Travelling TranzAlpine

Tuesday was a perfect clear sunny day for travelling on the TranzAlpine.  It was ten years since we’d last been on this scenic train.  While we waited to board I noticed a sign that made me do a double take.


The mountains looked absolutely beautiful:

Snowy mountain near Craigieburn Station

There was snow beside the track in many places:

Snow beside the railway track

I put on headphones to listen to the commentary, which was clear and slow – a good model for my Avon Loop walk.  Usually I go four to five hours between breakfast and lunch, but travel stimulates the appetite, and I was feeling hungry by 9.30am despite having had porridge at 6am.  The cafe car had reasonably priced food plus I’d taken a flask of tea.  Healthy eating regimes are not easy to keep up on holiday.  The open air viewing carriage was shut for the first while because of black ice, but we were happy to stay in our warm carriage and enjoy the view through the wide windows.  We passed Cass Station, immortalised by Rita Angus, and learned that Cass now has a population of just one.

Bealey Hotel at centre

Arthur’s Pass

After a five minute stop at Arthur’s Pass we went through the Otira Tunnel which is eight and a half kilometres long.  Once we were through the scene was breathtaking, with snow on the trees, and we were soon amongst cloud.  There were pukeko, and some sheep, but they weren’t very woolly.  Perhaps they were the sweeter mountain sheep?  We saw no lambs on the westward journey, but when we returned two days later there were lambs gambolling in the fields, a delight to see.

This trip has a wonderful array of scenery, snowy mountains, rivers, viaducts, tunnels, and clouds.

Ruth & Stephen at Greymouth Railway Station

If you haven’t been on the TranzAlpine recently I would thoroughly recommend it.

This trip is truly stupendous
with scenery that’s tremendous.

Significant Steps

A group of friends kindly agreed to try out the Avon Loop Heritage Walk I’ve recently researched and compiled.  We started at The Bricks  cairn where we found the inscription had become difficult to read.  I’ve since been there with hot water and a wire brush and it’s now much more legible.

The walk took us along the river and adjoining streets.  Sadly, few of the older buildings have survived the earthquakes and subsequent red-zoning, but some sites are still obvious and the group enjoyed hearing about the area’s history.

Riverview Lodge from the Bangor Street Pumphouse

This walk will feature as part of the Beca Christchurch Heritage Festival and I was glad to have the opportunity to test it with a group of friends.  I now need to tweak it in a few places.  If you’re interested, the walk will be on Saturday 19 October, at 10.30am, and it’s free.

Six friends were pleased to come and walk
and hear me practising my talk

Ageing Eyes

I was disappointed that my my two-yearly eye health check showed my sight has deteriorated, especially as that means I have to pay for new glasses to replace a pair that is only two years old.  When I was younger I would often go four or six years without any change to my eyes.

The optometrist told me that myopia in my left eye (which is my better one) has increased, with a myopic shift of -1.25.  The changes to my eyes’ lenses are likely to be age-related.  My right eye has remained stable (at -5.75) and apparently has been doing all the work when I’m reading.  I also have a developing cataract and a floater.  It all sounds as though a lot has been going on in my eyes behind my back (in a manner of speaking).

My current glasses

Two years ago I bought purple titanium frames which I like, but they have faded and lost some coating so this time I’m going to have ordinary metal (and thereby save $100).  For various reasons it’s better to replace both lenses even though the prescription for my right eye hasn’t changed.  I inquired about keeping the same frames, but that would have been even more expensive and necessitated my being without my glasses for up to two weeks – definitely not acceptable!

I’ve worn glasses since I was twelve years old and probably needed them even earlier.  I used to always sit at the front of the classroom, subconsciously in order to see the blackboard.  The optometrist asked whether I always use good light to read, which I assured her I do.  I’m aware that in meetings I will often turn on a light before anyone else sees a need to.  I’m grateful for and value my eyesight.  Reading books and using a computer are crucial to me, and I hope to be able to do so for many years yet.  I guess I have to expect various parts of my body to deteriorate as I get older, but getting older is better than the alternative!

Although old age affects my eyes
it also indicates I’m wise!


Christine and I chose the beginning of winter’s first icy blast for our regular walk.  The forecast was for showers and strong cold southerlies, but we bravely donned our parkas and set off on the St Martins River Loop Walk.

Cute letterbox in Bunyan Street

My City Council Walk Christchurch book was published in 1998, we’ve had thousands of earthquakes since then, and some of the maps in the book are unclear, with unlabelled roads.  We were fine until we went through the Cameron Reserve with its stream and native tree plantings.


Cameron Reserve

Ruth at Cameron Reserve (taken by Christine)

The book suggested this would lead us to Hume Street, but we ended up on Huxley, and walked along streets, instead of beside the river.  Back on track by Wilsons Road, the rain was getting heavier, so we detoured for a hot drink at the cafe beside the St Martins supermarket.  While I was carrying a flask of tea, there’d been nowhere dry to sit along our way.  We finished up back at Waltham Park, very glad of a warm car and a quick trip home to change our wet trousers.

We did not let the rain deter
us from our scheduled walk à deux.

Bank Building

National Bank Building

The heritage building on the corner of Colombo and Armagh Streets, which once housed the National Bank, has been beautifully refurbished and is open to the public this week.  Built in the 1920s, it’s an example of Georgian revival architecture and was originally earmarked for demolition to make way for the Convention Centre.  As part of the Arts Festival it’s open from noon until 7pm each day until 4 August, with an exhibition of work by students from the University’s Fine Arts Department on the top three floors.  It’s worth the climb to the top to see the views (there is also a lift).


View of Armagh Street

View of Victoria Square

The ground floor now houses a restaurant, the Permit Room.  I only once ever went into this branch of the National Bank, but I’m thrilled the building has been reprieved and refurbished, one of the few heritage buildings left in the central city.

So pleased this building’s been retained
when so much heritage has waned


Busy as Bees

Turanga offered a Remix Plastic workshop on how to make beeswax wraps today.  We each took a cotton square, placed it on a sheet of baking paper, then sprinkled it with grated beeswax.  After covering this with another sheet of baking paper we used a hot iron to melt and evenly spread the wax.  Easy when the materials are supplied and there’s someone there to show you how.  The tutor suggested if you’re trying it at home, don’t use your good iron as it could easily get mucky with beeswax.

Beeswax wrap workshop

The woman I shared a table with told me she had cotton fabric that had belonged to her late mother and she was planning to make beeswax wraps as mementoes for all the family members.

The wraps which can be warmed in your hands are then easy to fold and seal around a bowl, sandwiches, etc, and are much better environmentally than using plastic wrap.  They can be washed in cool water and reused.  They should not be used to cover raw meat as they can’t be washed in hot water.  The tutor told us if you want to make more there are opportunities to do so at Stitch-O-Mat at New Brighton.

My new beeswax wraps

Easy and quick to make a wrap
and then no need for plastic crap.


Ashes to Ashes

When my Mother died in 1995 her body was cremated as she wished.  I collected her ashes and when I was asked where they would be placed, was happy to tell the crematorium, and pleased to know this was being recorded for the benefit of future genealogists.

I hadn’t thought to ask Mother where she’d like her ashes to go, and briefly considered putting them in the Avon/Otakaro River which she loved.  However I knew this would be offensive to Maori, and decided that I would scatter them in my garden, knowing she’d be happy with this.  I didn’t want to place them under a particular tree or shrub, thinking that could be problematic if we later moved somewhere else.  My idea was simply that she would return to the earth in a general way.  Mother used to live in a Theosophical community and I remembered her saying that after a senior member died and his ashes were scattered on a grassy slope it felt strange to walk past little piles of ash knowing they were his.  Consequently I gently forked Mother’s ashes into the soil, so they were well mixed into various parts of my garden.

Some years later I was disturbed to learn that pregnant Maori women are advised not to attend any funeral or go near a site where there is any part of a dead body (because they are tapu when pregnant).  I wasn’t expecting any pregnant Maori visitors but was aware that if any came I’d need to explain that my home might not be suitable to receive them.  A few years ago an older man, well-versed in Maori spiritual lore, came to see me to bless a taonga I’d been given, and I told him of my concern.  He offered to cleanse my property and we followed a ritual for this.  It’s good to have had this done, to know that Mother’s ashes can rest in peace, and any pregnant visitors are quite safe.

I like to honour local lore,
and tikanga I can’t ignore.