Archive for the ‘Travel in Australasia’ Category

On Sunday morning on my way down George Street I saw an aged busker singing “Just for Kicks”. This was
a song Stephen used to sing in his teens with a band of old school mates, and I hadn’t heard it for decades, so I just had to give the singer some coins.

Busker in George Street

From the Bus Hub I took a number 44 bus to Halfway Bush, and then out to St Kilda. It had been a good move to purchase a Dunedin Bus BeeCard beforehand, and because I’m a Gold Card holder all bus travel was free.

Halfway Bush, Dunedin

Back at the Octagon there was a St Andrew’s Day celebration with a duo singing the Lewis Bridal Song, and lots of tables and chairs available. They had a Haggis Pie Eating Competition, the pies being piped in, piping hot! As each contestant finished they had to open their mouth to show that it was empty. The winner received the Sir Eatalot Trophy. As the compère said: “In New Zealand we do Scottish a little differently”. After this I enjoyed music from the Dunedin Scottish Fiddle Orchestra – no saxophones allowed!

Dunedin Scottish Fiddle Orchestra

I spent some time in the Art Gallery which has an interesting mix of exhibits. Later I took the number 19 Waverley bus which had been recommended by a previous bus driver. This gave lots of views of the city and harbour, right down to the harbour mouth. At Bayfield I even glimpsed a royal spoonbill in the water. Towards Waverly the driver stopped at a dairy because he wanted to get a drink, so I went in and got an ice cream and ate it in the bus with his permission.

Dunedin Harbour from the bus

Early Monday morning I walked around the block past many substantial homes, now mainly student flats.

Freddie Mercury mural on the side of “Buckingham Palace” in Queen Street

Then it was time to head for home, with an overnight stop in Ōamaru. Their gardens are magnificent, with roses in full bloom just now. It was intriguing to walk through the Display House as this was the birthplace of Skinny Louie’s daughter in Fiona Farrell’s The Skinny Louie Book, which I’d heard read on RNZ National just a few days before.

Peter Pan statue in Ōamaru Gardens

Hot haggis pies were just one way
to celebrate St Andrew’s Day

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My Dunedin motel had a bench-top induction unit. I’d never used one of these, and there were no instructions, but I managed to poach two eggs for breakfast and felt pleased with myself. The rain had stopped so I headed downtown with a small umbrella but no parka. Tired of carrying a backpack with everything in it I took just a handbag which included a shopping bag. After my success in getting a bus ride back to the motel the previous day I looked hopefully at the stop across the road, but it seemed I’d just missed one bus and although several routes go that way the Saturday timetable indicated I might wait an hour for another.

Mural in George Street

So I walked towards the Octagon, stopping at a pharmacy which offered free hearing tests. My G.P. has suggested it would be worthwhile getting an assessment of my hearing which could provide a base line in case of later need, so I went in. The self-test by Triton Hearing consisted of listening through headphones and entering the digits I heard on a keyboard. They later emailed me to say my result is a strong indicator of hearing difficulties and a full diagnostic hearing assessment is recommended, but I plan to wait until I notice difficulties.

Near the Octagon I was surprised to be greeted by an old friend from Christchurch. She was coming from the Farmers’ Market at the Railway Station which was where I was headed. This is a great venue with a wide variety of stalls, all selling food or plants, no craft items at all.

Farmers’ Market at Dunedin Railway Station

I couldn’t resist some fine looking radishes, and bought tiny turnips to take back to Christchurch. I stopped to rest on the bus stop near the New World Supermarket where the only passing buses were cruise ship shuttles, so I walked all the way back to the motel, and on the way discovered the Playhouse Theatre.

Fantasy mural beside the Playhouse Theatre

Back at the motel I managed to get my tablet connected to WiFi, which was useful for checking email and the weather forecast, but I couldn’t access this blog. At lunch time I finally manged to open the bottle of fruit juice I’d bought the day before. Because I’m “losing my grip” I usually get Stephen to unscrew any difficult tops, and this had eluded me the previous evening. I was able to pierce some of the small metal connections with the tip of a vegetable knife and the juice tasted good.

Despite the forecast of rain I left my parka behind when I headed to Otago Museum. I was keen to visit their Tropical Forest, but felt it wasn’t as good as it had been on previous visits. There weren’t as many butterflies, although I did get one to perch on my finger. The quail, which I adore, have all been replaced by a few parakeets.

Butterfly on my finger

In the early evening I went to the Playhouse Theatre and saw The Real Inspector Hound by Tom Stoppard, performed by the Dunedin Repertory Society. A rather strange play, but well performed in an old theatre with difficult access. I felt some of the acting was over the top, but probably suitable for the piece.

Dunedin has a lot to see
all close to centre of city

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Time away from home on my own is rare these days. In fact it’s more than six years since I spent a night away from home and Stephen. When a friend offered transport to Dunedin I hesitated, then thought “why not?”. It’s good to have a break from my usual routines, and interesting what effort, physical and emotional, is required to make that break.

At home I have regular rituals and activities, which have been carefully chosen and developed over many years. One of those is reading a daily newspaper and doing the puzzles in it. In Dunedin the Press is now simply not available in hard copy. The Otago Daily Times is a possible substitute, with equivalent puzzles, but the news items don’t have the same relevance.

Usually I do 15 minutes exercises each morning, then go to my computer to check emails and blog, and do Wordle. I took my tablet away with me, but had difficulty logging on to the motel WiFi at some times, and I never even thought about Wordle. Digital devices are great for keeping in touch, but a few disconnected days gave me a chance to focus my thoughts elsewhere.

Dunedin building facade

It was wonderful to wake in the morning and know I had two completely free days ahead of me where I could do whatever and whenever I wanted. This seldom happens at home, and when it does there are always domestic tasks I could be doing. Saturday morning I woke at 1am to the sound of rain. At home I would listen to RNZ National through my headphones, careful not to wake Stephen. In Dunedin I could put on the bed-light (and the electric blanket, lacking the warmth of a partner in bed), and read or write. I’m currently reading Juliet Batten’s latest memoir The Persimmon Journal which deals with lockdown, loss, and release, and even mentions me on page 172. Juliet’s story of ageing and dealing with physical deterioration is an inspiring example of the changes we face as we get older.

I think of time away as being on retreat, and when I retreat I like to have a question or theme to consider. The solution or resolution can often come from the subconscious. For these few days my non-urgent focus was on future plans. What might I do differently in the coming year? Last year I joined the University of the Third Age and have relished the stimulation those talks give me. The previous year, through a writing class, I produced and published a small memoir which gave me a sense of achievement. What new activity could I choose for 2023? What have other older people chosen? It would be good to increase my circle of friends, something that seems harder to do as I grow older, especially when people die and/or move elsewhere.

I’ve offered to co-facilitate a Summer Solstice ritual for a spirituality group where I’ve not led before. I’m unsure whether I have the energy to do more in this area, but it is an option, especially as there are others who would share the responsibility.

The commitment of formal volunteer roles doesn’t attract me at present, but I’ve found satisfaction when an opportunity has arisen to perform a Random Act of Kindness. How could I build more of these into my life?

Or maybe I’ll just enjoy having more time to myself, and meeting each day as it comes.

There is so much that I could do
Great to have time and freedom too

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John Marks, an inveterate traveller, spoke to us this morning about his love of train travel. In his youth he often went to Dunedin on a steam train, and through the hill to Lyttelton on an electric train. He’s travelled on many trains, in Aotearoa and overseas, and has enjoyed the steam train at Weka Pass.

Weka Pass steam engine approaching Glenmark Station

John’s favourite steam train trip is the Mainline steam four day expedition from Christchurch to Westport and return.

Today he talked about the trips he’s taken on The Ghan, a trip Stephen and I did in early 2019. This is the longest north to south train journey in the world, and is named for the Afghan cameleers who helped the British access the interior of Australia in the 19th century. It was in 2004 that the train made its first trip from Adelaide to Darwin on a standard gauge line. As John said, it’s like taking a cruise, but on a train. His anecdotes were for me a nostalgic reminder of the luxury of this way of travel. His first trip was in 2015, and he started in Darwin, whereas we had gone the other way from Adelaide. John showed many photos of the Nitmiluk Gorge at Katherine, which was also a highlight of our trip. His second time on the Ghan was early this year, when he stopped at Alice Springs to take a week’s detour to see Uluru. My main memory of Alice Springs is the excitement of a camel ride.

Ruth riding a camel at Alice Springs

John told us he and his wife have booked to take the Indian Pacific from Perth to Sydney next year. I felt envious! Perhaps we’ll manage to ride the Coastal Pacific before long.

I dearly love to go by train
see local sights in new terrain

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The Zonta Ashburton Female Art Award was the reason I’d been keen for a trip to Ashburton. This award supports emerging and mid-career female artists in Canterbury, and the exhibition of the finalists is on display at the Ashburton Art Gallery until April 24th.

The array of works was impressive. Here are some that particularly struck me:

Art Chemist

Art Chemist by Audrey Baldwin is an interactive installation and performance which connects people in a playful yet earnest therapeutic environment. Audrey is a Christchurch artist, whose performances I’ve enjoyed in the past . Art Chemist was installed in Cathedral Junction last year, but I didn’t manage to see it then. I’m delighted to report that Audrey won the Premier Award at this exhibition, which means she will have a solo exhibition at the Gallery next year.

Veil of Invisibility

Veil of Invisibility by Coral Broughton speaks of how older women tend to be overlooked. Coral says “The process of aging can be seen as an opportunity for re-definition where aging is seen as a desirable condition which allows freedom to live outside the gaze.”

Boys Will be Boys

Boys Will be Boys by Alice Jones makes a strong statement about women’s experience of intimate partner violence.


Monobloc is by Jorja Shadbolt, one of the young generation finalists. It is a disturbing image which portrays her feelings of worthlessness after the end of a relationship.

COVID ashes

COVID ashes by Jenny Wilson was the piece that most appealed to me and I gave it my vote in the People’s Choice ballot. The ceramic moths are Jenny’s response to COVID-19 TV images of rows of bodies, funeral pyres, and suffering beyond our comprehension.

Jenny says: “I make the moths from soft white clay printed with vintage lace, and fire them first in an electric kiln. Each one is then carefully wrapped in a paper parcel with copper wire, seaweed, sawdust, and eggshells. I fire one moth at a time in my home log-burner, cocooned within a tin-can saggar (protective box). Each night I light a fire, and each morning I uncover a moth from the ashes. It is a meditation of sorts.


We also went to the Ashburton Salvation Army Family Store, where a large mass-produced picture of a flamingo caught my eye. Stephen offered to buy it for me, so it came home with us, and is now hanging on the lounge wall. It may look a little tacky, but it’s pink, and fun, and that’s what I need in this time of Pandemic, War in Ukraine, and Climate Crisis.

Flamboyant Flamingo

So many artworks to be seen
including this Flamingo Queen

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We were pleasantly surprised to find how much there is to do and see in Ashburton. In the centre there’s a clock tower, which chimes every quarter hour. I’ve always loved a chiming clock, although I imagine it might be annoying for those who live or work nearby. Close to the clock tower is a statue of John Grigg, who was an early Pakeha settler in the area and a pioneer exporter of refrigerated meat. He and his wife Martha had ten children.

John Grigg statue

What interested me about this statue was the plaque added at the bottom which said that in 2014 his (and her!) descendants had gathered to celebrate his vision and lasting achievements. I felt some genealogical envy when I read this.

The town of Ashburton is named after Lord Ashburton, who was one of the members of the Canterbury Association, which had purchased a large tract of land in the South Island, lying between the Waipara and the Ashburton rivers, from the New Zealand Land Company, at ten shillings per acre.

In the middle of the retail area we found this antique postbox, still in daily use.

Vintage postbox

There are many attractive items on East Street, including a water feature.

Ashburton water feature

On Saturday morning there’s a Farmers’ Market in the West Street parking area, with craft stalls as well. We saw items for sale that we haven’t seen elsewhere – always the sign of a good market. To walk from West Street to East Street you need to cross the railway line where the signs say “Look out for trains”. I assure you we did look carefully before crossing.

In 2006 I spent three days at a Conference in Ashburton, but had no free time for sightseeing. This is the only other time I’ve stayed there. I’m sure there are more areas we could have explored, and maybe we’ll go again some time.

We liked our visit to Ashburton
there’s lots to see there that’s for certain

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There’s lots to see and do in Ashburton. At the 24 hour service station I bought two copies of the “Press” – to have one each to read and do puzzles was a holiday treat. After breakfast at Somerset Grocery we visited Trott’s Community Garden, a N.Z. Garden of International Significance.

Breakfast @ Somerset Grocery

The weather was perfect for this with autumn sun and no wind. There were pigeons and fantails flying free, and an aviary with pheasants and budgies. The garden was established in 1984 by the Trott family, taken over by a charitable trust in 2017, and is now maintained by volunteers. Many of the vistas were superb, even if there were few flowers at this time of year.

Long perennial border
Garden Chapel
Knot garden

I wanted to visit the N.Z. Sock Company in Ashburton, but this wasn’t easy to find (lacking a GPS). The street it’s in is divided by a square and later by the railway line. We were pleased to buy NZ made merino socks, and as there was a Warehouse next door I also replaced my printer cartridges, which now cost far more than I originally paid for the printer.

We browsed all five of the Ashburton op shops, where we bought a couple of jigsaws for me, and a cookbook for Stephen. I realised we hadn’t seen any postcards, and eventually found a postcard stand at Paper Plus, where there were cards of Timaru, Mt Hutt, and Methven, but none of Ashburton. The shop assistant said they hadn’t seen the postcard rep for a long time, and I presume there’s less demand with no international tourists.

Dinner was at Kelly’s Irish Café and Bar, the first time I’ve been in a pub for many months. Stephen was pleased to be able to have a Guinness, and we were intrigued to see the tap had a harp attachment.

Kelly’s Irish Café & Bar

They had a digital jukebox, on the wall beside Stephen’s chair, something we’ve not seen before. He couldn’t find anything familiar on it and we wouldn’t have been able to hear it anyway as there was so much laughing and talking going on. Sky Sports was showing on the TV and we realised it was Dan Carter doing his Kickathon.

When we left trees along the main street were lit with fairy lights, and a mural was also illuminated.

Ashburton mural at night

To see the garden made by Trotts
one can’t help but admire the plots

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A number of daily routines help me to maintain my health, home, and relationships and give me a sense of security. Since the start of the pandemic we’ve stayed close to home and not had a night away for more than two years. Part of the reason for this is wanting to be near home if we did catch the virus, and part is being nervous about making bookings that might have to be cancelled if we went into lockdown.

Last week I mentioned to Stephen there was something I wanted to see at the Ashburton Art Gallery and suggested we might take a day trip there. He responded with the suggestion we have a couple of nights in Ashburton. It’s not far to drive (takes just over an hour) and if one of us got sick we could quickly return home.

The evening before we left there was a thunderstorm with more than 300 lightning strikes, and it was still raining in the morning. As we were going on holiday I didn’t do my usual morning exercises, thinking that it’s good to have a break from routine. As we drove across Christchurch the sun started to shine, and the weather was fine all the time we were away. On the way south we saw three separate trains, an encouraging sign that they may be being used more for freight.

We stopped at the Salmon Tales Café in Rakaia where I had an excellent salmon frittata. At the café by an adjacent pool, I saw a staff member scattering food there, and went to observe. They have one pet eel (does he get lonely?) who is given meat scraps, and two rainbow trout who get bread.

We’d booked into the Hotel Ashburton which was very quiet. At dinner time there were just three other diners. We enjoyed our roast lamb and felt we were helping the local economy. Outside in the car park were three stone women, presumably once part of the garden area.

Languishing Ladies at Hotel Ashburton

Stephen had taken his laptop and I expected to use this to access my emails, but Google wouldn’t let me login unless I had another device to verify it was me. The security procedures have changed since I last used his laptop over two years ago. Usually I would have used my tablet, but hadn’t bothered to take it as we were going to be away only two nights. I did have my not-so-smart cellphone, but couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of connecting it to WiFi. Two days of digital detoxification might not be a bad thing, I decided, but I did use the laptop to do my daily Wordle. Since we came home I’ve linked my Google verification to my cellphone texts. Two days’ emails had piled up, but there was nothing urgent.

There were a few things missing at the hotel, showing how much has changed since we last went away. They no longer provide a daily newspaper, presumably because “everyone” gets their news on their phones these days. There was no telephone in the room presumably because everyone carries a cellphone. There was also no clock-radio, presumably ditto. It seems inevitable that I will eventually move to having a smarter cellphone, possibly before our next trip away. We used a hard copy map to navigate our way around Ashburton, and there were several times when I thought someone else would simply use the GPS on their phone.

It’s good to have a break away
and leave behind the routine day

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This red dress is one I bought in Parnell, Auckland in the mid 1980s. The photo was taken in December 1989 in the office of Mrs Pope Ltd, and the occasion was that the office staff had bought me Big Feet slippers for Christmas.

I’m appalled to see that I’m sitting on my desk – something I would never do these days,

I remember wearing the dress one time when I was in Wellington for a meeting. My memory is of walking along The Terrace where everyone else, women and men, was wearing a dark suit, and being aware that I was brightening their day while rebelling against conformity. Have you had an occasion where what you were wearing was different to everyone else?

This dress was really not so loud
but it stood out against the crowd

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The Amberley Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday morning and made a good focus for our drive north in fine weather.

Amberley Farmers’ Market

The market is in two halves, one side has crafts (see photo above), with an abundance of children’s and babies’ wear. The other side has food. We were pleased to buy sausages from The Sausage Shed as we’ve enjoyed their goods previously. I was a little surprised to find someone selling walnuts in shells at $15 for 1.5 kg. We have kilos of these hanging in our shed and I currently collect more every day. Those we don’t use ourselves are happily given away to friends.

Walnuts for sale

Down the road there was solid furniture for sale, all made by members of the Amberley Menzshed.

Furniture by Menzshed

We’re in the process of establishing a Menzshed in the Avon Loop, and I hadn’t thought about the possibilities of it eventually becoming a fundraiser.

There were no plants on offer at the Farmers’ Market, so we went to Hammer Hardware and bought Sweet Williams to fill in a gap in our front garden. Next we visited the NEST Arts Collective, where attractive artworks were displayed.

“Lesser of two weevils” by Nigel Wilson
Ostriches by Sue Kemp

Sue Kemp also had paintings of chooks which attracted me. Alas, no cards available for my chook-loving friend who has a birthday looming.

A couple of second-hand shops were fascinating to browse – these always entice me. Richard’s shop is a treasure trove of all kinds of items, and he supports rescued racehorses. I was tempted to buy a wooden giraffe for $18, but was unsure whether it might be too tall for the shelf I planned it for. When we got home and checked we thought probably it would have fitted in, but I’m unlikely to be going back to Amberley in the near future. It just goes to show the importance of following one’s instincts! At Mollies’ recycling shop across the road I could have had a picture of a green flamingo for $3, but restrained myself. Pink flamingoes are best (and I have a few of those).

The Amberley Pub has closed, so we lunched at the Nor-wester Cafe, always a pleasant spot, then headed home to plant Sweet Williams.

If you head north I guarantee
there’s lots to see in Amberley

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