Sunday, August 28, 2005

Parents & penguins

I thought I'd sneak in a quick blog update in between our little jaunts around New Zealand - we've done so much that leaving it all until the end of the holiday would be too much for you to take (or far too much for me to remember!).
Neil's parents arrived on the Monday morning looking incredibally fresh though they probably weren't feeling it after we dragged them around the churches in our parish for the afternoon in a bid to 'help' them stay awake until the evening! They mooched around Christchurch for a few days, finding shops & cafes that we didn't know existed. On the Friday we caught the trans-alpine train across the country to the West Coast. The train crosses some spectacular gorges, through the mountains & then onto rainforest. The rain didn't materialise in Greymouth which we weren't complaining about (though Ken & Sylvia did get almost the annual rainfall on their visit to the West Coast the following week) & we were quite happy to only spend an hour there before the return trip as there's not much to see or do.
Last Wednesday we headed south again, but this time down the east coast. It really was perfect timing because we arrived in Omaru @ about 5pm, just before dusk and in time to see the blue penguins returning for the night. Blue penguins are the smallest in the world & stand at only 30 cm tall. They are very predictable and just after dusk, in groups of between 10 and 20, they 'ride the surf' up onto the rocks and then waddle up to their breeding colony. Penguins mate for life and it's currently the breeding season so the partner's came out of their nests eagerly awaiting the return of their mate & food. Very cute displays followed as they were reunited, flapped their wings at each other other then dived on top of one another making lots of noise! Clearly they couldn't wait to get back inside their breeding hole! We saw about 70 penguins in the space of about half an hour and as we left there was one bird making it's way back down the cliff in search of it's mate who hadn't returned home. It was very touching and we felt sorry for it though we had spotted a penguin making tracks further up the cliff path away from the breeding colony and we wondered whether he/she had taken an escape route - the 'divorce rate' among these penguins is apparantly about 10%!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Home & Away

Life has been pretty mundane here which is why I've not felt inspired to write. But Neil's mam & dad arrive tomorrow for three weeks which will include time away for us & more travelling stories so I thought I'd fill in the gaps now.
July was a month of feeling a long way from home. The Lions came & went & the NZ media ribbed Clive Woodward for far too long after his departure. London won its bid to host the Olympics which amazed us (maybe it wasn't quite as much of a shock to those still in the UK but obviously there was less build up to it here) and then the bombings the next day really left us reeling. It was interesting reading emails & comments from other Brits who were temporarily out of the country; all seemed to echo the same feeling of wishing that they were back home to comfort & somehow 'defend' it.
Neil's had a birthday &, having been an 'old woman' for just over a month, I'm now 'as young as him'. There was a highly competitive, testosterone spirit in the air as he & mates celebrated with a go-karting grand prix. He came second over-all & would have won had he not been forced into the tyres in the first race - I know that sounds like an excuse but more than one person has told tales of such dirty tactics being played (and subsequent penalties being given) that I think it's true. He has to be given the benefit of the doubt seen as it was his birthday!
And spring appears to have arrived, it doesn't seem possible that winter can be so brief (though we have been told not to count our chickens because there is still 2 weeks of August left & anything can happen...). The daffodils are out, blossom everywhere & lambs abound (what do you expect, it is New Zealand!). The other day we were on the beach in temperatures over 20 degrees C & our friends were skiing just over an hour's drive away. Crazy!
Well that's about it for now. Tomorrow sees the arrival of the first of several visitors before the year ends which is very exciting for us - we're missing you all heaps...