of tea or a g’n’t. Not to mention that right now I feel sick from exhaustion.

The other trampers in the hut haven’t read the manual. One guy is almost offensively chirpy, quizzing us – “So where are you from?” I um and err. Honesty? Easier to maintain, but leads to complications and people asking 20 questions about life in Paris. Or blatant lying? This requires a consistent cover story, and could be undermined if Dad decides to get chatty with someone and I haven’t briefed him. “Wellington”, I offer. “Um, but I’ve been travelling.” And I leave it at that.

You may know that there is no electricity in New Zealand tramping huts. Dad gets out his headlamp and proceeds to assemble the freeze-dried dinner, while I slump at the table by the light of a flickering candle-stub. I gaze at the noticeboard. My eyes are tired and it is dark. All I can see is the word ‘PLEASE’ floating in big black letters on white paper.

The nausea is hunger and fatigue, and soon passes. Sweet and sour lamb has never tasted so good. We unroll our sleeping bags and fall into them. I forget to take out my earplugs and eyemask (essential when tramping). During the night, someone starts a chainsaw in the bunk room. I wake up and realize it’s Dad snoring. Loudly. Other trampers are shifting and twitching. I am torn between embarrassment and pride – it’s *my* Dad keeping the whole hut awake! But decide that discretion is the better part of not being tarred and feathered, and nudge him, which interrupts the melody. Briefly. Another tramper starts up a counterpoint, and I roll over, resigned.

In the morning Mr Cheerful attempts further conversation, and manages to establish that I am working for an international organization in Paris. But surprise surprise, I am not a morning person either, and so after some terse answers, he abandons further conversational attempts. I feel terribly rude, but I didn’t go tramping to make small talk, so I resolve that from now on, I’m going to tell everyone that I am unemployed and living in Paekakariki.

1.1.11 20:27

December 29 2010: At The Bay

From Dec 2010-Jan 2011 Xmas holiday

The wind finally dropped today and so Mum and I caught the ferry to Days Bay (on the other side of the harbour) and cycled all the way back – through Seaview, Petone and down the motorway (using the cycle path thank goodness).

Bikes in Wellington need cupholders. I have my priorities – we cycled from the apartment to the ferry, and I detoured via Mojo to pick up a flat white and a cappuccino. However, this meant I had to juggle the coffees and the bike to get to the ticket office.

On the ferry, we were instructed to put our bikes on the top deck – this meant negotiating the stroller obstacle course inside and some steep stairs. But at the other end, I unchained my bike and wheeled straight down the gangplank – first off! Win!

We made a beeline for lunch at the Chocolate Dayz café, descendant of the Chocolate Fish empire. Their courgette and corn fritters were mighty fine, and we had a seat with a stellar view back towards Wellington.  Then we poked around Eastbourne, a sleepy seaside village with some nice shops, and it was back to Days Bay for a swim. The water was lovely, and not threatening to pound me into a pulp like it was yesterday. In a fit of activity, I swam out to the raft and stood astride it, fists on my hips, master of all I surveyed.

Then we cycled back, unfortunately not with the tail wind we were expecting, but the head wind was more of a gentle breeze. According to Google Maps it was only 24 kms, but according to my tail bone it was a lot further. Hard to get used to a non-Velib bike, especially one that was slightly too small!

I’m staying at Mum’s apartment for the rest of my holiday. It’s a big contrast to go from Dad’s house in Paekak, where you hear the roar of the sea at night, to downtown Wellington where you hear the roar of Courtenay Place. But nice to have both. Have spotted a bar down the road called The Library, which might as well have my name written outside in big flashing lights.

Having dinner tonight with the doors and windows open, a lone busker is playing his trumpet on the street below. Actually he could be several blocks away, but it sounds like he’s got a good amp. It’s a still summer night and he’s playing ‘Halleluiah’.

29.12.10 08:46

December 29 2010: A Bad Case of Wind

I wonder if the energy I burnt cooking my contribution to Christmas dinner outweighed the calorie intake achieved? Hard to say, but the Boxing Day brunch probably tipped the balance the wrong way. So on Monday afternoon we set out for a mini-Heaphy (it’s coming, it’s coming) – walking from the Brooklyn wind turbine to the Hawkins Hill radar station.

Hawkins Hill is the highest point in Wellington, and the soccer ball globe of the radar station can be seen from everywhere. It doesn’t catch the eye as much as the wind turbine, for a long time the only one on the skyline. But it had always intrigued me as this remote structure, as incongruous in its setting as a lamppost in Narnia.
From Dec 2010-Jan 2011 Xmas holiday

I know I’ve been away for a while, but has Wellington always been this windy? It’s been blowing hard ever since I got back. Down on Lambton Quay that morning, the northerlies were howling. I said to Dad, lets just go up to the wind turbine for the view, we don’t have to do the walk. When we got up there, the turbine itself wasn’t moving, which I should have taken as a sign. But the path seemed reasonably sheltered, so we started off.

10 minutes drive from downtown Wellington, and we could see a tui drinking out of flax flowers. The path, really a service road, was wide and easy to walk on, winding through bush and scrub with the occasional stand of macrocarpa. It followed the fence line of the Karori Sanctuary, which has been set up to encourage birdlife to flourish in the area. We were a little bit surprised to see some birdlife we weren’t expecting…
From Dec 2010-Jan 2011 Xmas holiday

Halfway along, the path became more exposed, and the wind was shrieking like a steam train in the wires. We were trudging along leaning sideways so as to not give the wind too wide a target. I zipped up my jacket so it didn’t get caught by the breeze. Any rational person might have turned back, but if 50,000 litres of rain on the West Coast didn’t daunt me, a little bit of wind wouldn’t hurt.

Halfway along the path we passed a gentleman walking his three dogs. Usually on such an isolated path you would greet a fellow walker, or at least perform the wordless reverse nod of greeting. But no acknowledgement of our presence was forthcoming. We figured he must be the hermit owner of the crazy lego castle just before the radar dome, and probably doesn’t welcome anyone wandering on his territory.
Nearly there!

Once we passed the castle, the wind got *really* hairy, and I held onto Dad to stop myself blowing away. But (anticlimax alert) we reached the dome ok, but decided to head back down to the car before we had a sitdown and ate our stash of Christmas cake.
The view

29.12.10 07:58

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